Original article written by Kathryn Aalto for Swanwick Standard, August 2017 edition
What is it about walking and running that makes it so satisfying to thinking and writing?
Since at least Greek philosophers, writers have discovered a deep connection between walking, thinking, and writing.
William Wordsworth — whose poetry is filled with jaunts up mountains, through forests, and along public roads — walked 180,000 miles in his lifetime. Henry David Thoreau professed that his health and spirits required “sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields” for at least four hours a day.
Emerging and published authors attending Swanwick Writers’ School put these parallels into action. Regular runners lace up their running shoes to pound pavement and public footpaths in the town and country surrounding the Hayes Conference Centre.
“Running is a meditation,” said novelist Lance Greenfield Mitchell to a breathless Swanwick Standard reporter. “When you wake up, you have story ideas buzzing around in your head. Running clarifies them. I put sentences and ideas into my running cadence and that puts my thoughts in order.”
The link between the two begins with changes to our chemistry. When we move, the heart pumps faster, circulating blood and oxygen to muscles, organs — including the brain. Even with a gentle morning jaunt — like the daily 15-minute jog taken by tutor Bridget Holding around her village in southern France — people perform better on tests of memory and attention. Regular exercise promotes new connections between brain cells.
“The open air and the tingle of exercise enlivens my mind as much as my
body,” explained tutor, runner, and author Simon Hall.
Whether writers run 10 miles through the golden fields of barley at sunrise or take a gentle walk around the lake at Swanwick, physical terrain invites the brain to review, revise and reflect upon its own landscapes.
- Kathryn Aalto – Author of The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk Through the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood – A New York Times Bestseller
- Swanwick Standard – the journal of the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School
Footnote: To be labelled “novelist” by the amazing Kathryn Aalto in her article, gave me a huge thrill and made me think that “Perhaps that’s what I am!”