The first twenty minutes are always the toughest. I wonder why I do it, I struggle to make progress, I figure out how much I have to do before I stop for the day. The similarities between running and translation continue unfolding in my life. As my running fluctuates between an all-consuming commitment to reaching a new PR and wondering if I will find the drive to lace up my shoes this month, my career as a translator seems to move in the opposite rhythm. When business is booming, my running falls off and when the inbox is quiet, I dust off my heart rate monitor.
As a self-employed translator, in theory, I design my own schedule. In reality I am at my clients’ beck and call and am willing to work all night long or over the weekend if necessary. This can make a regular running schedule or training for a race a challenge and requires a lot of self-discipline. This need for self-discipline is reflected in self-employment. Client outreach, developing my German and English, building terminology databases, and balancing my books are just a few of the projects on my daily ‘to do’ list. These aspects of translation and running are what make them both feel like work.
The reason I run and the reason I translate are the same and both feel like anything but work. It’s the high. Almost every time I run, the start is a bit rough. I feel heavy, awkward, and slow. Soon enough that changes and I start to feel my legs getting longer and my body lighter. My feet are not landing on the ground anymore, but rather touching down to make sure it is still there. In the park the trees and grass look greener; in the city, the architecture regains its imposing beauty. This feeling of flying is what I always interpreted as the runner’s high. It is the perfect combination of being extremely calm and centered and totally energized and powerful. It was not until I had been running for a couple of years that I started having this feeling regularly. Now I look forward to it with every run.
I started translating German texts as a supplement to teaching English. The work was exciting but irregular. After a few years I decided to commit myself to translating full-time and soon after that I got into a translating ‘groove’. As my translation fitness level improved and I started taking on larger projects, I had my first taste of the translator’s high. The text starts out slowly, new terminology, new writing style, and then after a few pages the pace picks up, my fingers dance lightly over the keyboard, and my mind becomes a linguistic vehicle. My eyes move along the text, and the sentences flow through me. My pulse is fast and steady. A light sweat breaks out on my brow. German lines turn into English with ease. My mind is calm and totally awake. I have found it again – the translator’s high.