I cried during my last Cross Country Race. Of course, I had seen kids cry during races before. But not for the same reason.
I was thirteen. Two years before, I had been one of the best runners in my age group…placing in the top seven every race. And now I was at the back of the pack, struggling to breathe, to put one foot in front of the other. Race officials scrutinized me as they heard my wheezing and asked if I was ok. All I could manage as a response was a jerky nod. But I wasn’t ok.
My doctor had told me that if the four medications he put me on for the race didn’t work, I would have to quit running. And here I was, barely managing to inhale enough air, barely able to keep up a labored jog. As much as I wanted the pain to cease, I didn’t want to finish the race. I didn’t want to quit my running forever.
I had to quit running cross country. But I never gave up running. For the last three years I’ve been training on an indoor track, away from the pollen and dust of trail running. Even though there were so many times that I despaired of ever being able to run like I once had, I never stopped. Slowly, I’ve started adding outdoor running back into my workouts. Just this week, I beat my record mile time.
Recently, I have felt like quitting writing.
My novel draft is stuck in the mud. The grand imagery and beautiful world I’ve imaged refuse to come alive on paper. I’m discouraged by the lack of visible progress in my writing abilities. Without feedback, I feel like I’m wandering in the dark. But just like running, the only thing I can do is put one foot in front of another.
Honestly, I’m not sure what that means practically. But I do know this–an athlete doesn’t get fit by slacking off and neither does a writer grow without constant practice.
Sometimes all you can do is take another breathe. Take another step. Ignore the miles of road you need to cover before you reach your goal. Just concentrate on this step.