I ran a race less than two weeks ago and it was one of our hottest days yet. The race was only a 5k (3.1 miles) and I have run this distance many times before, but I'm coming off physical therapy for an injury and my asthma has been acting up. So, my expectations for the race were to finish and finish alive. Actually, that's my expectation for all my races including the half-marathon.
I try to keep a consistent pace on my runs, adjusting for heat and asthma symptoms, but for the most part I'm a fairly steady runner, if a bit slow. Well, on the day of the race, there were a number of folks - old, young, in-between - who did the walk/run method. I've done this myself in the past but what caught my attention were the young women, much younger than me, who would sprint out then fizzle and walk and then would see me run past them so they'd sprint out again, fizzle and we would do this again and again. Guess they didn't want an old lady passing them. I did finish the race before several of them which probably surprised them. I usually do better or as well as the sprint/walk folks.
I also try not to compete with others while I'm running the race because as I push myself I don't listen to my body and my asthma tends to flare up and get the better of me. That's what happened at the end of the race. A woman about my age had passed me and then maintained a short distance in front of me for most of the race. Then just after mile 2 she stopped and then walked. about 1/2 mile from the finish line she caught up with me and paced herself off of me. Well, that's when I got a little competitive and picked up my pace. Not far from the finish line my asthma flared up and I reached for my inhaler while continuing to run, albeit at a slower pace. I fumbled with the darn thing, almost dropped it, finally took a whiff and resumed a faster pace. She came in seconds before me. I didn't see her bib number so I don't know if she was in my exact age group or not. Like most races, this one allowed for age group placing.
There was also a 10 mile race at the same time - yes 10 miles. I've run this distance before as well but I just knew I couldn't handle that yet. One of my VFW buddies ran that distance so I waited for him so I could cheer him on. While I was standing on the sidelines I heard the race officials annoucing the 5k results and low and behold I placed third for my age group. Understand that while I do okay given all my special circumstances, this is the first time I've actually placed in a race. I had mixed feelings because it was also one of my worst times ever.
So, what does this have to do with writing? Well, I've noticed over the years that there are lots of folks who think that writing a book is easy and that once they complete it, they will be able to sell it and make a whole bunch of money. They're like the sprint/walkers I saw on this race. My impression was that many of them didn't truly prepare for the race and thought just because they were young and slim, they would do great. The writing analogy is that just because you have a great idea or a cool visual image in your head, doesn't mean you're prepared for all the hard work and challenges of actually completing and selling a written product, especially fiction.
Well, writing like running, takes preparation, training, perseverance and so many other qualities that come with committment to the event. Back to the literary analogy above, sometimes slow and steady really is a better way to go.