I run with a fascinating crowd. “Runners,” many of them – who run for lots of reasons, but give them another reason to do it, and they’ll run some more. Like birthday runs: a great way to get friends together and celebrate, while taking on outlandish feats like “one mile per year!” – just because.
Well, my 33rd year – which started with a 33k run – was a great one. Published Tri Therapy, got engaged, coached marathon-runners, finished my third Ironman. Got offered a new job and declined because I like mine more.
But with the miles underfoot, something went wrong with my knee. I believe in sport supporting a healthy, balanced life – not sport taking over everything to the point of physical peril and mental exhaustion. In my 6-year journey from novice to “athlete,” I’ve always been good at backing off when it’s time to heal. But this year, it just wouldn’t heal. The doctor recommended an MRI, to have a look inside and get some answers. They scheduled it for 8:30 pm… on my birthday.
So in the spirit of a proper off-season – one dedicated to resting and healing – I’ve taken some time off running, and counted myself out from my own birthday run. Or did I?
I put out an invitation to my friends: build my birthday run with your collective miles. Run solo, run when you can, or do something other than running if you must – and be part of the group even if it’s not physically in front of you.
What happened next was the best birthday present I could have hoped for. What do I really want – for my birthday or otherwise? Kindness. Interaction. Inclusion.
It was an international birthday run; it felt like everyone showed up. Rather than running with a handful of local friends then going home, the updates one after another made the whole day feel very special.
The Garmin people hit the road and reported back, with solidarity in data. Extra credit to TPG, who brought in a 3.40-mile run in 34:00 exactly. This kind of friend.
It was a great day to run outside. In Wisconsin… and Colorado, New Jersey, Quebec, Illinois, Minnesota, and Texas. And London, thanks to Roz! Some people ran in the morning, some after they got their kids to school. Eric knocked out a 10k at lunch time, and others – safely reflective and illuminated – hit the road to shake off the day’s work.
Dogs got in on the fun, too. They are certainly some of the most eager running partners.
At least three runners hit the mill. And don’t blame the snow – Angela participated from Florida. Runners who refuse to “not have time” logged miles while minding their kids and their baking. These are the kinds of people you want around you in a happy life.
Not everyone did running. It was choose-your-own-adventure after all. Paula ran 5 “Canadian miles” before leaping into a giant leaf pile (and submitting a video of the feat). Melody hung from the ceiling for 35 “incline sit-ups” (one extra for submitting on the 22nd). And Susan, after completing 34 pliés, soared through a fabulous grand jeté.
A couple other friends were also rehabbing injuries, so they walked, spun, swam, did yoga, and taught fitness classes. Personally, I may have been avoiding running, but I was no slacker – I did two yoga classes. Plus 30 minutes in the MRI, a perfectly still but bafflingly intimidating device.
All told, 47 of my friends chipped in 131.29 miles – more than enough to cover my 34th birthday.
Coaching with Team In Training, I’ve been close to a lot of people who have come close to death, and who have lost love ones. We hear stories of the exceptional, selfless support people show one another when time runs short. And I can’t help but say people: why wait? Show ‘em that you love ‘em – now!
And that’s what you did for my birthday. Something is keeping me from running for now, but it’s not like we were organizing the Dano memorial fun run. And yet you got out and traveled the miles, and it was the best birthday present of all. Thank you!
As we had breakfast together, Dione noted that many of the things people do to celebrate a birthday are regular parts of our daily life. Breakfast. Dinner. Nice little notes. Time for relaxing, time for playing. It was a reminder of a key accomplishment from my 33rd year: I’ve spent most of its days embracing the little things that make life good.
When you wake up each morning, a miracle has occurred: everything behind you is finished. Wake up and know: “this is it – this is today.” Share it. It’s like rebirth, really. Might as well live every day like it’s your birthday!