Writing on the Run – Six Words


David Yon,


If you have continued reading these columns, you have probably figured out I really enjoy running. And since the Tallahassee Democrat’s budget doesn’t permit me to do this for a living, you could probably get the idea I enjoy writing. The two mix well as many a writing idea is born on the run and more than half the game is just showing up and “doing it.” I hope I have stumbled on a way to prove these points.

Yes, writing is a craft we all appreciate. Communicating effectively with the written word requires building blocks of words that work with each other to create a whole. A good book ranks near the top of life’s pleasures for many of us. Strange as it might seem running is also a craft. Skillfully putting together a training program in a way that brings out a runner’s best, but doesn’t cause injury or fatigue requires precise skill. It is even more so if the goal is executing a winning race plan.

While writing each week by no means makes one good at the craft, it does make you appreciate it more. Likewise lacing up the shoes and hitting the roads day after day doesn’t always make one a great runner, but hopefully it makes the runner appreciate better what great runners accomplish. Sitting at a key board trying to determine the best way to communicate through the written word makes one appreciate both language and good writers. In both cases, “doing it often” teaches that the craft can be enjoyed greatly even if one is not the best, while at the same time teaching appreciation for the elite. I can give you a thousand examples (ok, that might be hyperbole) for running. For example, try maintaining Haile Gebrselassie’s world record pace for the marathon for one lap around the track. His mile pace in the marathon was under 4:45 per mile; that is less than 72 seconds for a 400 meter lap around the track..

So what is the 400 meter equivalent of For Whom the Bell Tolls? Ok so maybe it doesn’t translate, but how about the six word story? I recently heard an interview with Rachel Fershlieser and Larry Smith who maintain a website called Smith Magazine which encourages people to engage in personal storytelling in writing. Folklore has it that Ernest Hemmingway was once challenged to tell a story in six words (or was it 400 meters?). His response: “Baby Shoes for sale, never worn.” Whether folklore or truth, the six word story emerged and has preserved to become literary fun. And Smith magazine launched a contest asking for readers to provide their life stories in six words exactly. The result was a great little book “Not Quite What I Was Planning.”

So why not give a go to see if you can run 400 meters at Hemmingway’s pace? I will warn you, it is addictive and hard to stop at one. So I am hoping you can send me your six word story about a memorable running experience. Some examples: Flash of gold; Michael Johnson 19:32. Olympic starting blocks; left too soon. Finally: Climbed the Wall. 2:48:14 Boston bound. Send your entries to david@radeylaw.com and put “six word story” in the subject box. Yon can also send your entries to Gary Droze or Seeley Lovett. We will pick a couple winners out of the entries we receive and award some prizes to be named at a time and place to be named later (maybe after the Palace 5K). Our goal then will be to weave the best of them into a column. I really hope you will participate. Like I said once you start it is addicting. And as Gary said “It can’t fail- famous last words.”