How Art Can Be Applied To Running

One of my favorite writer/artists just released a new book titled Show Your Work. His name is Austin Kleon and you can find his website here.

Photo Mar 07, 11 49 16 AM

I would say that Austin Kleon is a creative person, but my belief is that every person is creative, a lot of them just grow out of it. So let me describe Austin as he describes himself. He is a writer who draws.

So what does this have to do with running? Surprisingly enough, this little book about being creative and sharing your art can also be applied to running.

I know Mr. Kleon will not mind when I steal from his art to write this blogpost about running. The pictures in this blogpost are all from his books and were taken by me. So let’s get started.

Be An Amateur.

Photo Mar 07, 12 13 10 PMOn page 14 of the book Austin tells us to be an amateur. He reminds us that the word amateur in French means lover. And he tells us that an amateur is an enthusiast that pursues their work in the spirit of love, regardless of the potential for fame, mone, or career.

If this doesn’t apply to my running, I don’t know what does. I have no chance of winning money or fame or having a career as a runner, but I don’t run for these reasons. I run out of the passion I have for running.

Become A Documentarian of What You Do.

Photo Mar 07, 12 13 38 PMThis one is easy. We all do this nowadays anyway. I post pictures of my running watch showing a milestone run. I post pictures of my race medals, sharing my accomplishments. I post pictures from races to show the environment around me. As runners we do a lot of this without even thinking twice about it. We are documenting the running culture and our role in it.


And that is a good thing.

Talk About Yourself At Parties.

Photo Mar 07, 12 13 56 PMRunners love talking about running. I have mentioned before that I used to have a hard time calling myself a runner. Sometimes the self doubt in the back of my head still pokes me when the words “I am a runner” are about to come out of my mouth.

There have been times when I hold back my talk about running because the other people in the conversation are faster than me or better than me or have actually won awards for their running. Well, fuck that. I am a runner and I am going to talk about myself as a runner.

Another argument has come up in places that runners talk too much about themselves. We put stickers on our cars and wear running shirts and run in public where we can be seen. Yes. We do that. And we need to do that. We need to talk about ourselves.

Austin has a quote by Kanye West right next to that section of the book. Kanye West said, “You got to make your case.”

Teach What You Know.

Photo Mar 07, 12 14 24 PMNo matter what level of running we are at we know more than someone else. There is always something you can teach someone that is starting out running, or training for their first race, or wanting to run further. Take what you know and teach it to them.

Shut Up and Listen.

Photo Mar 07, 12 14 38 PMNo matter what level of running we are at we know less than someone else. I like to consider myself a student of running. I will always listen to the wisdom of a more experienced runner. But then again there is sometimes I need to stop being stubborn and actually LISTEN to other runners.

Identify With Your Fellow Knuckleballers.

Photo Mar 07, 12 15 04 PMI can tell Austin Kleon likes baseball. I listened to an interview with him just yesterday and he used a baseball metaphor while discussing making good art. In the book here he talks about pitchers that can throw a knuckleball. There are not many of them in baseball, and they support each other. Even when they play for opposing teams.

Austin puts it this way, knuckleballers are your real peers—the people who share your obsessions, the people who share a similar mission to your own, the people with whom you share a mutual respect.

And this is one of the great things I love about running. I find the MidPackers and the people just like me that have a passion for a sport that is birthed into us. I have met strangers online and we have become friends at races. Being a MidPacker puts you in a special group of runners. And I enjoy every minute of it.

Pay It Forward.

Photo Mar 07, 12 15 20 PMThis is yet another easy one. Runners pay it forward all the time. We run for charity and raise money for good causes, but I think it is also important to pay it forward on a more personal level,

Everyone knows at least one person that “wants to get in shape.” Take that person out for a walk/run and encourage them. Teach them the things you learned and tell them the things you wish you knew when you were first starting out. Don’t be pushy about it, but give them what you would have wanted as a new runner.

Don’t Quit Your Show.

Photo Mar 07, 12 15 34 PMI really like this one.

I have quit running a couple of times. I never told myself I was quitting, but I had long stretches where I did not run. I felt like I was not making any progress with my running, or I would get hurt and tell myself it was not worth it to carry on.

Just keep going.

Photo Mar 07, 12 15 59 PMDon’t quit running just because the progress isn’t showing up as fast as you think it should. You can quit your show, but you will never get where you want to be.

I can also take it literally. With this podcast. With my blogging. I am definitely amateur when it comes to these things, but that just leads back to the first point. It is okay to be amateur. As I continue with the podcast and the blog it will get better and more importantly it will motivate and inspire people to start running or keep running.

I am not quitting this show either way.

Chain Smoke.

Photo Mar 07, 12 16 10 PMNo, I am not telling you to take up smoking. And if you already smoke, I am not telling you to stop either. That is on you.

But have you ever finished a training cycle, maybe 16 or 18 weeks, completed your target race, and then went flat with your running? I have. A few times.

This is where you need to light the spark for the next race with the smoldering butt of the last one. Look ahead to your next goal or target race and begin thinking about it. You do not have to end one training cycle and immediately jump into the next, but keep going. Start planning your next race and how you will train and start it soon. As soon as you are rested up from the last race.

Go Away So You Can Come Back.

Photo Mar 07, 12 16 21 PMIf you chain smoke long enough you will eventually burn yourself out. Here, Austin talks about how a sabbatical can be. You can get burned out doing art, and you can get burned out running all the time.

Right now I am training for a 24 hour ultra marathon. Right after that I will be focused on running multiple marathons within a 16 day time frame so I can become a marathon maniac. If that isn’t chain smoking I don’t know what is. That will take me all the way through October.

I am not making any plans for November or December. I will not take off from running altogether, but I will run less and I will run easier, and those two months will be about going away so in the new year I can come back. I can come back and focus on another goal or another set of goals. None of which I have even considered yet.

Begin Again.

Photo Mar 07, 12 16 34 PMAnd that leads us to not starting over, but beginning again.

Have you been running a lot of 5Ks? Maybe start focusing on 10K. Or half marathon.

This year my focus is on the ultra marathon and the Marathon Maniacs. 2014 is all about mega miles. Perhaps in 2015 I will begin again, but this time focus on speed. Maybe I will focus on breaking 25 minutes in the 5K or breaking two hours in the half marathon.

I don’t know what I will be doing in 2015, but after some rest in December I will begin again and work toward greater milestones and tougher goals.

If you want to check out more of what Austin Kleon writes and draws check out his website,

You should definitely go out and buy his books. Support a local indie bookstore in your area and buy them there. If you do not have an indie bookstore in your area, then buy them through this amazon link and help support this indie runner, podcaster, and blogger.

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