Revathi Suresh: On Writing and Running

There are two things I do for which I have absolutely no explanation. I run, I write. I began to do both around the same time…or maybe that’s not entirely true. I began to write Jobless around the same time that I took up running, but had written several small stories for children before, mostly on demand. I found it fairly easy to do those because almost everything would be laid out for me—word limit, topic, even content to some extent. I just had to fill in the blanks. Then, when everything was going swimmingly, I decided to take to running. And roughly around then, the writing began to take on a life of its own. I actually began to turn down offers to write for others in order to write for myself. There is a link between these two activities that I haven’t quite explored fully and I don’t know if I ever will. All I know is that they are inexplicably connected in some way.

I’ll start with the running. These days I run mostly on the treadmill, eking out insubstantial kilometres and hating every minute of it. I tell myself I run for fitness because there is no other excuse. Many years ago I tried yoga but it’s ’scrutiating painful in its own way and the idea of contorting my body into a million shapes it was never meant to be—seriously, if I was supposed to be a boat or a peacock, god would have made me a boat or a peacock—while breathing like Darth Vader had no appeal. I switched to running because Suresh runs marathons and he made it sound like such fun that I took to the streets too. The first few times for about ten seconds. Stretching those seconds to minutes took months and the minutes to an hour plus has taken years. Also let me clarify that when I say ‘run’ I mean a slow, plodding jog for the most part. I used to jog on the roads until very recently when a couple of hard falls sent me gym-wards and, for the moment, I like the treadmill. Pace, incline, climate, everything under my control, with no danger of being tripped up by anything other than my own head. Briefly I toyed with the idea of entering distance running events in order to learn how to run for longer, improve my timing etc. but dropped it very soon because I have no desire to pit myself against hundreds of other toilers. I’ve been around at these events, watched from the sidelines enough to know that I can never pull off all the camaraderie and general bonhomie that’s part of the deal. I’m grouchy and bad-tempered when I run and will never be able to call out encouraging come-on-guys-you can-do-it(s) to others. I don’t even know if I can do it so who am I to offer false assurances to others. So solitary running it is. And at the end of a session I only feel relief, no sense of exhilaration or achievement, and every day I think about quitting. But then I’m back again the next day, trying to make negotiations and deals even as I’m walking to the gym, about the distance I plan to run. Doesn’t matter if you can’t do ten, even eight is good.

Doesn’t matter if you can’t write the two pages you wanted to write today. Two paragraphs is good.

And that’s the reason why I’m almost always out of sorts when I run, apart from the aching, paining body, that is. I spend the entire time when I’m supposed to be focusing on one foot in front of the other, thinking instead of one word in front of the other. I think almost obsessively about writing when I run and it’s not to do with story ideas or characters either. I wish I could say that I have approximately 43.7 stories happening in my head at all times but far from. Mostly my ponderings are about how I find writing to be as challenging as running and how I can’t seem to break either habit. I feel compelled to write a little something from time to time but most of it remains mercifully secreted away in Word files, hidden from sight and tucked away in unnamed folders so that even I can’t sometimes locate a piece if I want to. I am not a natural writer. Something happened to me after I hit forty-something to make me wonky enough to try my hand at two things I don’t particularly want to do, but am impelled to by some force beyond my control.

Sometimes I’m asked for writing tips, but it’s like with my running … I have no words of advice or encouragement. I don’t even know how the hell I write, what pearls of wisdom can I possibly cough up for someone else. Nor do I know how to react when people ask me about a next book. I just ran the equivalent of my struggling ten and you want me to run a marathon? In your dreams, lovely people, in your dreams. May they come true.



  1. Thank you both. Wasn’t aiming for false modesty, Vinitha. Sorry if that’s the way it came off. I’m not a natural writer in the sense that I have a problem with the way I approach writing. Not with excitement but with dread…very similar to the sinking feeling I used to get before taking an exam. In that case while I really didn’t want to do it, there was no choice. But here I have one because obviously no one’s forcing me to write or run and still I keep at it day after day. Just haven’t figured why.

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