Why Running = Writing

So I wrote this YA novel called ULTRA.  It’s about a 12 year-old boy who runs a 100-mile footrace in order to escape a terrible family secret.

Here’s the book in one sentence: “Why face your troubles when you can outrun them?”

Hoo boy!  Sounds exciting, doesn’t it?  You bet!

Anyway, while writing that book (to be published by Scholastic in September, 2013), I learned that the act of writing a novel and that of running 100 miles are similar in a lot of ways.  For instance:

1) Runners don’t need much gear to do their thing.  Just a pair of running shoes, a tee-shirt and shorts.  Writers don’t need much either.  A pen and some paper, a tee-shirt and shorts.

2) In running, there is a starting line, and then, some distance away, a finish line.  In writing, there is a blank page, and then, some distance away, a published story.

3) Runners suffer from shinsplints, cramps and blistered toes.  Writers suffer from writer’s block, writer’s cramp and blistered fingers.

4) Runners start out strong, and get weaker as they age.  Writers are exactly the same, only in reverse.

But do you want to know the most important similarity?  In both writing and running, the key to success is PRACTISE.  Log enough miles, and you’ll eventually run faster.  Fill enough pages, and you’ll eventually write better.

Just keep at it.  Write, run, REPEAT.

Peterborough Half marathon finish - Dave

Real Life Superheroes, Part 4

Nikolas Toochek, age 9, is attempting to do something no kid has ever done before.  He wants to run 7 marathons on 7 continents.  He ran his first in Delaware, last December:

A few days ago, Nikolas completed his second marathon – in Antarctica.

Nikolas and penguin

The weather got pretty nasty during the run, and race organizers were forced to bundle everyone onto an airplane, and fly them back to Chile.  Nikolas ran the final 8 miles of his marathon there.

So why is Nikolas doing all this running?  To raise money for Operation Warm, a not-for-profit organization his grandfather founded.  The charity buys warm clothing for kids in need.

Nikolas isn’t sure when and where his next marathon will be.  You can follow his adventures here.

The Porcupine Whisperer

You never know what you’ll see when you’re out on a run.


I was having the best run of the year so far, under a Jacuzzi-blue sky, and with golden sunshine slipping like loving arms between the reddening maples.  The country roads were icy and hard, and flocks of little black birds darted from telephone line to telephone line as I passed beneath.  Snow was melting on the fields, and you could see the stubble of the  corn stalks poking through the white.   In the middle of one field I saw a brown bump.  I stopped and stared.  The bump moved.

A cat?  Raccoon?  Maybe a groundhog?

An investigation was in order.

I waded through the snowdrift at the road’s edge, then picked my way through the treeline at the field’s edge.  The snow was crunchy underfoot, and I was sure the animal would run away.  But it didn’t.  I crunched my way across the wind-swept field until I was 20 feet away from the animal.

Snacking Porcupine

The little porker turned to stare at me for a moment, and then went back to its work, which consisted of pulling up the dessicated stalks, and snuffling about in the frozen soil.  I don’t know what it could have found to eat, but it was definitely chewing on something.

I knelt down.  The porcupine noticed my movement, and stopped chewing.  Then, to my surprise, it started waddling toward me.

15 feet lay between us.  Then only 10.  Then only 5.

It waddled so close, I could have reached out and touched its nose.

I was torn between wanting to cuddle the little guy, and wanting to run for the hills.  The porcupine was incredibly cute, but as you probably know, porcupines have quills – quills that can hurt you.

Suddenly the porcupine made a clicking sound.


I smiled at the porcupine and made a clicking noise of my own:


The porcupine  blinked his eyes, turned his head, and then picked up the conversation.  Tchick-Tchick-Tchick-Tchick-Tchick…

The two of us squatted there, two feet apart, clicking at each other for a good ten minutes.  Though I was sorely tempted to scoop the little guy into my arms and give him a good tummy rub (which I don’t doubt he would have loved), I was too scared of those silver needles on his back.  Eventually my knees got tired from crouching, so I regretfully stood up and said goodbye.  My little friend went back to foraging for food.

It’s amazing, the things you see when you’re out running.  If I’d been driving in a car, or even riding on a bike, none of this probably would have happened.

PHOTO CREDIT: Whitehorse photographer, David Cartier