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Running, Writing and Meby Julia Goldman photos by Celeste Joye When the pandemic started and schools closed, my mom and I decided to start a writing project together. Eventually, we decided to write about running, which I love. We sat down and outlined a basic story, with a main character loosely based on my experiences. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been running. I started when I was five, jogging with my mother on the long, wide streets in our neighborhood.
Then I joined a small running group and ran Fridays after school. A family friend invited me to join their school running team and suddenly I started entering races and winning. My running took off, literally.
As much as I enjoy the sport and the friendships I’ve made along the way, every season comes with hurdles, mental and physical. I deal with cramps and anxiety, or I’m sidelined with an injury. But all of it makes me stronger and more determined to make the season ahead the best one yet.
We had so many stories to choose from for our book that the pages wrote themselves. We’d moved three years earlier, so it was fun to write about being a new kid in school because that was still a vivid memory for me.
We developed a pretty good process to write together. First, my mom wrote a few pages and then we sat down and edited it together. We wanted the story to come from a 10-year-old’s mindset — I was 11 when we were writing — so sometimes we changed entire paragraphs. I think we blended our voices well! The artwork on the cover is all mine.
It took about 18 months to finish writing the book, Turtle. We included practical information about running, because if you want to be a serious runner you have to know the why’s and how-to’s. Like many things, some of it is trial and error, some of it depends on sticking to a routine, and some of it is just about getting outside and practicing.
I’m pretty good at being motivated, but every now and then I still need a shove! Turtle covers all that and lots of fun social drama, too.
The main character, Emma Jackson, finds her self-worth when she’s part of a team. After moving to a new state and a new school, she gets sidetracked by trying to be part of a small popular group. But she eventually finds her closest friends are the track sisters who run by her side in each race. My own best friends are those I met while running. I guess friends who run together stay together!
We dedicated Turtle to my wonderful running coach, Coach Tami Dennis. She cares so much about every single runner. If you ask anyone on the team, they’ll tell you she is the reason for our collective and individual success. She gives us reasons to believe in ourselves, and we wanted to pass that along in the book as well.
We also wanted to give back, so we kicked off Turtle’s publication with a fundraiser: every book sold in the first six weeks benefited Mount Pleasant Track Club. We raised $1,000 and the money will help female athletes travel to high-profile meets.
Then we connected with Girls on the Run, a national organization with local councils. They help girls identify inner strengths and practice running, all in one program. We sold books at one of their many 5K events in December, and have more initiatives planned.
We’re reaching out to track clubs all over so they can set up similar fundraisers: we sell them the books at a discount and they keep the profits when the books are bought. We want to help level the playing field for girls by paying for things like sports participation fees, a new pair of running shoes, or a uniform.
Thank you for reading my story. I hope it inspires you to write your own!
Already inspired? Click here to send us your story! Julia, 12, SC is a 7th-grader, All-American runner and serious bullet-journaler. She plays guitar and ukulele, is partial to foreign languages, and knows her way around a tennis court. Fun fact: she was offered a spot at a ballet school in New York City in third grade. She currently runs for Mount Pleasant Track Club and Lucy Beckham High School. She has an Australian Shepherd called Beau and loves a good cup of chai tea.