It wasn’t something I planned out, or had even mentally committed myself to. I had clipped a notice from the paper about a women’s running program that promised to teach non-athletes to run four miles — and love it — by the end of the summer.
Now I was never the athletic type. When we ran laps in gym class, I wasn’t just at the back of the group, they could lap me once or twice. I never found a sport I was good at.
So, I didn’t launch into running with the idea that I would win races. Quite the opposite, I started running as an anti-perfectionism project. Becoming a perfect runner was not an option, so this was one project that couldn’t go from being about journey to being about product. I would reach that four-mile goal, one step at a time, one week at a time. All that mattered was that I finish what I started.
I did finish, but I was wrong about one thing; product did wind up mattering. In learning to run 4, then 6, then 10, then 13, then 26 miles, I discovered a product that wasn’t about medals or trophies. I was the product, and the new me that came out of all those miles was an improved version.
This summer as I celebrate ten years of running, I’ve started a new anti-perfectionism project. It’s not something I planned out, not something I was entirely committed to at first. I launched a summer-long, interactive story on my blog. I have to update almost daily, so I can’t spend a week obsessing about getting a scene just right. I’ll log the miles of this cross-country journey one word at a time and the goal is to get to the destination by Labor Day.
Some days the writing comes as easily as two-mile run on a spring morning. Other days, I feel like I’m trying to run naked and barefoot through the Death Valley Trail Marathon. I know it’s those hard mornings that will shape the writer who emerges on the other side of this summer.
On my office wall I have two bulletin boards displaying the record of every major event in my running. I look at them now and see evidence of a journey that has had monumental impact on my life and I wonder if the accumulation of words in this fiction blogging journey will change my life as much. Will I look back in ten years through the eyes of a new and improved me, and will the scrapbook of the writing journey record as many milestones?