Is there a link between running and writing? Some experts think so

by Christine Blanchette

runningAbout two weeks ago, I sat in front of my computer screen, feeling frazzled, my heart pounding. I was stressed – trying to meet a tight deadline for a fitness piece due that day. There was no time to waste, not even to make a cup of coffee. But I just couldn’t focus. I had to do something: RUN.

I didn’t have the time but I had to make some. I laced up my shoes and did a short run. With each stride I took, I started to relax and breathe more easily. After my workout, my heart was no longer pounding. I could finally focus on my writing.

From my experience as both a fitness writer and veteran runner, these two activities have a lot in common. Both runners and writers are striving to reach a goal. Both are results-driven.

For instance, a runner will train to race or participate in an event. A writer, on the other hand, will take on an assignment, gather information through research, and combine it with their creative skills in order to meet a deadline and see their work published. Both activities require discipline. And both need excellent time management skills.

If you have passion for both, these two activities go well together. And if you’ve never tried running, I believe it can help you become a better writer. And I’m not the only one who thinks so. There is no scientific evidence to prove that there’s a link between running and writing. But a lot of writers think there is one.

I asked Roger Robinson, professor of literature, professional runner, and author of Running in Literature about the connection between running and writing. Although evidence of any specific connection is only anecdotal, he said, “the New York Times has recently written about research showing links between running and brain function in general.”

Robinson’s wife, Kathrine Switzer, running pioneer and author of Marathon Woman, says running helps her find the right words.

“I sometimes think of phrases, and sometimes compose verse while running, because of the rhythm,” she said.

The author of The Miracle Mile, Jason Beck, who also runs, agrees with Switzer.

“Running has definitely helped my writing,” he said. “Sometimes when I leave for a long run I try to focus on one writing problem I’m grappling with and almost every time by the end of the run I’ve either found the solution or decided which options I’d like to try to find a solution.”

Beck also says he finds running a great way to take a break from writing and then return with your mind refreshed.

“For The Miracle Mile, I found running especially valuable as it gave me insight to what these runners were physically experiencing as they trained or raced and pushed their bodies to their limits and beyond,” he said.

I also got in touch with the award-winning author of Static, avid runner Eric Laster, who asked rhetorically, “Does jogging improve my writing at the level of word choice and sentence structure? Would I come up with less good stuff if I weren’t a jogger? I don’t know. But because I run, I am able to spend more time in a day doing what I love and am compelled to do — write.”

Laster said he runs more to benefit his state of mind and mental equilibrium than anything else.

“After hours of being at my desk, at some point in the afternoon my brain inevitably gets tired. I can’t concentrate. I feel uninspired. When I’m sure that I can’t possibly get any more work done, I go for my run” he said.

There are even historical examples of writers who ran, such as Jonathan Swift, who used to run a hard half mile up a hill in Moor Park every two hours while working as secretary to Sir William Temple and writing Tale of a Tub. Charles Dickens fuelled his writing by taking long nighttime walks through the streets of London at a pace none of his friends could keep up with.

In my own experience, running has not only improved my performance but my ability to focus better on my writing. It relaxes me and thus I am able to concentrate. The rhythm of running clears my mind and allows me to be creative. I like to call it poetry in motion. When I am having a problem with the lead, I find going for a run helps me think about which angle I should use.

Whenever I’ve had enough of writing or when my mind starts to wander, I know it is time to lace up my shoes. Before I know it, the run is over and I am ready to start writing again.


Christine Blanchette is the host and producer of her own TV show called Run With It, a running, fitness and health show on Shaw and YouTube. Christine does radio commentaries on running tips with CJMQ 88.9 fm in Quebec. In addition, she is a nationally published freelance writer. 

Posted on January 18, 2017 at 9:00 am by editor · · Tagged with: , ,

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