2011 Bucket List: Run 29 miles for my 29th birthday

It turns out I turned 29 last Friday, February 4th. In case anyone missed the incessant tweeting the previous week about OMG IT'S MY BIRTHWEEK, OMG BIRTHDAY, MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! I got a wild idea in my head from a friend a few months back. Run 29 miles in honor of my 29th birthday. With that, I added it to my 2011 Bucket List. Back then, when my brain was running wild and I felt like I was capable of everything ever on earth, I intended to run all 29 miles at once. In one shot. BAM. Done. I later came off my cloud and realized I should only do that if I want to end up with an overuse injury and be out of commission for the rest of ever as I was hardly conditioned to cover 29 miles all at once. Injury wasn't really conducive to the running plans I've made for myself the rest of the year, so I broke it up. Six miles in the morning with some of my favorite pals, another 10 miles after work with more friends, and the last 13 miles an hour and a half later with my best good pal, Annie. She and I ran around Lake Monona, one of my favorite routes. She wanted to be there for my 29th mile, and I wanted to take her with me. The whole thing wrapped up shortly after 11 p.m. (right after my ACTUAL birthday rung in at 10:58 p.m.), and it couldn't have been more awesome.

Annie and I ended my birthday in a fit of giggles, a craving of soda (we actually stopped a mile from home to buy THREE from a vending machine), and passing out on the floor after an hour of stretching. All of this quite different from passing out on the floor after a night of drinking, as I maybe have done in birthdays past. Maybe. Just once. Maybe I puked a little back then, too.

But in the end, it was, hands down, the most fun I've had on a birthday. It was my own personal challenge. Something I wanted to do for ME. A tradition I wanted to start to commemorate each passing year. Until, you know, I reach an age too unmentionable to celebrate, and too old to follow through with the miles. Say, like, NEXT year.

I run. It's what I do. It makes me happy, it keeps me healthy, and my body is beaten into submission. It understands that this is what I do. It's used to it. So while some people were all, "OMG YOU DID WHAT? WHY? ARE YOU INSANE? YOU RUN TOO MUCH," I just smiled, nodded and ran 29 miles anyway.

The notion that I run "too much" makes me shake my head. I run too much compared to what? To you? Am I supposed to scale back to make YOU comfortable? Because I won't. Because I DON'T run too much. I run just enough to make ME comfortable. To keep ME motivated. To help ME stay active. Notice all the use of "me" and "my" and "I"? Because running is for me. When you're a runner, running isn't just exercise. It's a lifestyle. MY lifestyle. So while others don't understand, I know runners DO understand. Because it's their lifestyle, too. We choose it. We LIKE it.

When my body is too old or too worn out or too lazy to run anymore, I'll stop. Be it next year, when I'm 40, or when I'm 75 and in a wheelchair with arthritis in all my joints. But this is MY time. My body is capable of this NOW, so I'm going to take full advantage of it. My body won't always have the power and strength and ability it has now, so you better believe I'm going to soak it up while I can. Maybe I'll have shitty joints and ugly toenails from years of pounding when I'm old and gray, but when I'm old and gray I'll have a lot to be proud of, and one hell of a healthy heart. *knocks on wood*

I will step off my soapbox now, and encourage you to do what YOU want for your next birthday, even if 29 birthday shots is more appealing than 29 birthday miles. Although, I kind of don't recommend that because of alcohol poisoning and whatnot. So how 'bout just pretend I didn't tell you to do that. As for me, I will carry with me memories of 29 awesome miles that kicked off the last year of my twenties. It'll be a good year.

Me & Annie at mile 28. Craving soda like we've never craved before.