I often think back to the years when I used to be a runner. It was usually at the start of a new season when I’d become inspired to start jogging again, and usually during a particularly hectic time in my life (exams, death in the family, new love) when I got out of the habit. I was never one of those people who jogged as part of a weight loss program. It was always more of a mental exercise for me than a physical one. Somehow, jogging put me in a clear space, though I never understood why until today.
When I started writing my first novel I noticed that jogging was one of the best ways to get my story on track. My characters spoke to me while I ran. New scenes unfolded and some even shutdown. Some of my best writing sessions took place shortly after a good run, and I always made a point of getting my notebook out even before hitting the shower.
This afternoon I came across a quote in a book called Stillness by Richard Mahler, that explains why writers ought to run or walk on a regular basis:
“Remember that motion keeps the left side of the brain busy, while the right side is free to wander uncensored and imaginative.”
It suddenly made sense to me why I never enjoyed jogging with a partner. The only exercise partner I ever stuck with was my friend Janette, who used to roller blade up the street from me while I ran. She’d go way ahead and then circle back once in a while to make sure that we were both getting a similar workout. This allowed me to enjoy the head space of a solo run while being motivated by a fellow woman-in-motion.
When I moved to BC, my favourite runs were along the seawall of False Creek. I’d run to the Cambie Street Bridge and back and hope that I’d pass the man who belted out opera along that route. I don’t know how many times I questioned why running was so much more inspiring than sitting in a quaint cafe or on a quiet beach, but now I see that it had more to do with motion and my own inner critic than it did with setting.
Since becoming a mom, many seasons have come and gone since my running shoes have seen pavement. Each time I weed out the family footwear I beg my husband to throw out his unused runners, while I secretly put my own back in the box. I promise we’ll run again, I tell the shoes. Then another year passes.
It’s true, I’m writing this blog draft out in my notebook during the annual Penticton Ironman race. Dean and I always laugh at the spectators who come decked out in their athletic wear, riding fancy bicycles and cheering for every other person as if they know them personally. If it wasn’t for this, I might strap my old runners on right now just to see what might happen. But, with enough new things going on I think I’ll put it off for one more season. Perhaps new surroundings will get me back in the habit this fall.