Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Racing for the Finish Line

Several years ago I competed in the hardest race I've ever done. Six miles. Uphill. Starting at an elevation of 7200 feet and ending at over 9700 feet. This last Saturday my family and I hiked the Manitou Springs Incline--a shorter, but near replica of this 6 mile 10k. And I was once again reminded of the this metaphor we're about to "embark" on below.

But back to the Steens Rim Run.

The air is thin. My legs were cramping and contracting the first three miles. And I was pretty sure I should have hopped on the ambulance as it came down the mountain.

Racers only continued to pass me and I didn't look up near often enough to enjoy the gasp-worthy views.

Most of the race my mind was empty of all thought and processes, except getting. up. the. mountain.

The writing process is like our beautiful Steens Mountains.

It's a looooong hike.

And often times your legs are more sore than you think is possible to push them forward one more step. But the pain is greater in stopping than to just keep going.

Those first few miles of learning how to race, of pushing through the pain, seem like forever. Is it really worth the pain just to cross the finish line?

All your companions that started with you at the gun's bang are already yards ahead of you, climbing the hills as though they were mole hills. Some you've left behind, but it feels too much like you're the last one to cross the finish line as it only gets further and further away.

But then the three mile mark hits and your legs are used to the fast forward motion.
Your arms start swinging harder and your pace picks up speed. You're learning how to do this. You've got this and you can see the next mile marker around the next bend. The challenge of it all isn't quite so daunting.

Four miles. You're actually picking up speed, but still focused on putting just one foot in front of the other. That's all that matters. Not who is passing you. Not who you are passing. It's just one foot in front of the other.

Mile five hits and only 1.2 miles are left. Wow. This is the peak. You really can do this. There is a certain euphoric high that hits right about here and nothing much seems to matter but continuing toward the finish line.

Then you round the corner and see...see the finish line way, way, way up at the top of the final .2 miles. The hardest climb yet. The kind that pulls at your calves and tightens your muscles. You're nearly bent over and no hard swing of your arms is going to bring you up that much faster. But the spectators are cheering you on. Yelling to push forward. To make it. To finish STRONG.

And nothing else matters but crossing that finish line with everything you've got. You made a goal. You finished it. You made it.

With the writing life, the end result isn't often crossing that finish line. The finish line just moves toward a new goal, but don't we all have those mile three moments when we don't feel we can make it anymore and have to break through the pain and just keep going? We all have those moments when we crest that final long rise and see the big hill up ahead of us.

Maybe it's learning POV. Or character arc. Or marketing.

Or saving money for that big writing conference.

Or pushing send on a proposal.

My mom, finishing the race strong!
Or getting a book into publication.

It's a big hill.

People are passing us by, taking that big hill as though it were nothing, finishing before us. It's hard to watch everyone else getting to our goal before we do. But the time we are taking to climb those preceding hills are making us stronger. Preparing us for that final hill that could take all energy out of our legs and drain the air from our lungs.

Some walk (or run) at a faster pace than us. We can't sit and compare--as easy as that is-- to what others are doing better. It's an individual journey. An individual race. And our greatest competitor is ourselves. Embrace the battle from within and defeat the lies threatening to muddy your journey.

Because the finish line is just up ahead. And you're getting closer with every step you take.

Casey Herringshaw is a homeschool graduate and has been writing since high school. She lives in colorful Colorado where she gets to live her dream stalking--er--visiting with her favorite CO authors. 


Krista Phillips said...


I'll add to that big hill... book sales. Because once you crest it, that is the next hill that few tell you about is there!! A few people are bursting up that hill out of the gate with big hits.... but then you start up and fall on your butt and your books don't do as well as you can and you get sent right back down the hill, having to start over. (and each time it gets steaper....)

The analogy is so true though. God's been teaching me that NOT TRYING is the only true way to fail. It's true in every hard thing in life. Relationships, parenting, writing, etc.

Such good words today! Thank you, girl!!!!

kaybee said...

CASEY, this is so true. We need to stop comparing ourselves to other people, especially in running and writing. With both, it's an achievement just to get out there. I think of the Olympic athletes who get a bronze and realize that they're still the THIRD BEST AT THEIR SPORT IN THE WORLD. As far as running goes, I don't run, so you're already ahead of me.
I'm learning not to compare myself to other writers. This is such an inexact science, we do the best we can and let God do the rest. My husband pastored several churches when we were younger, and writing is like the ministry because it is a ministry. You can't predict it. You have to do your best and leave the results up to God.
Thanks for an interesting post.
Kathy Bailey

Casey said...

Krista: That is so, so true about sales! And anything after you hit that big publishing moment. Because the truth of the matter is: once you get to the "finish line" you see another one. And another one. And another one. And that doesn't have to be bad or discouraging. We just have to realize what we're getting into and be willing to be lead by the Lord on this crazy and wild journey. :)

Casey said...

Kaybee, YES! I couldn't have said it better and my round of applause to you. Writing is so very subjective. What one person thinks is the most beautiful prose, another person will think is trash. Do your best. Keep learning. Keep striving. Keep pressing on. And our Father in Heaven WILL see and reward your efforts. Keep on keeping on! :)

Tea Time said...

Your writing really helps me to keep going. So full of encouragement. Thank you again for your posts.

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Oh CASEY, your words spoke to my heart this morning. I needed this reminder: "But the time we are taking to climb those preceding hills are making us stronger. Preparing us for that final hill that could take all energy out of our legs and drain the air from our lungs."

Yes, and amen, my friend. So well said!

Mary Vee Writer said...

My favorite line, "Our biggest competitor is ourselves."

Sigh. Can I deal with me? I'm not so sure.