I love my birthday, and anyone who knows me is nodding their head in agreement right now. It’s a running joke at my work that my coworker asks me, “Gosh, when is your birthday again?” or “Hmm, July 29th, nothing special happening that day.” This past Christmas she got me a book called “All About Leo” and I think I squealed when I opened it. It’s my special day, yes I love the attention, but most of all I love celebrating all of the wonderful people that I have in my life and the joys that the year has brought me.
2020 is just a little bit different.
In the past I have celebrated my birthday in all sorts of ways. There have been years when I had no plans and thought I would probably spend the day by myself, other than going to work, and then been surprised by friends and family taking me out for dinner. Other times I have had huge celebrations – most recently my 30th birthday. I finished my first triathlon (and last… only… I feel as confident that I’ll never do another triathlon as I do that I will never have kids) and then had a big bash in my backyard that night.
A few months ago, when the reality of this pandemic was just starting to sink in, I was inspired to run a backyard ultra marathon for my birthday. The ideas ranged from the type of ultra where you run a certain number of miles each hour to just flat out running an ultra distance. I was going to run 32 miles because I was turning 32… until my mom reminded me that actually, I turn 33 years old today.
Those plans changed not long after they were dreamed up. Things were looking really dim. It went from “things should be getting back to normal by May” to “this could go on until July”. I would be training hard for something during very uncertain times, unsure if it would be safe or if I would be comfortable with running with others, and I wasn’t confident I’d be able to do all of those miles all alone. Not only that, but I was nervous about pushing myself that much. I still had hope that I’d be able to do a fall marathon, which would mean that my mileage would stay amped for quite some time, and I might need some serious rest and recovery after doing a backyard ultra.
Eventually safety and sanity won the battle and I decided not to run an ultra for my birthday. I still want to run an ultra some day, and maybe after all of this experience I will have in 2020 of doing virtual races I’ll do one from my own backyard. Instead I started my marathon training plan in June with no real optimism that I’d be doing an in person marathon. In fact I decided I would follow the marathon training plan until an official decision was made, and if I hadn’t gotten very far into my training, I might decide to do something different. Even though I had entertained the idea of a backyard ultra, for some reason a backyard full marathon seemed… worse.
Since my marathon training started it has seemed like one marathon after another has announced that they will be canceled or that they will be going virtual. Not long ago, the bigger races started to go – Boston announced it would be going virtual this year. New York, Chicago. Detroit, Grand Rapids and Indy were all still hanging on… really, they were probably just trying to figure out the best plan WHEN – not IF – they had to cancel or go virtual. At some point through all of this I read a post from someone in one of my marathon groups. She said she planned to run a virtual marathon and looked forward to having that medal to show how she endured and trained through this uncertainty. Her post inspired me… and I went from “Nah, no virtual marathon for me.” to “Hurry up and announce your virtual plans/swag/etc. so I can sign up and feel legit!”
This past week the three marathons that I was considering running this year all announced their decisions to cancel the live, in person race and to go virtual. The first to do this was Indianapolis Monumental Marathon. Then a few days later Grand Rapids Marathon announced it would be a virtual race this year. And then just a couple of days ago the Detroit Marathon finally announced that there would be no in person event and that the race had gone virtual.
My birthday celebrations this year will be running and food related. Today I’ll be at work, where I am sure my coworkers have forgotten about my birthday completely <— if you could hear my tone you’d know how sarcastic that statement was. Tomorrow there is supposed to be more information about the virtual Detroit Marathon and if I get the information I need I will be deciding which virtual marathon I’m signing up for. This weekend I will be running a virtual half marathon, getting my favorite desserts – ice cream and cookies, enjoying yummy food and watching one of my all time favorite movies (Jurassic Park) that premieres on Netflix Saturday.
I have done a lot of reflecting in these last months, and I have shared a lot of it here, but stay tuned for a birthday reflection. For now I am going to prepare to have some incredible birthday celebrations and make the most out of one of my favorite days of the year!