Apr 1, 2010

The Long Race!

I am reading: The Devil's Cub, Georgette Heyer - because Em's previous blog set me off on a happy revisiting of all GH's great books.

I'm listening to Natalie Merchant

I'm watching - well, about to: The Wire

Making me smile EASTER!

Last weekend I did a half marathon. It sounded like fun at the time. Besides, I really wanted the tee-shirt at the end. After all, how hard could it be to walk that far? Lots of people do it on a weekly basis.

Very hard, as it turns out. It gave me a lot of time to think. Hours and hours. And as I trudged along, I was aware of how like writing a novel it was.

This annual event is at Ahipara, right at the top of the North Island and it all takes place on Ninety Mile Beach. The ultra marathon runners set off at day break, the marathon runners in the early morning. Us half marathoners only join in at lunchtime.

Are ultra marathoners real people? I don’t think so. It is inconceivable to even think about being that fit, that driven, that talented. Nora and Susan Elizabeth, Suzanne Brockmann, they are the ultras! We have our Downunders too; people who have been top of the game for many years. I’m not putting in names for fear of missing someone out. Insert your own choice of authors here.

Being a marathon writer, now that is something else. One can fantasise about that. We see them loping along ahead of us (insert names). In fact, they are looking good for the ultras too. To run alongside them one day...ah, what a thought. A very long shot, of course, but heck, dreams are free.

The reality is, however, that nothing can be achieved until the first half marathon is under the belt.

The only way to be a writer is to write. We know this but just as I find it more enjoyable to read fitness magazines rather than pulling on my shoes, it is easier to sit around, fantasising about the novels I want to write, rather than put in the hours.

The joy and the despair of the Ahipara race is that, because of the glorious long sweep of the bay, I could see the finish from the start line. From the moment I start a book, I always know my final scene, I just never know how I’ll get there. I set off, full of energy, fuelled by a mixture of excitement, hope, and trepidation.

The first hour was great. The scenery was beautiful; wild waves rolling in. I was focused, with a strong sense of purpose.

During the second hour I realised the finish didn’t seem any closer. My cap kept blowing off and I’d have to chase back up the beach, losing time, losing ground (losing files, rewriting). Knees began to ache. The headwind did not let up, even for a minute.

Pain set in during the third hour. I hadn’t trained and developed blisters. I knew I wasn’t going to achieve the time I’d hoped for. If there’d been an off-ramp on that long, lonesome beach, I’d have been tempted to take it. But what would be the point in that? I’d always known that I was only doing the race, not to be competitive but to see if I could see it through. What did it matter that I’d just been overtaken by a woman with a push chair (I kid you not!). I was in a race by myself, for myself.

We write because we have stories we want to tell. In the end, much as we’d love to get them published, we write them for ourselves. To see if we can. It’s important to remember that.

Blisters made the final kilometres agonising but by then I was in the final chapters and nothing, nothing, was going to stop me. Getting across the finish line wasn’t even that magnificent. I was almost too tired to care. I didn’t get a placing, I didn’t achieve my time, I didn’t win a spot prize.

But I got my tee-shirt!

And you know, I did it. Next time, I’ll train, I’ll pack the elastoplasts. I’ll do it better. Just like the next book!

Any footsore/fingersore tales of pain or victory out there to share?


  1. Wow Zana... incredible to do a half marathon without training - even walking! Good for you! I'm amazed you coudl compare it to writing a book but the more I read, the more I could see the similarities. When I think half marathon, I just think pain. I don't have that same feeling about writing - well, not consiously... but you've drawn the comparison... :-)

    Great Post!


  2. Thanks for the comments, Cath - but I do hope I haven't put you off writing now.... For me, there always seems to be a soggy middle which is particularly disheartening. Yay for endings and beginnings, I say.

  3. Hi Zana,
    congrats on finishing your half marathon! I imagine it would be glorious trekking NZ, and a great way to reflect on your characters!

  4. Congrats Zana on the marathon. OMG, you're a champ just entering. I have friends in Toronto who run these, makes me tired just thinking about it. I like the comparison you made between writing and running. Scary, but oddly true. :)

  5. Mel, I honestly thought it would be an excellent time to plot books, develop characters etc. Didn't think about them at all! Too dug into survival mode :)

    Tamara, thank you! I love thinking of myself as a champ, not a chump, for entering! Toronto runs must be something else again with their extreme weather conditions.

  6. Zana - wow - that is an awesome achievement. I am impressed. And loved your analogy to being a writer.

  7. Thanks Tracey. Hoping to find a less wearisome analogy to being a writer next time! Something fun and easy, maybe.......:)

  8. Goodness, Zana! I would have stopped at the point the blisters formed. I'm so impressed with you right now that I can hardly think of words!