#NaNoWriMo: “Finish for me.”

When I’m in the doctor’s office filling out those first-visit forms, and I get to the section that asks if I have any history of mental illness in my family, I check “Other” and write in “My sister runs marathons.”

She tells a story about one of her fellow marathoners who ran most of the way with her on her first marathon. He was either in his late fifties or early sixties, and he was a vet: dude had run a half-dozen marathons or more. He stuck with Bonnie pretty much from about the fourth or fifth mile on, because little sister was unsure of herself — she just didn’t know if she was going to be able to do it — she’d never tried anything even half so long in the past, and she was struggling more with her own mind at that point than the run.

So he stayed with her. He coached her through the miles. Told her what to expect. Told her when the walls would come, and when the second winds would be there, and what each cramp meant, and how to deal with it and get through it and keep going.

About the 17th mile, he said, “Bonnie, I’m going to slow up now, and I want you to keep going. You’re strong, and you can do it. You get through the 18th mile and listen to the people cheering, and you’ll get there.”

She said she wanted to make sure he finished. They ran little bit longer before he answered.

“I’m not sure I’m going to finish, Bonnie. Maybe not this time. I don’t want you to slow down, because it’s hard to speed back up when you’re this far in, so you have to keep going. You finish for me, in case I can’t.”

So she said she would, and she ran, and she finished.

Less than 10% of the people who start NaNoWriMo actually finish. It’s not a fact anyone really publicizes, but it’s there. We are in rare air, here, and we have to make some promises today.

We have to finish, even if the other people who’d been running with you might not.

We keep going, because other people couldn’t, and we’re finishing for them, to prove that it can be done.

We have to finish because we’re the ones who can.

I’m behind right now. I had a rough day yesterday where I needed to be a dad a lot more than I needed to be writer, and just couldn’t get to the keyboard until late, at which point I was too tired to write sense. So I’m short on days and short on words. I think I’ll finish, but I dunno for sure.

But I’ll keep running if you do.

All right? Let’s do this.

Get back to work.

Have fun.

My sister tells me that she saw her running partner in the mass of people at the finish line; that he made it after all. Don’t count yourself out, even if you start slowing down. Nothing’s over yet.

4 Replies to “#NaNoWriMo: “Finish for me.””

  1. Funny – you don’t know this, but I think you were my running partner. I hadn’t done anything like NaNoWriMo before… In fact, I hadn’t ever written more than 20 pages for anything, and those 20 were for a college class. Throughout this event, your advice really helped me out. If nothing else, it certainly entertained me when I needed it. I finished today. I expect that I’ll see you milling around the finish line soon enough.

  2. A couple years ago, I was running a triathlon. The swimming and biking were fine, but when I got to the run (which was nasty — super-hilly), I let out this huge sigh of defeat after about first half-mile and started walking.

    This guy behind me, who hadn’t said a word the whole time, says, “Oh No: I’ve been setting my pace off you this whole race; you ain’t quittin’ on me now.”

    It got me through.

    Thanks Nick. You have no idea how much I like knowing these posts have helped people. And congrats on finishing!

  3. Your posts have been excellent advice, sir. NaNoWriMo could do worse than buy them off of you and then recirculate them each year at appriately spamful intervals.

    Crossed the finish line this evening … but still have more race to run.

  4. While the metaphor here is obvious (not a knock against you; I mean, NaNo as marathon is an idea within easy reach), the way it’s framed and the stories around it are priceless.

    Nice work.

    — c.

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