My 30 for 30

February 13, 2014

There was no finish line, only a number on my watch. Nobody draped race foil over my shoulders to help maintain body warmth. Police did not block off a single road closed for this jaunt. The run had no set date, time, or even location. It was nothing but a solitary training run. The only mark was distance.

So on a random winter Saturday I ran 30 miles for my 30th birthday.

Ask me if it was fun… it hurt a lot. I walked some. Ask me again if it was fun… you better believe I loved every second of it. That’s how a lot of running goes. One step can bring anguish or a frighteningly tight calf muscle. Yet the next footfall has potential to reignite a burst of energy and propel you forward. Don’t get me wrong though, it was painful. I was woefully under-trained and maddeningly over-inspired.

Plenty of friends and family asked why. Early inspiration came from an April 2012 magazine article. Runner’s World published a story about legendary Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray running his age in miles since turning 12. So I thought to myself, “why not?” Then I fell in with the wrong crowd. A trail running group I quickly came to love was filled with ultra-marathoners and really sparked the desire to push my endurance limits. Thirty seemed like a nice, sufficiently long distance with which to attempt the birthday run.

I survived 30 miles! My prize? Rice Krispies treats and a chocolate chip cookie. Yes, please!

I survived 30 miles! My prize? Rice Krispies treats and a chocolate chip cookie. Yes, please!

But like most of us will admit, running may cause extreme thinking. By the last mile, many more thoughts swirled as my legs churned. Inspiration to press on came from all depths.

My grandmother watched me run competitively in high school, college, and at small local races. Her passing left me wanting to run crazy miles to honor her memory and forget the pain. She ran all 30 miles with me that morning. My mind also turned to the future. I wanted to credibly tell my children someday that anything can be accomplished with hard work and some guts.

When you run long distances for fun people often question your sanity. I think that’s a good thing. I question my own sanity every day. When I saw 27 miles on my watch, it was a distance I had never crossed before. 30 was even cooler. It is refreshing to make people question their own sanity for doubting you in the first place. To be fair, most of those detractors were in good nature from people who probably knew I could do it, but were concerned for my health. But still, I wag my tongue mockingly in your general direction.

So really, why do it? We runners, myself included, can lose ourselves in results, qualifying times, and age group placements that we forget some of the most basic joys of the sport. When congratulating people on a great race I recently replaced “great job” and “nice work” with “excellent race” and “amazing run!” Running is neither a job nor work for most of us. It may be challenging, but we choose it. Running 30 miles felt like a fun way to capture my love of the sport in all its painful introspective quirkiness.

I ran 30 miles for those who believe in me. For those here and for those no longer with us. I ran 30 miles for the next generation. To be able to say, “you can do anything,” and prove it. I ran 30 miles for me. It was time to put some distance between the old me and the new me.  Ask me again if I’m crazy. Or just join me for a run.



  1. Maybe being a little (controlled) crazy is not all bad. Loved the essay (and my tears). Thank you
    Luv, luv

    • Hard to put these emotions into words, did the best I could. I love to run, especially when the running is about love.

  2. Great job…..just beautiful.

  3. Wow that’s awesome! Great job!

  4. What a cool way to mark an age milestone – I love that you did it with your Grandma in mind too! Congrats a great accomplishment. 🙂

    • Thank you, Heather! There would have been no run without her in my heart the entire way, she definitely helped me through it.

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