Why a Mud Run is like Writing

In my world, everything is about writing.  I’m always people-watching, thinking about how the things I experience in real life might translate into fiction.  It’s far too easy to get into my own head and stay there.

But today I did my first mud run.  If you haven’t seen one on TV, it’s an obstacle course run that includes a bunch of mud pits.  They’re designed to get you filthy, and they’re a serious test of whole-body strength.

I was not ready.

I’m a runner.  I’ve done four full marathons, tons of halves, and I run all year long.  I thought that was keeping me pretty fit.

Nope.

Today’s run was only a 5K (3.1 miles for Americans).  I run longer than that every single time I run.  So I didn’t think this was going to be a huge challenge.

Here’s the course map.

PHOTO_20170904_100529

That’s 42 obstacles.  And that long part with no obstacles is a ridiculous hill run.  The yellow dots in the green space are places where we had to use a rope to get up the trail because it was so steep.

uphill2

That’s me at the top of one of them.

The rest of the obstacles included fording a river (which felt great by that point… the skinny chicks were freezing, but if there’s one thing my thighs are good for, it’s standing in an ice cold river), climbing under and over canoe piles,

under

and climbing a couple of these things:

There were mud pits that wanted to suck the shoes right off my feet,

almost done

which is why we duct taped them on, and a horrible rope swing thing that went poorly for everyone in my group.

So what’s this got to do with writing?

First, this was a great break for me.  When you’re horizontal on a slick hill climbing down a rope into a river, there’s no room in your head for anything else.  There’s only here and now, and that’s occasionally a very good thing.

The other thing I realized today is that I couldn’t have done it by myself.  I needed a hand out of some of those mud pits.  I needed a butt-boost up the rope on the huge wooden scaffold.  And I needed my friends to get me to do this in the first place.

That’s like writing.

The image of a solitary writer tapping away at a keyboard with a lap full of cats is pretty accurate, but nobody succeeds at this game alone.  Whether it’s the butt-boost of your writing group pushing you to go deeper into your characters, or another author offering you a hand with a cover blurb or blog hop opportunity, smart authors learn early that we’re not a solitary bunch at all.  It takes support to have the nerve to get started, and it’s sure nice to have some folks there to cheer you on.

I pushed myself today, and I’m sore tonight.  Tomorrow might be worse.  But I’m stronger for having done it, and I’ll be stronger still for having learned that my usual running habit is not enough.  Falling back on what I’ve always done won’t get me to this particular finish line.

Next time I duct tape my shoes on, I’ll be a lot better prepared. And that makes all the mud worth it.

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