I've never been one to care too much about birthdays. I enjoy a get-together with friends and presents are great, but the actual celebration of a birthday? Not really my thing. In fact, more often than not, I find myself making a bigger deal about it than I'm inclined to simply because it's expected by my birthday-happy friend group.
But whether I have a big celebration or keep it low key with a picnic in the park or at the beach (my ideal day), there's one thing I always make sure is on my birthday celebration list: a solo run. Ever since I picked up the sport of running a few years back, running has become my way of relaxing and reflecting. And for that, I can't imagine a better way to kick off another year than with the ultimate reset. But beyond that, I've come to adopt a solo run on my birthday every year for these four specific reasons.
Honoring the Body
Because I'm not someone to make a big deal out of birthdays, it surprised me when I turned 30 that I was as hung up on a number as I was. I found that number swirling through my head over and over. I certainly didn't feel or act like someone who was the age of my favorite sitcom characters, but here I was — a real adult. Running has been my way of showing my body that I care for it. I want to get faster, I want to be stronger, I want to keep going. And so, with each passing year, challenging myself to more miles and doing so on the actual day I'm "older" is my way of making a promise to myself that I'll continue to honor my body and work hard to keep it as strong as I can for the year ahead. Now that I'm past 30, the only numbers I'm worried about are the miles I'm logging on my UA HOVR™ Infinite 2 UC Running Shoes ($120.)
Resetting the Mind
I've always been very open about the mental benefits that adopting a sport later in life has brought me. To say running has become my own form of therapy would be an understatement. It's how I process my emotions, my stresses, my anxieties, and my joys. I have a friend who, every year on her birthday, does a full year-in-review journal entry. She looks at the things she's done, the goals she's accomplished, and the strides she's made. My birthday miles are the exact same thing. I may not put down all my feelings on paper, but I process them just the same with a reflective and mentally restorative run.
Keeping Things Consistent
Regardless of the sport, consistency is key. Because birthdays can mean different things at different stages of life (or be celebrated more years than others), I don't like relying on a birthday event to mark my "special day." Instead, I prefer to keep my run as the one consistent thing in my life each and every year. No matter if I'm traveling on my birthday (been there), working (done that), or socially distancing during a pandemic, I can count on my run as the way I mark and celebrate my own passage of time.
As inspirational poster as it may sound, when I'm running, I'm only looking at what's ahead of me. Symbolically, that's what my birthday runs have come to mean to me: a look forward. Everything from the previous year doesn't matter anymore. Any races I wish I'd ran faster, or dinners I wish I hadn't skipped, or times I'd said "no" when I should've said "yes" — I make sure to forgive myself for any and all of those should've moments. Because just like when I'm running a marathon, I remind myself: there's no point in making regrets. The hard work is already done and can't be changed. The current run is the most important one.