“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?