Why Don’t You Write More About Training

One of my writing teachers—OK, a few of them—told me I should write more about running and “being an athlete” and “that kind of stuff.” And I don’t mean in a reporter ‘here’s how to train for your first half-marathon’ kind of way. I mean that they thought I should write more characters who are athletes, more personal essays about “Why I Run,” more about what it all means, etc. Write what you know, right? Or something.

The thing is that when I have, no one believes me about what it’s really like.

Once, after reading a story I had written in which there was a part where the main character was running, I was informed that I had “gotten it wrong” and it just “wasn’t believable.” That’s not how running works, girl in writing workshop told me. You’re not supposed to get angrier when you run. Aren’t there endorphins and stuff, right? Like you’re supposed to feel better after running.

Sure, sometimes. And sometimes you just want to lie down on the ground for a little while and cry. And sometimes you’re so jacked up you’re ready to rip somebody’s head off. Like maybe somebody in a writing workshop who’s telling you that you’re wrong about what running is like. Not to be specific.

The main reason writing what you know doesn’t work is that what you know is that people are wrong about how they think things are.

I have been training a lot lately, probably not a full-Hillary Biscay load yet, but a lot still and it’s been pretty intense. And there’s not a ton to actually say about that. I ran on the treadmill for 11.6 miles the other day. You know what I did during that time? Mostly thought about running on the treadmill. (Also I semi-watched a close-captioned version of the terrible TV show Botched.) Here’s some writing what I know for you: I’m tired a lot, but then I bounced back and stopped being as tired, but I’m still pretty tired. Tantalizing, right? And there’s just really not a super exciting way to say, “And then I almost started crying in the middle of intervals on my bike, but I didn’t and instead I finished the intervals.”

There is a reason most professional athletes’ twitters and blogs and instagrams are all motivational photos and sayings and stories about how they’re working hard and overcoming and they believe. (Oh, and then every now and then they’ll throw in a vague post about “keeping it real” and how they’ve been struggling, but that’s just part of the journey and now they’re moving forward again and don’t worry, they’re going to overcome this because they believe.) Partially, that’s what people want to hear. It’s easier to sell a brand that’s aspirational.

But partially that’s what the athletes want to hear too. It’s what they need to hear.

The line between crying on your bike and not crying is very thin and if you look at it too hard it’ll disappear. Why did I almost start crying the other day, but then I didn’t? I don’t know. Because I decided not to? Writing, though, does not lend itself to a lack of introspection. Training does not lend itself to too much. I don’t think all those athletes are lying to everyone else with their motivational photos and stories that always have them coming out on top. I think they’re lying to themselves, but it’s lies that they have to tell.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I’ve stopped writing as much online here about my training at the same time that I’m doing more training than ever. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that when my mentality slightly shifted in races, my race reports got sort of boring. When you stop thinking about the funny story you’re going to tell or the excuse you’re going to have or how this is all going to sound later, then all you have left to think about is just doing the thing you’re doing. And there’s really not much to write about that.

I’ve been having a lot of self-question moments lately in terms of: What kind of journalist do you want to be? And, even if you tell the honest version of the story, isn’t it still your version? And, aren’t you—even the best reporters—capitalizing on someone else’s story? And, who the fuck are you to judge anyway? Anyway. I’ve been having some kinds of questions like that. This story highlighted a lot of those issue for me. It was great. But, it also really made me think about how I would have written it. I don’t know that I could have or would have done a better job.


Read Stories About Cycling, Triathlon, Etc.

Some of you may have noticed over the last month or so, I’ve posted links to stories I’ve done about cycling unions and the Boston Marathon director and the economics of volunteers and race security. I figured it was time to actually explain some of that — and, sorry, a version of this went out by email to some of you, possibly.
A bit over a month ago, I launched as part of a new journalism platform, Beacon ReaderI’m writing for Beacon about non-mainstream sports — cycling, running, triathlon, kayaking even. The intent is to figure out how to fund this kind of journalism. This way the money goes directly to the writer.
For a $5/month subscription you get an new story from me every couple weeks — plus you get access to every story by everyone on Beacon, which is people from the New York Times, Time, the New Yorker, Harpers, etc. There are no ads and it’s not a user-generated community or collective blog (ugh). It’s high-quality journalism that simply connects the writer to the reader. The majority of your subscription fee goes directly to me (if you subscribe to me) and the rest lets Beacon provide the infrastructure and network to distribute our stories.
Anyway, if you happen to be into that kind of thing, you can:
– Get a two week free trail by subscribing. I also have some longer free trials. If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll try to get you one.

– Beacon also has gift subscriptions, in case you can’t decide what to give your cousin or co-worker.

And, you can tell me what kinds of stories you’d want to see covered in the endurance sports world. I’m trying to do more frequent things that are shorter, but I keep getting sidetracked by big stories about money and power and sports!

(Or, you can ignore this, and I’ll go back to posting stuff about my cat soon. But, if you were wondering why there’s been less posting on Sunny Running in the last two months, this is partially why. I can only write so many things at once.)

My Running Blog: Real-life Sports

Earlier this year, I converted my long-time blog (which was primarily about triathlon) to a professional-type site to showcase my work and me and all that crap that people want to see when they hire you. Though, since I haven’t gotten a super awesome amazing job in that time, maybe I don’t really know what I’m talking about.

At the time, I was also sort of, semi-quitting triathlon, so it seemed like a good opportunity to leave the whole triathlon/sports blog thing behind. Instead, I started a Tumblr and was well on my way to being part of the internet hipster elite.

But, the Tumblr never really worked right. [I couldn’t get the comments to show up always.] And, it turns out what people mostly like reading about is me and sports and triathlon and all that stuff I actually know a lot about and have experience in. Also, it turns out that’s mostly what I like writing about.

Then, last week I interviewed a bunch of uber-popular running bloggers for an article. They were all very, very nice people and had lots of very nice stuff to say about running and their stories and inspiring other runners with their stories. But, I felt like they largely didn’t represent my experience or story. In fact, a lot of the athletic internet doesn’t represent my experience, because a lot of it is slightly, well, too cheerful. In my experience, sports aren’t always cheerful.

Maybe I’m totally wrong about this. Maybe I’m really the only person in the whole world who starts out looking up something online and ends up completely side-tracked jealous Google stalking random people whose lives I wish I had and trying to figure out how they got there. Maybe. But, I don’t think I am. I mean Google-ing is a verb for a reason.

So, I thought I’d start my own sports blog again. And, I hope to do more stuff with it, have other people write, post resources, get people’s opinions. We’ll see. I hope I’m not totally wrong.