Keep on Running, Keep on Running…

Almost 2 weeks ago I ran in my first 5K race on Mother’s Day. It was a great experience, running with almost 1300 other women. There were families all along the race route with signs, cow bells, and lots of cheers. All of the smiling faces spurred me on. On one particular hill, a child held up a sign that said, “This hill is no match for my mom.” Even though the sign was not made specifically for me, it still motivated me not to chicken out as I strained up the hill. If their mom could do it, so could I!

I started running as an attempt to find an exercise that I liked. I really don’t like going to the gym – I find it boring and I don’t see any physical results after going repeatedly. I’m more of a sports gal – swimming, skiing, softball. However, since I have two young children, it’s hard to commit to a league or any regular schedule. So running has provided me with flexibility (if the kids were up too much during the night, I’ll try again to run the next morning), an exercise where I see the physical results, and many other unexpected benefits.

I’ve posted on my experiences with running before. I feel amazing mental clarity during and after running. Whatever chemicals are released in your system when running (adrenaline?) give me a real rush. And once I saw the finish line at my first race, I did what I never thought I would do. I sprinted. I passed four women in my mad dash for the finish line. I made sure my stride came down right on that timing mat (just in case, you know?). And I felt GREAT.

Going across that finish line gave me such a rush, I was replaying the last minute of the race over and over in my mind for days.

So what did I learn from this experience?

  1. Give yourself an aggressive goal and stick with it. Signing up for the 5K made me challenge myself in my weekly running. I didn’t want to make a fool of myself!
  2. Be reasonable and forgiving with yourself. Did I run the whole 5K? No. I walked about 3/10ths of a mile on some tough hills and to catch my breath. But that was okay. I finished my first race at 2-1/2 minutes under my best time. Yahoo!
  3. Take the high of each achievement (big or small), and use to to push on to the next goal. Now I’m pushing myself to see if I can run the whole 3.1 miles without stopping by the end of June. If I can, I’m going to sign up for a local 8K at the beginning of July.
  4. If you don’t meet your goal, try again. I wanted to be done writing the first draft of a new novel by Christmas. Life intervened. But I kept pushing at it, and I’m thrilled that I finished it a few weeks ago. Now I’m revising my first novel, which I’m sure will take a lot longer than I want it to.

So best wishes to each of you as you seek clarity, decide what’s important to you, and determine where you want to be.

racepic4

Goal! – Sports in YA Lit.

Let me be frank. I am not a sporty person. Yes, I love the Olympics. Yes, I watched horse racing as an eighth-grader, even reruns. Yes, I did train for a triathlon once. But would I ever have anticipated reading and enjoying a novel with a sports theme so strong it constitutes its own character? In two letters, no.

But I love Chris Crutcher. And every one of his books — the ones I’ve read at this point — are sports books.

I first heard about Mr. Crutcher at the SCBWI NYC Winter 2012 Conference. He was a key note speaker, and man did he ever rock. He talked about the importance of using humor in order to write about grief. The audience was laughing and crying, almost simultaneously, as he pulled us down to the darkest depths of an emotional experience, only to lift us up through some unexpected, humorous twist. I’ve since read a good handful of his books, and each has provided me with the same wondrous blend of dark and light. Crutcher is a master, that’s for sure.

And he loves sports. Whether it’s swimming, cross-country, football, or basketball, Crutcher’s ability to develop sports into a character of its own is pretty remarkable, and that’s coming from someone who is not a sporty person. At times, his blow by blow narration of sporting events can be overwhelming for non-sporty people. Truthfully, I have to tune some of it out. That’s because I have no idea about layups and sweeps and off-sides. Even so, Crutcher uses sports to showcase his characters and their personalities, and even a non-sporty like me can understand the positive influence that sports can have on a person, in this case a teenager.

My favorite book so far was Stotan! This book is about four boys — the only members of their high school swim team. Being a swimmer, or should I say someone who enjoys a lap swim now and then, I could relate to this one a bit more. The boys enlist in a training exercise put on by their coach, and it’s a b&#$^ of an exercise. Somehow, even though I’ve never swum for four hours straight, doing sprints and pyramids and crab-crawls on the rough poolside, I understood how the boys were going to be stronger because of this challenge, more able to withstand the grief that Crutcher puts them through.

If you like sports and you also like YA novels, I highly recommend Crutcher’s books. If you like see protagonists face the gritty grief of real life and come out of the water still breathing, then read his books.