Worst Parade Ever: Surviving My First (and Only) Marathon

On Sunday, March 3, 2019, I ran my first (and only) full marathon.

Having a handful of small races, a few half marathons, and even a Ragnar Trail Relay under my belt and faithfully following a training program did not fully prepare me for the physical and emotional roller coaster ahead of me.

Rather than subjecting you to all the arm-flailing details, I’ll share a quick summary of the run itself, a few vignettes from the course, and some concluding thoughts.

Running Details

The race route was actually gorgeous. We started in Downtown Stuart along the scenic waterfront, ran out to Sewell’s Point, up to the Jensen Beach Causeway, across the Indian River Lagoon to Hutchison Island, down A1A to Stuart Beach, over the Ernest Lyons Bridge down to the southern tip of Sewell’s Point, back the Evans Crary Bridge to Steele Point, passing back through Stuart on East Ocean to the Finish Line.

At the Start: My sister Bethany and good friend Jodee ensured that I arrived on time at the start, fully awake, hydrated, and stretched out. They even stayed to cheer me through the first few miles!

Miles 1-9: I hung with a pace group set to finish in 5 hours and 45 minutes. Unfortunately, once the sun rose fully, the course heated up quickly. With the temps hitting 87F and the heat index somewhat higher, I decided to drop into high/low intervals.

Miles 10-17: I ran high/low intervals. The 5:45 pace group left me behind, and the 6-hour pace group and most of the other turtle runners passed me as well. I was still feeling good, though, and moving at an acceptable clip.

Mile 17: Physical and mental breakdown on the Ernest Lyons Bridge (more on that below).

Miles 17-22: Shambling runs, uneven intervals, lots of shuffling and some fast walks with my hands on my hips. Heat and misery.

Miles 22-24: Mostly walking with a few little bursts of hopeful jogging.

Miles 25-26.2: Jogging again, because walking across the finish line was unacceptable.

Finish line: Joy and relief! Friends and family! Cold limeade! Ringing the PR Bell!

Vignettes from the Course

High points included lining up at the back of the pack with the rest of the slow-moving party crowd, coming upon a trio of older ladies mid-morning in lawn chairs offering runners scoops of ice to shove down their tops, and arriving at the finish line to discover friends and family holding out hope after the crowds had left and the crew had started shutting things down. (“If they took down the PR bell, we were going to riot!”)

Low points included soaring temperatures, my body pulling a bathroom emergency fakeout in Mile 16, and crying at the top of the Ernest Lyons Bridge in Mile 17.

I believe those two events are related.

The Bridge

By the time I hit Mile 16, I was running out on Hutchison Island, alone without a pace group.

I’d already rounded that bend near the Elliot Museum and was headed toward the double bridges to the mainland. I was running high/low intervals in a hot, airless section with no shade when my body informed me that we needed to find a Porta Potty, pronto!

Feeling pressure to deal with the situation and worried that further running might force the issue, I fell into a fast walk. While the stomach cramping faded within a few minutes, I’d lost my rhythm and drive right before I hit the Ernest Lyons Bridge.

I started up the bridge at a walk, continuing to lose steam as I ascended. The sun pressed down, the air thickened in my lungs, and the impossibility of finishing the race overwhelmed me just as my body gave out. My hands and feet began tingling. Black splotches danced across my line of sight. I swayed on my feet.

In short, I’d hit the wall.

I remember shuffling one foot in front of the other and actually grabbing the railing running between me and the sheer drop to the Intracoastal Waterway, hauling myself hand over hand toward the Olympic heights of the summit.

Just before the apex of the bridge, I stumbled upon a bench. Don’t do it, I told myself, even as I fell onto it.

I rolled onto my back, sticking my hands and feet in the air like a little bug. Tears leaked from the corners of my eyes, trailing toward my salt-matted hairline.

The moment had arrived. This was do or die, and I was fairly certain my body was making the decision for me.

Why postpone the inevitable? If I was going to quit, I should quit now and get it over with. No use shuffling any more miles. I should just surrender.

I dropped my hands and feet, leaving them to dangle over the sides of the bench. I opened my eyes, staring into the impossible blue of the sky. The black spots were gone.

On the bridge beside me, cars and trucks whizzed by. Even if I was going to quit, I couldn’t quit at the top of the bridge. It was too dangerous for anyone to park, for one thing; for another, I’d either have to roll over the cement barricade or be hauled over it. That sounded harder than walking down the bridge itself. Much better to walk down and call someone at the bottom.

After all, if I was quitting, I had plenty of time.

Fortunately, I could feel my hands and feet again. I rolled off the bench, stumbled to a standing position, inched over the tallest point of the bridge, and started down the other side.

A blessedly cool breeze lifted before me, and suddenly I felt fresh life. While I couldn’t run yet, hope rose. Maybe I wouldn’t have to quit after all.

A local man out for a walk up the bridge (it was an open course) passed me going the opposite direction. His gaze flicked to my runner’s bib (on which was my number and my first name), and he said, “Ruth! Your friend’s waiting for you!”

I didn’t have the energy to ask him what he meant, let alone puzzle it out for myself. A minute later, another passerby said something similar. “Ruth! You’re almost there! I saw your sign!” I broke into a shuffle.

There, at the bottom of the bridge, was my friend Alissa, holding a huge sign with my name on it, dancing like a crazy person. When she saw me coming, she ran straight to me, bearing iced coffee.

“You’ve hit the wall,” she told me. “So that’s over with.” I don’t remember what else she said, but I remember that only after talking to her did I feel that I might actually finish the race.

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The Song

The week before the marathon, I’d somewhat jokingly selected Psalm 118:17 as the theme verse for my race: “I shall not die, but I shall live, and recount the deeds of the Lord.”

That verse not only proved true but also was an actual comfort as I found myself shuffling through the dreadful miles between my breakdown and the end.

At one point, I was trapped in a sunny stretch along Sewell’s Point feeling like I might die at any moment.

Suddenly, drifting from the open windows of a residential home, I heard the strains of the worship song “O Praise the Name (Anástasis),” a song our church family has been focusing on in this season approaching Resurrection Sunday.

Themes of pain, death, and inevitable resurrection overwhelmed me. I would not die. I would live and recount the deeds of the Lord.

I didn’t have the energy to sing or the spare moisture to cry, but I raised a hand and mentally sang along.

Then on the third at break of dawn,
The Son of Heaven rose again.
O trampled death where is your sting?
The angels roar for Christ the King!

O praise the name of the Lord our God
O praise His name forever more
For endless days we will sing Your praise
Oh Lord, oh Lord our God.

Even now, I’m unable to put into words what it meant to me, hearing that song in that moment.

The Finish

Losing steam partway through the race meant that I was one of the final finishers. While I wasn’t the very last runner on the course, I was among the final dozen or so to trickle in. The police were literally taking down barricades and reopening intersections as I shambled through them.

Still, my family and friends (and random passers-by) cheered me across the line as if I were one of the top finishers.

And you know what? I’m not embarrassed by that.

I spent six months pushing myself to train, struggled through physical, emotional, and mental battles, and in the end, I finished.

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Concluding Thoughts

Running a marathon was an audacious goal for someone like me. Considering my age, temperament, and physical capabilities, it was truly an awesome challenge.

While I feel absolutely no drive to try a full marathon again, I have zero regrets about signing up, enduring the training, and suffering through the experience (although during the race itself, I couldn’t help but think the whole thing had been a huge mistake).

All I can tell you is this: if I can run a marathon, anyone can do anything.

Make a goal, set practical steps, and work toward fulfilling it.

Though you’re worried you might fail, share your journey with friends, family, and loved ones because you will definitely fail without them.

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Bookmageddon: Confessions of a Survivor

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Recently while I was having a leisurely lunch with friends, one of them said, “You know, you’re a lot more relaxed now that your books are out.”

No kidding. A year ago this time, I was a wreck.

I blame Bookmageddon.

Bookmageddon Explained

After having written four books in four years and submitting proposals nonstop without many publication nibbles, I finally signed two traditional publishing contracts: one for a trilogy of frothy novels, and the other for a non-fiction book.

I wrote another little novella in celebration, quickly received a contract on that one as well, and then discovered that all five books were slated to release within six months of each other.

I called it BOOKMAGEDDON.

Bookmageddon Experienced

One year ago this time, I was actively preparing for the release of my first novel (Collapsible) while proofing galleys of two other books (The Proper Care and Feeding of Singles and Murder on Birchardville Hill) and doing rounds of edits on the other two (Flexible and Unbreakable).

As a new author, I’d never done a book launch in my life, and I was trying to get five books finalized simultaneously while holding down a day job and maintaining a semblance of a personal life. Add to that the disruption of a major hurricane (Irma) and you have a fair idea of what went down.

Bookmageddon Evaluated

I’ll never complain about the miracle of suddenly receiving publication contracts on five books after years of absolute rejection. But you won’t necessarily hear me recommending Bookmageddon-style releases, either.

During the height of my Bookmageddon workload, I was rising in the wee hours of the morning to fit in work before my day job and then investing a few more hours of work after work. Meanwhile, emotionally, it was all I could do to keep myself together.

The external pressure of deadlines was compounded by the internal stress of finalizing the latter books in a series without knowing how the first would be received. The stress of comparing the style of my fifth book to my first and knowing there was a noticeable skills gap; then lying awake at night convinced that no one would actually notice the gap because no one outside my immediate family was likely to buy or read my books anyway.

All was vanity and vexation of spirit.

Good times.

Beyond Bookmageddon

Once all the behind-the-scenes work and emotional hand-flapping was done and I could sit back and let the books roll out, Bookmageddon wasn’t so bad. The release days themselves were anticlimactic.

When asked if I’d ever do anything like Bookmageddon again, I have to laugh. I can’t imagine that I’ll ever have five unpublished manuscripts stacked up again; but if I do, and if Bookmageddon 2 is the only way to get them in front of your beady eyes, I’d consider it.


For those who have asked, I am working on a new book.

The first draft is done, the manuscript is now in the re-writing phase, and I’m working on finding it the perfect publishing home. Though it wasn’t a good fit for the publishers who took a chance on my Bookmageddon titles, I’m optimistic that we will have publication news early in 2019. (Sign up here to be among the first to know.)

In other news, since Collapsible will celebrate its one-year Bookiversary on September 29, next week’s blog post will be packed with bonus content. So we all have that to look forward to!

Happy Monday, y’all! May your spirits rise like the steam from your coffee.

My Simple 46-Step Writing Process

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Note: An early version of this post was published in October of 2014 on my former blogging site. As my process has developed over the years, so has this list. It has been refreshed and relocated for your convenience. Enjoy!


This is how the magic happens.

Step 1: Convince myself I’ll never have another good idea.

Step 2: Idea sparks while I’m driving, working out, showering, or doing some other activity that makes it impossible to write idea down.

Step 3: Panic.

Step 4: Hurriedly complete task and rush to write down new idea before it evaporates.

Step 5: Look at idea later and decide it’s soul-crushingly stupid.

Step 6: Repeat Steps 1-5 until I have an idea that doesn’t make me want to sprint face-first into a brick wall.

Step 7: Drink 8,000 cups of coffee.

Step 8: Begin writing.

Step 9: Rip all hair out of head.

Step 10: Write some more.

Step 11: Drink more coffee.

Step 12: Resign myself that death is more likely to occur than the completion of the first draft.

Step 13: Finish first draft.

Step 14: Gallop around the apartment, yodeling.

Step 15: Call family and friends, announce the completion of the first draft of a new project.

Step 16: Try to explain plot/premise of first draft to family and friends.

Step 17: Realize that large swathes of it don’t make sense to them… or to me.

Step 18: Dread re-reading first draft for fear that it makes even less sense than I anticipate.

Step 19: Re-read first draft through one squinty eye.

Step 20: Die inside.

Step 21: Call family and friends, announce that I’ll soon be embarking on a solo hot-air-balloon tour of the world and they should come say their goodbyes as soon as possible.

Step 22: Try to buy hot air balloon online; wind up perusing help-wanted ads, paying special attention to local job openings that require neither reading nor writing.

Step 23: Eat scoops of coffee straight from the bag.

Step 24: Crawl into hyperbaric chamber stored in the closet for such a time as this.

Step 25: Listen to Mozart’s Requiem.

Step 26: Print out first draft while assembling army of sharpened pencils.

Step 27: Re-read manuscript, one hand thrust through what’s left of my hair, the other hand clutching a pencil; scribble angrily in the margins; occasionally shriek, “NO, NO, NO!”

Step 28: Listen to the Second Movement of Gorecki’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.

Step 29: Murder my darlings.

Step 30: General flailing.

Step 31: Consume large amounts of cheese.

Step 32: Write second draft.

Step 33: Close hyperbaric chamber; seal off closet; resume sleeping in bed.

Step 34: Send latest draft to beta readers for feedback. Take cheerful jog around the block.

Step 35: Instantly feel worse.

Step 36: Alternate between hyperventilating and quietly dry heaving into a trash can.

Step 37: Receive exciting (yet horrifying) e-mails full of contradictory lists of everything that is both very right and very wrong with my manuscript.

Step 38: [gentle keening]

Step 39: Wade through contradictory lists of confusing feedback and decide what to change.

Step 40: Play Bach’s Come, Sweet Death on repeat.

Step 41: Write new draft.

Step 42: Find new readers; repeat Steps 34-41.

Step 43: Decide that the manuscript is “done.”

Step 44: Submit to agents/editors; repeat Steps 36 and 38.

Step 45: Find a publishing home; celebrate; prepare for book launch.

Step 46: Decide I’ll never have any good ideas ever again.


In addition to posting here, this week I’m also over on author Elaine Stock’s blog Everyone’s Story discussing the theological implications of running hills. Check out the post “Lift My Eyes.” While you’re there, comment to be entered into a random drawing to win a copy of my book Collapsible: A Novel of Friendship, Broken Bones, Coffee, Shenanigans, and the Occasional Murder.

Happy Monday, everyone! May your coffee and your ideas flow freely.

When You Ask Me How It’s Going

Every once in a while, people ask how my current writing project’s going. When that happens, they’re likely to get one of five possible responses.

Response 1: The Non-Answer

“It’s fine.” And then I change the subject.

Interpretation: It’s not fine.

Response 2: The Gloss-Over

“Oh, you know; I have some stuff in the works.” And then I change the subject.

Interpretation: Everything is fine, but I’m not ready to talk about the project yet.

Response 3: The Facts

“It’s going okay. I’ve been writing about [insert topic].”

Interpretation: Things are going very well. The end is in sight.

Alternate Interpretation: I’ve sunk so much of my life into this project that the law of diminishing returns no longer registers with me. I will finish this project or die trying.

Response 4: The Cliff’s Notes

“It’s going well. I have this book about [insert topic] that I started last year. I have a draft done, and the proposal’s with an agent. Still could be nothing, but we’ll see what happens.”

Interpretation: This is probably the best thing I’ve ever written.

Alternate Interpretation: I just had one good writing session. I don’t know how long this wave of confidence will last, so let’s both just enjoy the ride.

Response 5: The Middle School Meltdown

“I don’t know why I even bothered to start a new book; the last ones weren’t exactly New York Times bestsellers, and I don’t know why anyone would want to read anything I’d say anyhow since I can’t write and barely know anything about anything. This outline doesn’t make sense, the major premise is clunky, the support spotty, and my arguments riddled with logical inconsistencies. I’m deleting the draft, burning my notes, and going to live on a mountain by myself where I can dedicate my life to the undistracted reading of books by people who actually know how to write.”

Interpretation: Writing is hard work, and I’ve been at it too long. Someone please tell me to take a break.


Lately, I’ve been toggling back and forth between Response 2 and Response 5 (although unless we’re blood-related, you’re unlikely to witness me in full Middle School Meltdown mode). I really am excited about the project I’m working on, but in its current state, I still find it very hard to talk about. However, since I recently finished the first draft, I’m hoping to move into a comfortable deployment of Response 3 in the near future.

Until the new book is ready, consider catching up on my current releases. I’m happy to talk about them and would love to hear what you think.

Happy Monday, y’all!

May your hearts be warm, your A/C cool, and your coffee hot.

7 Ways to Deal with Imposter Syndrome

Do you ever feel like an incompetent failure whose successes have been a fluke? Do you fear that your inadequacy will be revealed at any moment?

I do. Whenever the feeling hits, I resort to one of these failsafe methods.

7 Ways to Deal with Imposter Syndrome

  • Make it stare at my last finished project. (“Take a good look. I SAID LOOK AT IT.”)
  • Take it for a run. (It often grows tired and lags behind.)
  • Challenge it to a dance off. (We’re both bad dancers, but Imposter Syndrome’s worse.)
  • Sign it up for the SpaceX mission to Mars. (Of course I believe the rumors. And as a bonus, I can watch the launch from my front yard.)
  • Read aloud from Moby Dick. (The chapter on whales puts it to sleep.)
  • Punch it in the face. (Right hook.)
  • Banish it with coffee. (Effective and enjoyable.)

This morning I’ve opted for the coffee.


In all honesty, I’m not certain that Imposter Syndrome is the right term for what I’ve been feeling these days. It’s more like a languid torpor brought on by the sneaking suspicion that this project will never actually end.

I know it’s a lie, but at the moment, it feels true; and whenever it’s time to work, I just want to recline on my purple plush chaise lounge with a bottle of smelling salts like a damsel in a Victorian novel. (Also, I want a purple plush chaise lounge. But who doesn’t?)

Have you found helpful ways of dealing with Imposter Syndrome? How do you motivate yourself to keep going when you feel overwhelmed by challenging work? Please share in the comments below.

Happy Monday, everyone! May your coffee be stronger than your uncertainty.

What Writing a Book Feels Like

When people find out I’m a writer, they often tell me they have an idea for a book.

I nearly always encourage them to sit down and write it, because one fact that’s universally true of all writers is that there was a time before they wrote anything when they said to themselves, “I’m not a writer.”

The point of this post is not to tell you that you, too, could be a writer (although you definitely could) but to tell you what writing a book feels like.

That way, when the times comes for you to write yours, you’ll be mentally prepared. Because it’s not all sipping lattes and humming while pecking at the keyboard.

Oh, no.

It’s something else entirely.

What writing a book feels like:

  • Writing a book feels like running a marathon, only both ankles are sprained and your shoes are on backward and possibly untied; but you have no way of knowing for sure because you’re wearing a sleep mask. Also, you’re not sure how far away the finish line actually is, if you’re running the right direction, or if you’re even an actual registered marathon participant. You may simply be an imposter running down random roads hoping you’ll chance upon the actual course. It’s hard to tell. TL;DR: Writing a book feels like shuffling blindly through a marathon you’re not sure you’ve actually entered.
  • Writing a book feels like climbing a mountain, only the mountain is made of glass. You’ve strapped suction cups to your hands and feet, but half the time the suction cups pop away, staying stuck to the glass and leaving you dangling dangerously (yet tediously) in mid-air. As you hang there, stuck, you half hope the last suction cup will peel away and end it all. At least then the choice to quit will be out of your hands. TL;DR: Writing a book feels like attempting to climb a glass mountain with malfunctioning suction cups, half-hoping you’ll plummet to your doom.
  • Writing a book feels like taking a road trip, only you can’t find the freeway because you’re stuck exclusively on interchange loops. Every time you think you’ve chosen the right ramp, the lane that seemed to be soaring outward to freedom curves back and dumps you right smack in the middle of the tangle. You try listening to the radio to take your mind off things, but it will only pick up a station that seems to be your own voice shouting “Boo!” repeatedly. TL;DR: Writing a book feels like taking a road trip to nowhere with your only comfort the sound of you heckling yourself.
  • Writing feels like pulling your own teeth, only you’re using a pen and you’re pulling them out of your brain. Also, your pen is a computer, so you’re actually using a computer to pull teeth out of your brain. TL;DR: Writing a book feels like pulling your own brain teeth.

None of this is to say that you shouldn’t try writing a book or that the experience is exclusively negative. There are moments of sheer joy and excitement when the entire thing finally comes together, and it all feels worth it.

But to reach those glorious moments, you have to pull a lot of brain teeth first.


What is important right now is that my BIG GIVEAWAY is still ongoing! I’m giving away five books to five lucky winners, plus tons of bonuses, including amazing hand-stamped aluminum bookmarks from Whimsical Words Studio. Stop what you’re doing and enter right now. [Giveaway closed.]

Apart from that, everything here is business as usual. Well, except that it’s church VBS week. So you know what that means: it’s only Monday, but I’m already running low on sleep and high on adrenaline.

I hope everyone has an amazing day and an outstanding week.

And if you’re currently drafting a book, may your coffee be stronger than your self-doubt!

5 BOOKS. 5 CHANCES TO WIN. (+ BONUSES)

Surprise! It’s a hot summer GIVEAWAY!

Contest Details:

Duration: Enter by July 31, 2018.

Prizes: 5 winners will take their pick of 1 free book from among Ruth’s currently published books. Winners will be announced on August 1, 2018, via e-mail and will have 5 days to make their selections and claim their prizes.

Check out my (3)

Bonuses: There will be small, regular bonuses in contest-related e-mails (so watch for those!), but the really exciting news is that two of the top five winners will also receive a bonus hand-stamped aluminum bookmark from Whimsical Words Studio, inscribed with a quote from The Proper Care and Feeding of Singles: “Friends know the patterns of our souls.”

Friends

See below for details on how to enter and–most importantly–how to win.

Important note: Our e-mail filters love us and want to keep us safe, but they don’t always know what’s best for us. After you enter, immediately check that contest-related e-mails aren’t being filtered into your spam folders. I’d hate for you to miss out on the prize announcement, bonuses, and special post-contest surprises. There are definitely lots of treats in store for everyone who enters, and I don’t want anyone to miss out.

Click HERE to enter

and reveal your first bonus!