Write One Page and Then Another

“When I face the desolate impossibility of writing five hundred pages, a sick sense of failure falls on me, and I know I can never do it. Then gradually, I write one page and then another. One day’s work is all I can permit myself to contemplate.” John Steinbeck

As far as I know, Steinbeck wasn’t a long distance runner but the above quote makes me think he could have been. Like Steinbeck, when I face the impossibility of racing 26.2 miles at 6:14 pace, I know I can never do it. When I think of running another 70 mile week or sometimes even another 9 mile run, I also know I can never do it. But day by day, I lace up my shoes and get myself out the door and take it mile by mile.

Anne Lamott is one of my favorite authors and wrote a phenomenal book called Bird by Bird. The book starts out with an anecdote about Lamott’s brother, who had left a book report on bird until the very last minute. As her brother melts down over the task at hand, her father claps him on the shoulder and advises him “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.” If you’re a reader or a writer, I highly recommend all of Lamott’s books, especially that one.

Steinbeck and Lamott are right in their wisdom about approaching huge tasks. If you look at the whole distance, at the whole training cycle, it seems so huge that you want to turn around, get back in bed and give up altogether. I know that one bad run (or workout or week) does not a marathon ruin, but try telling that to me last week when I stopped in the middle of a repeat in the middle of a workout because I couldn’t take another step. I was so upset that I threw my sunglasses across the track. True story. I don’t think my husband has ever seen that side of me but I was so frustrated in that moment with my legs and myself and all I had to throw were my sunglasses. It turned out that I was about an hour away from a stomach bug and by the time we cooled down and got home, I was so dizzy I’d lay down for the next 36 hours. By 48 hours later, I felt fine, got a long run in and moved on.

There are no shortcuts in running. We get lucky sometimes but if we want our best performances, we have to get out there and gradually pick away at our goal.

What quotes or thoughts do you lean on during tough training weeks? Best running hissy fit?

3 thoughts on “Write One Page and Then Another

  1. Dan Button

    Great post! I think of John Muir quotes often when I don’t want to run, helps me remember why I love to get outside. Short of that I just try to think of why I started whatever it is, workout, training program, running in general, makes me focus on the love or excitement I first had.

      1. Dan Button

        It really is! Favorite Muir quote is: “I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news” Although I think of that more often during a boring work day to get me through than when I need to get out and run. It makes me excited to get home and run though.


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