For many young people in college, choosing a career and a path in life is a task that is intimidating and can take a long time to figure out. Changing tracks is common and when there is no blueprint for your aspirations, a little self-delusion goes a long way. This was how Mackenzie Havey’s writing career began, with a healthy dose of overconfidence and encouragement from an English professor that she had what it took to be a great writer. The now 35-year-old graduated from college in 2005 with an English degree. She immediately began a side gig as a freelance writer, cold pitching editors at major magazines and newspapers like The Atlantic, ESPN.com, Self and The Star Tribune.
“I remember one day just saying to myself ‘well you know I’m writing and I’m making money doing it, what if I just give myself a year and see if I can freelance full-time and pay the bills,” Havey says. Her first year’s success gave her the reassurance she could make a living out of writing full-time, and she also found a niche subject she was familiar with: endurance sports and fitness.
In middle school and high school, Havey fell in love with running and joined the track and cross-country teams. When she began writing about those subjects, she went back to school for a master’s degree in kinesiology, with an emphasis in sports and exercise psychology.
Havey recalls her formative years in Edina schools fondly and credits the women coaches she had with her love of endurance sports. Aside from her writing, she coached girls track and cross-country for 10 years in the Edina school district and stopped only after she had a baby last year. “I had all women coaches at Edina and they were all great role models so I had this feeling that I wanted to give back. To serve as a mentor for young girls coming through the programs and I also got to go back and work with some of the coaches I had growing up,” she says. Havey’s main goal as a coach was to turn the girls into lifelong runners and focus on the spiritual and physical benefits of running rather than the competition.
A few years ago, Havey felt herself getting burned out with marathon running and training and says she stopped enjoying regular runs. She found herself just pushing through and not really enjoying running and also in other areas of her life. In her approach to reframe what running was and get back to basics, she decided to apply the principles of mindfulness into all aspects of her life. “Mindfulness is just really about being in the present and to become really good at noticing when your mind wanders and distracted and just pulling it back,” Havey explains.
In the midst of reinvigorating her love for running and having her first child, Havey wrote a book called Mindful Running: How meditative running can improve performance and make you a happier more fulfilled person. The concept of mindful running translates into just being in the moment when you run and being in tune with your body as well as the moment. She wrote the book in four months as a new mom and says it wasn’t easy but she found herself fully immersed in the concept of mindfulness and saw the benefits of it in her new journey as a mom.
Publishing the book and having it out there in the world has been Havey’s biggest milestone so far, and she’s already working on a book proposal for another one on the same subject area. She is also an instructor of fundamentals of running and mental training courses at the University of Minnesota and finds it rewarding. For someone who remembers feeling like she stumbled into her career, it looks like Havey has found her footing.
Read more about Mackenzie and order her book "Mindful Running" online here.