74. 40 on 40

74. 40 on 40

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Runners

40 on 40

Just remember, once you’re over the hill you begin to pick up speed.
 ~Charles Schultz

40 on 40… That pretty much says it all. Rather than black balloons and the usual morbid celebratory rituals, I chose a different way to celebrate. I decided to celebrate my 40th birthday running my body into the ground. That’s right, 40 miles on my 40th birthday!

I have run every day of my life for the last ten years. Running strengthens me in many ways… physically, emotionally and spiritually. The world is absolutely perfect during my run… rain, sleet or snow.

It was 2:00 AM and I was lying in bed waiting to start my 40 miles, I had a crew of friends and supporters ready to run with me at various legs of the course, starting bright and early at 5:00 AM!

At 2:45 AM I got up and dressed and e-mailed everyone to say “I am heading out!” I began my run. The first six miles in the dark, not a sound. It was a clear summer morning in Iowa. A bit humid, but comfortable and peaceful and motivating knowing that I was the only creature out moving this time of the day. After about four miles and about 3:30 in the morning, a friend and fellow biker came upon me to check and make sure I was doing okay. An hour later, I returned home for a drink of water and headed back out the door. You see, I was running a 6.5 mile loop six times and a one miler at the end. This running ritual continued with various friends and community supporters running with me, riding their bikes alongside, or driving by and honking and yelling “Happy Birthday!”

I live in a small town of about 15,000 people. The local newspaper decided to cover the story of my 40-mile run. It made the front page. I thought that was really neat, but what if I didn’t make it? Yikes! So, I got out there and ran.

Several hours and miles later, the day turned hot and humid. It was a typical Iowa July day. My friends and pacers kept me entertained as I put one foot in front of the other. I’d run several marathons and made it through the first 26.2 miles. There were only 14.8 miles to go! So, I kept running. I had people along the route who had coolers on their lawns loaded with water and Diet Mountain Dew (the true beverage of choice for distance runners, or at least for me). Bathrooms were plentiful on the run, although not needed due to the heat and dehydration.

My pace was slowing, but my crew was encouraging. Mile 35. Counting down. One foot in front of the other, feet aching, arms heavy by my side. I was wondering why I was doing this. Then mile 40! I was home with my crew. I began to cry, from relief that it was over, that I ran 40 miles without killing myself, and most importantly, that my friends took time from their busy day to spend a few hours supporting my mission, because they were friends. Now that is friendship and that is running to me. I realized at that moment that I was surrounded by a small community of people who loved and cared for me.

We wrapped up the day with a great big bash at our local country club. On Cloud 9 and feeling great. I went home, and thought about the wonderful day. Got up the next morning and went about my day as always, ready for the next endeavor. I remember telling everyone that was the best birthday of my life!

And then… several days later it was brought to my attention that I was one of the top “blogged” people in Newton that week. I questioned why I was being blogged in the local paper. So, being human, I had to go online and check it out. Many blogs were supportive and encouraging. But just one or two negative comments can rip your heart out.

This is what was written: “Who does she think she is, Paris Hilton? Running around the town in practically nothing! She’s insane!” and… “Isn’t there anything else going on in town that’s more important? This is ridiculous news.”

With the numerous positive comments and supporters, just two negative blogs brought me down… but not for long. You see, a lesson was learned from this experience.

I learned that not only could my body endure 40 long miles completed in 7.5 hours, but my mind could endure the 40 miles. I realized that life is about what you think and what you say to yourself when you are alone.

~Melissa Butler

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