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    Why I ran a marathon for my birthday

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    “You’re running a marathon for your birthday? [laughter] That sounds like the opposite of celebrating!”

    Runners get it. Even the runners who say they’d never do it do understand it, at least.

    When I signed up, I even laughed at myself a little.  Halfway through training, I said to Steve, “This seems like a good plan now, but that morning, I might wake up and whine that I want my traditional birthday-waffle breakfast!”  He just smiled, but I think that might have been because he was just happy he would be going out for breakfast on my birthday instead of having to make me waffles.

    I am not one to make a big deal about my birthday – beyond the waffles, that is. I usually have a nice dinner with my parents, maybe see a couple of friends, and that’s about it.  So it’s not like I was foregoing any major festivities (except the waffles!) – in fact, I think commandeering a race with more than 4,000 runners as my party was the best idea ever – someone else supplies the sports drink and cleans up the mess!

    Seriously though, running is probably the single most life-affirming activity I can think of.   How do I even describe it?  When I am running, I feel strong, powerful and brave – yet tired, and even weak.  I beg to differ when my brain tries to tell me my body is tired and maybe even hurt – I tell it, “Your argument is invalid! I know that I am fine!” even as I wonder if it is true and question my own sanity. Yet somewhere, deep down on some primal level, I am relish those feelings of defying my brain, of feeling weak but pressing on anyway, or feeling strong and wondering just how strong I can be.  Or both!  And as my heart pounds and my ears pop and my lungs try to glean every possible oxygen molecule from the air that I suck in, I know, with every fibre of my being, that I am alive.

    Then crossing the finish line in victory – well, there’s just no other feeling like it.  I can’t think of a more appropriate way to kick off another lap around the sun than celebrating every ounce of that feeling.

    Don’t get me wrong – just because I am serious about it doesn’t mean I take it too seriously.  After all, I did run the race dressed as Supergirl.  I also let myself order the weird combination of foods I was craving for supper afterwards, despite the odd looks from the server, because really, that’s the other reason to run a marathon on your birthday, isn’t it?

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    A runner for just over four years, Karen has already completed a marathon, two half marathons and a variety of 5k and 10k races. She describes her first marathon - the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon last September - as "a nightmare." However, she met a very interesting person in the process - a man named Sydney who was running his 152nd marathon! Although the race didn't go as well as planned for Karen or Sydney, he showed her that no matter how experienced a runner you are, you can still have a bad day. "Does that mean we shouldn't bother to prepare, or maybe just shouldn't bother at all? Of course not!" says Karen. "In the end, it is what we make it." We like her optimism!