TGIF: What Training for a Half-Marathon is Teaching me about Writing


On instant coffee, Big Hairy Audacious Goals and Japanese wisdom.

It’s 3:56am.

I know so, because the stove and microwave flash emerald green digital reminders. The kitchen appliances are in agreement that this is an ungodly hour for me to be up writing.

My mind may be playing tricks on me but I swear I saw an exclamation mark at the end of the time. 3:56a.m.! It blinked.

I smile.

I set my coffee cup quietly on the counter and fill it with equal parts water and 2% milk. I punch ‘1:35’ into the microwave. It’s the magic number in this delicate equation. Ten seconds too long and the bubbling milk boils over. Ten seconds too few and the coffee doesn’t blend right.

Yes, coffee. I’m making a cup of Nescafé instant coffee. Don’t hate. I grew up on the stuff.

Preparing this caffeine concoction is the first step in my writing process. For me this ritual of making the coffee, is the writing equivalent of stretching before a run.

As the cup spins clockwise on the glass turntable of the microwave, my mind starts to wander.

Push down, then turn.

Writing these Friday posts are a complicated affair. I have to pry open the safety seal of my heart. Push down, then turn. It’s like stepping into a confessional and going over my week.

Sometimes the week goes by so fast and I have absolutely nothing to report. Other weeks there is SO much going on in my heart, words can’t do it justice. This is one of those weeks.

Life looks very different on the flip side of my BIG YES. (<- read story here)

Unfamiliar Territory

I’m the kind of person who always takes the elevator, avoids stairs, drives one block to pick up the mail and eats lunch at my desk, instead of taking a walk in the sunshine.

I’ve always been an all-or-nothing kinda girl. I still can’t believe that I publicly committed to running a half-marathon and now raising $50,000! I’m just glad 56 other ladies are joining me!

The simple act of stepping out of my house to go for a run makes my heart race and my stomach churn. Truth be told, it takes about five minutes of pacing up-and-down my room, praying in my running gear, before I can muster up enough courage to leave my house.

My run on Monday night nearly destroyed me. Six minutes into the run and I was breathless. It felt like the first day of training all over again. All my muscles ached, my legs were cramping and no amount of stretching seemed to help. It was a battle to finish my allotted time. I was so proud of myself for sticking it out, even as a sputtering, heaving, sweaty disaster.

The old Tina would never have done that!

My days are suddenly filled with one of two activities: Writing and Running

A lot of the writing is on the administrative front. Answering emails, writing responses to messages on the Facebook page and researching the logistics of everything–from training and nutrition to tax receipts for donations.

But …

The most fascinating writing that I have been engaging in lately is what I’d like to call “long-distance writing.” Seasoned writers would refer to it as writing practice. Suddenly I’m not battling the two identities of creator and editor. Words pour out of me. I’m journaling on every piece of scrap paper I can find. Maybe there really is something to this finding-a-bigger-story and going-full-throttle thing?

I find that training for long-distance running is teaching me a LOT about “long-distance writing.”

Being the Mayor of Nerdville, I wondered if anyone had written a book about how running helped them write better. You can imagine how excited I was when I found out that acclaimed Japanese writer Haruki Murakami’s book What I Talk About When I Talk About Run­ning addresses just that!

All the pictures below were taken on the track where I’ve been training. I love my iPhone.


– The Donation Page is LIVE! (Thanks for all your help, Rember!) Now you can tell your friends and family! YAY!
– We will be sending a message on Facebook with more info on how to download sponsorship forms and the fact sheet. We’re just putting the final touches on that.
– The fabulous Daniela Schwartz has organized for trainer/nutritionist Andrea Ferguson to come meet with us on Saturday morning for a cost of only $5 each! We are meeting at 10am at Relate Church. If you plan on making it, please leave a comment or send Daniela an RSVP on FB. This is a great opportunity to ask all your training and nutrition questions!

So loving this song by the SPIRIT FAMILY REUNION. ENJOY!



So … my global SheLoves sisters:
– What little rituals do you have?
– How have you surprized yourself this week?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, fears and inspirations!

Dear half-marathon Bravehearts,

– Soooo, how was Week 2 of training?
– What are you learning about yourself?
– How is running filtering into the rest of your life?
Share-share please. 🙂

For those of you who would still like to join the half-marathon: Click here

Love you more than Mini-Malt Cakes with Oreo and Raspberry Cream cheese Buttercream Icing, (<- Recipe)

To read more TGIFs from Tina: Click here.

Tina Francis
My name is Tina. Loved ones call me: Teen. Words are my chocolate. Music, my caramel. Photography, my bread. Girlfriends, my butter. Confession: Some girls dream about Manolo Blahniks or their next Hermes bag. Not me. I dream of freshly baked bread, perfectly barbecued meat & steaming bowls of Pho. My dream lover *cue Mariah Carey song* is someone who would read out a menu to me in Barry White’s baritone voice. I celebrate food, ask for help, interrupt conversations, laugh and cry hard, acknowledge the elephant in most rooms, fight for the underdog and believe in the power of storytelling. I was born and raised in Dubai and currently live in the beautiful city of Vancouver, known for some of the best sushi in the world.
Tina Francis
Tina Francis


  1. i remember loving to run. now it’s like a fading dream. but your article has inspired me to run. and write. and record more of my life.
    keep running.

  2. Hi Lovely, I’m sorry I’m so late to the game on the comment. Sometimes when I’m the first to share it, I don’t want to be the first to comment, but then the day runs on and you know how it goes … And then it’s the next post and the next. But this post was so LOVELY. I loved that you went and looked for someone who wrote about running. I love learning how you think. It makes me smile in such a warm way … a smile that comes all the way from my heart. I love seeing you lead our movement of girls running. I loved how Rose said we are now wrunners. Who knew?!!!

    As for week 2: My schedule was really off this week, but I didn’t let it sidetrack me, and I kept at it, even though I had to shuffle things around a lot. Need to do my long run today. Just trying to figure out when and where and how to fit it into ferry schedules and packing the family up … I like that I am making it a “No negotiation” zone, however. And I learned from Dani that I needed to change my shoes. Wow, what a difference that made.

    Thank you for making Fridays gleeful, indeed. Love you. xoxo

  3. Hmm…I hate to admit this cos these past two weeks have been painful. BUT – this whole running thing has made me come alive. My life has lacked passion lately well..there’s passion on the home front but zero at work. It actually scared me cos I’m not used to that at all. I feel alive again. It’s so good to be working towards something. I love a good struggle. Thanks for give me an electric shock back into life. I sooooo needed that!

  4. Kelley Johnson Nikondeha says:

    Love that you found a book on running / writing! Love that you combined his words and your own images, making the wisdom suit your own context – literally! And I love seeing you integrate lessons from one part of life to another, cross-pollination is essential.

    You are writing (and running) a great story! While I won’t be running with you, I’ll yoga with you – in spirit! I have yet to get back into a class since my landing a week ago. My excuse – I need my own matt, which is in the mail right now. (Left my other one in Burundi for a friend.) So once the matt arrives at my doorstep – procrastination over, stretching & savasana commence!

    I have two SheLoves articles brewing in me, I have notes and quotes scribbled on paper and in corners of my journal. Need to get some space and snacks to work on the actual writing – which I think will be tomorrow when I am on my own for a couple of hours.

    Love you, Tina! Keep cross-pollinating and see the patina emerge!

    • Aww… thanks dear friend. I hadn’t thought of if it as cross-pollination, but you’re absolutely right! I love it when things I learn affect all areas of my life. This is such a strange season for me. I’ve been stretched beyond the comfortable. And the worst thing is, it’s self-inflicted. haha…

      I realized that I didn’t know the language and vocabulary around running when I started writing this TGIF. So I googled it and this book popped up with really great reviews. I wondered about the words and adjectives authors used to describe the senses. This book didn’t really help in the original purpose of my search but served another purpose which I enjoyed.

      I’m starting another book called “Born to Run.” I’m hoping it will help me understand this new beast that I am trying to tame: Running.

      How are you? I’m getting more and more desperate to meet you in person as the days go by!


  5. So were you still up at 3:56, or did you get up then to write?? Just curious…

    Good for you on the running, Tina! Amazing. If you need info on nutrition for runners, I got yo back 😉

    • I haven’t slept yet! :-/ I know-I know! Terrible. Will crash hard tonight!

      YES! I soooo want to know about nutrition. What should I be eating before run. I read that a mini-bagel with peanut butter is good. Yes/No/Maybe?

  6. Kortni says:

    Tina I too love your writing, I find it inspirational. Week two has been better than week one haha. I am running longer and making larger goals for myself. My mind-frame was, “Ugh, I should really go for a run today,” and then make every excuse not to go. Now it is more like,”Ok, what time will work best to run today, and where can I run to?” I am so happy to be a part of the half-marathon girls.

    • Awe Kort! You are so awesome friend. I can SO relate to your feelings about Week 1. To be honest I am still struggling with getting out the door. I have to prayer myself into leaving the house. I’m not as bad as Week 1. Thank goodness. I was a total basket-case the first week. Ever so slowly I’m getting my street legs. Can you imagine how hardcore we are going to be in 11 weeks?!! AHHH. So exciting! xox, Teen 🙂

  7. Daniela Schwartz says:

    Tina love your writing. Week two still has that one hour giant at the end. Looking forward to conquering that mountain with you. In my new shoes. Last night I ran my old route. I have been so intimidated by my former fit self and what she could do, but I did it, with only an extra 7 minutes on the clock! Last night reminded me how I love running with my thoughts about life, prayers to God and dream. My house is LOUD so my feet on the pavement and IPod blasting is blissfully silent. xo

    • Aww Danny thanks! I know I am scared/excited about tomorrow’s run. I need to get bug spray though! I had some awful bites after our last run. :-/ I’ve never heard anyone say that they were intimidated by their former fit-self but come to think of it I was a weight-lifting cardio machine a couple of years ago. It would be so nice to see former-me resurrected. So glad you had that A-HA moment with your shoes last night. Can’t afford to have injured knees. Thanks for all your help with everything. I honestly couldn’t have done this without you. xoxo, Teen


Speak Your Mind