Five Translation-Related Life Lessons I’ve Learned From Running

marty runner

Runners are an odd bunch. We often say weird things like, “it’s just 5K,” and are genuinely surprised when others don’t immediately lace up and come running with us. We run up and down pedestrian overpasses and do squats until we can barely move our legs, and after we’re done we just keep running. We run in the heat, the cold, the wind, the rain, and even the snow. Because of our excitement about running, we rarely admit how much running hurts! Our muscles cramp, our legs burn, our lungs close up and, sometimes, we feel like we’re going to vomit. As the pain increases, we start asking ourselves why we’re even doing this in the first place. But we run through the pain and self doubt, because we love the feeling of accomplishment at the end of a tough run. By experiencing those moments of awe at what our minds and bodies are capable of, we are, in a way, cheating death (…or experiencing a runners “high,” which basically means your brain has released so many endorphins you feel like Leonardo DiCaprio in that cheesy “King of the World” scene in Titanic). But that amazing feeling during and after a run requires discipline, dedication, and resistance. Reaching your goal means giving it your all every time you put on a pair of running shoes. In that sense, running is not so different from successfully completing a challenging translation job.

Becoming a great translator requires years of intellectual training and preparation, dedication, and commitment. But one thing translators often neglect is the physical and psychological toll of translation; a toll that runners are well prepared to handle. Hence, running can teach us a thing or two about translation.

1. Watch what you eat. Your diet influences your entire bodily performance, including brain function. Despite representing only 2% of your body’s weight, your brain gobbles up about 20% of your daily intake. What you eat in terms of quality and quantity will have an impact on everything from energy and resistance when running to learning, memory and productivity when translating. Whether running or translating 10K, eating a healthy diet helps your brain perform every physical and intellectual task of the day.

2. Pace yourself. Sometimes we try to tackle too much too quickly. We’re overly positive about how much we can do. We forget to start slowly and maintain a reasonable pace; and so we burn out. That’s why it’s important to remember that all 42K in a marathon are run one step at a time. We translate one word at a time, one day at a time, one project at a time.

3. Resist. Rest. Reload. Do over. Whether training for a race or translating an important job, resting and reloading are essential to resisting the task at hand and then facing the next challenge.

4. You are your only true opponent. Everyone’s running their own race, fighting their own battles, pushing toward their own finish lines. Regardless of what others do, your integrity, your values, your strengths are the only true measures of your success, in running, in translation, and in life. Running helped me identify my own limitations and to measure myself, not against others, but against previous versions of myself. On a personal level, this is the most valuable lesson I’ve learned from running.

5. You deserve cookies (or whatever other small pleasures you like to indulge in). Running taught me that training is the means, not the end. To me, the end is a guilt free chocolate chip cookie. The same can be said about translation. The end is whatever you can access through the fruit of your hard work that ultimately brings you satisfaction and a little daily quota of joy.


This post is dedicated to the loving memory of my faithful friend and companion Benny, whose struggle against canine heart disease inspired me to start running in the first place…


8 thoughts on “Five Translation-Related Life Lessons I’ve Learned From Running

  1. Conni says:

    Lovely post, Paula, and one I feel I could have written myself. 🙂 I started taking running seriously around the same time as I started working as a translator. It’s odd that they’re so comparable, but they really do complement each other in many ways! Conni x


  2. Hi Paula,

    I launched my translation business less than a year ago and I started running just a week ago hoping that this will help me stay healthy and release some tension. I came across your nice post and obviously enjoyed it! Thanks for sharing your thoughts this way, I’m going to take a look at your others posts enjoying your writing and a sweet 😉


    • Hi Anne-Sophie!

      Thank you so much for your comment. Congratulations on your business and welcome to the world of running! I wish you the best in both your endeavors. You’re in for an amazing adventure! 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s