On 29th May this year I took part in the Edinburgh Marathon Festival. It was the first long distance race I had ever attempted and I enrolled in the half-marathon which is a distance of 13.5 miles.
The training was hard and, as I was in the UK during the winter, the more serious long-distance training often meant running in dark, cold conditions and mostly it was also very wet! I ran several eight mile stretches and finally a nine before sustaining a sciatica-type injury to my right posterior (ouch!) and being advised to rest it until the BIg Day.
It was an early start. Coaches arrived at pre-organised points on the outskirts of the city and we competitors were bussed in to the start point. It was clear to me from the beginning of my training that the only person I would be competeing against would be myself. Although I have kept reasonably fit throughout my life (squash, tennis, badminton, keep fit, yoga) these have always been on a beginner sort of level. I knew that also age was against me. I was old enough to be a grandmother to many of the competitor! But I wanted to do it and there I was, at the start line, worries about the sciatica niggling at me as I watched slender, young things flex their muscles in preparation.
The very beginning is fun as the pack starts to slowly move over the start line where each individual start time is recorded. I had already elected to start towards the back as I expected to come in at a slow time, if indeed I ‘came in’ at all. The runners soon split up and although I got off to a reasonable start I soon began to lag. Let me tell you, if you have never done this kind of thing that a half-Marathon may be only 13.5 miles but that is a loooooong way to run in one go.
Although I thought I would never get there the final two or three miles were actually the worst and the best. The worst because my leg was killing me and I honestly thought that I could not carry on much longer but the best because the way the course was planned many full marathon runners were passing me going the other way on their much longer run. By that time I was little more than a staggering mess but I cannot tell you how many of those younger, fitter runners reached over the barrier toward me with high fives and encouragement to keep going. ‘Don’t give up!’ ‘you can do it’. They were so generous and supportive and they did keep me going.
By the way, I did finish. (I may have been last – it’s hard to know!)😊
The purpose of my telling you this story is two-fold and has been prompted by some excellent, recent, blog posts I have read highlighting the way Indie authors are regarded by some others, both readers and writers. That somehow we are less, regardless of the quality of the work, because we pushed the publish button ourselves.
1) My marathon memories reminded me how incredibly important it was for me to feel part of the group that day. No one was saying, ‘Don’t try, you’ll never be as good as us.’
2) It also reinforced in my mind how much hard work it takes in any sphere of life to achieve the best you can do.
The ‘elite’ runners in the marathon that day in May ran 26 Miles having left the start an hour later than me and the first ones crossed the line just minutes after I did. At any age, that kind of fitness and stamina takes great dedication that should never be underestimated. Of course, I already knew marathon runners are fit people but just taking some small part in their world gave me so much more insight into how much they must work to be ‘elite’. The same is true of any sport or endeavour. I have always been a great tennis fan and I remember well people dismissing Tim Herman as ‘useless’ because he didn’t win Wimbledon and was only number four in the world. How dare they?
NaNoWriMo is underway and several bloggers have pointed out that this month-long rush to write 50,000 words is writing at a ‘professional’ pace. That is an awesome pace, make no mistake. (And well done to all who take part) Those authors who publish year after year work tirelessly to complete new works. It’s hard. It takes dedication whether you are a full time writer or not, whether you are an indie or not.
We should all expect to work hard if we want to achieve big goals and we should ply our trade with absolute professionalism. But when the work is done it should be judged for its own merits.
Let’s hope we are moving toward the day when the finished article, the books that are the fruits of those labours, will be judged by their presentation and the words on the page, rather than some antiquated idea that who published them is what matters most.