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Marking the Years with Miles

My middle school gym teacher did a cartwheel on her 60th birthday. I’ll never forget it. After we all assembled underneath the basketball net, donning our hideous blue and gold reversible uniforms, she announced her birthday and told us she’d been doing a cartwheel on her birthday for as long as she could remember and that day would be no different. “As you get older,” she said, looking out at our dewy and wrinkle-less faces, “you need to have a simple way to keep track of whether you’re staying in shape. It doesn’t need to be fancy; it just needs to be something you can commit to doing at least once a year, every single year.” She then promptly put her hands down and catapulted her legs overhead, cartwheeling along the perfect line of the gym floorboards.

Last Friday, on my own (37th) birthday, I ran 12 miles. I didn’t think anything of it as I headed out the door, excited to have a mid-day break from work to run one of my favorite loops and soak up the mist from the lingering winter rain. But as my feet hit the pavement and sunk into the soggy woodchips, it hit me – I had found my very own “cartwheel” – 12 on 12/12. And so, a tradition has begun.

Unlike a friend’s commitment to run his age every year – a vow which seemed great at 20 and is now looking increasingly difficult at 35 – a steady 12 miles seems like a realistic birthday tradition for decades to come. It fits the Ms. Limbert test – basic enough to sustain over time, but challenging enough to require some sort of maintenance in between birthdays. It’s motivating without being overwhelming. It’s a pause to celebrate the day, but in reality, it’s a way to stay focused in the everyday. And it delivers what every birthday should – pure joy. No gym uniform required.

Do you have a healthy birthday tradition, or has this made you think about starting one?  

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. Amazing photograph !

    December 16, 2014
  2. Now I want to start one! Thanks for sharing that story of your teacher… More people should maintain fitness throughout their life, not just during one time period.

    December 16, 2014
  3. Not on the birthday itself, but sometime before or after is a 40 mile bike ride. If I can do that for a training ride in November, I know I can do a century (100 miles) in the following summer 🙂 I hit 50 let month and I have 4 centuries planned for next summer! great post and reminder! We aint old yet

    December 16, 2014
  4. I love this idea – maybe I’ll start doing a cartwheel every birthday, too! Impressed (but not shocked) that you run 12 miles at lunch, Brynn. Wow. Happy belated birthday!

    December 17, 2014

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