Running Towards 40

I just celebrated my 40th birthday and couldn’t be more thrilled about it. Seriously. I envision my 40s as the time when I will be unapologetically me. When I will relentlessly pursue my passions, love the snot out of my friends and family, and hold space for what brings me joy. And say no to what doesn’t. It feels like a rite of passage. And an opportunity to shed self-doubt.

I was a kid who enjoyed being in nature, alone with my imagination, looking at bugs and flowers and writing poetry. And now, I’m still a back-of-the-packer in part because I’ve never been fast and in part because I just plain like it there. And I have always been painfully aware of the social wedge that creates if you don’t choose your company wisely. Luckily, I’m wiser now and I have the very best friends.

Despite that, self-doubt and imposter syndrome have been companions of mine for a long time. And I didn’t think they would magically disappear when I turned 40 but I can tell you this: I left chunks of it in the dust as I trained for my birthday run.

To mark my coming of age, I decided to run 40k for my 40th birthday. And as this was a route, not a race, I took full liberty to create my own guiding principles: have fun, eat snacks, don’t get injured. This was truly my run.

And there are a few other things I brought with me as I ran towards 40.

Fuel. In the before-times, I ran a trail half-marathon with zero education about fueling that run. Y’all can imagine that didn’t go well. In training for this run, my training partner and I talked a lot about nutrition on and off the trail and experimented with the right cadence and content for our individual needs. We held each other accountable for snack breaks and made sure we packed everything we needed for each run so we knew how it would hold up on the big day.

As it turns out, nourishment is more than just the food we put in our bodies. I spent a lot of this journey learning what challenges me, what brings me joy, and which relationships fuel my spirit.

A $30 treadmill and other life hacks. Full-custody single-momming during a pandemic is no joke. In general, one of my biggest barriers to training is childcare. Throw in social distancing and my resources really ran thin this past year (pun intended). So I ran on my lunch breaks as long as the kiddo was in school and once school shut down, I added some cross-training (workout videos) to my plan and scoured the internet for a cheap treadmill. This gave me the opportunity to keep moving even when we needed to be home.

Getting creative and making time also served as an opportunity to show my daughter what determination looks like. I set a goal and even when I needed to change my route a little, I found a way. My training plan wasn’t straightforward, but neither is life. Flexibility – and compassion – matter.

Normalizing my capacity. I’ll be honest, I’m as susceptible as anyone to scrolling Instagram and measuring myself against a carefully curated fraction of peoples’ lives. I should know better – I work in marketing – and yet, I am still not immune to this phenomenon. I had a lot of chats with my inner child about owning and loving my own life circumstances.

And time on the trail with good people (and alone) reinforced a few important facts:

  • Being outdoors puts things in perspective.
  • Imposter syndrome can get right out of here.
  • Our bodies – ALL bodies – can do cool stuff.
  • (Also, my dog is utterly delightful. But that’s for a different blog post.)

My birthday run was a sweet culmination of months spent getting my fuel, movement, and mindset dialed. Two dear friends joined me for the journey and we ran part of the Colorado Trail through snow and rain, crossed creeks, post-holed through snowdrifts, and hiked. A lot. And as we reached the parking lot where my Dad and my daughter were waiting with a truck full of snacks, I knew I was running toward the best years of my life, the best people in my life, and that this perfectly imperfect version of me has arrived.

AJ Wojtalik

AJ Wojtalik

AJ is a mom, frolicker, and writer – sometimes in that order. She grew up in the mountains of Colorado and currently lives in Denver, comes alive in the wilderness, and works in marketing and communications for the Colorado Outward Bound School.

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Comments

8 thoughts on “Running Towards 40”

  1. Happy birthday. Welcome to lots of awesome years (and more to come after your 40s; at 51, I feel all this, but even more). It truly is fantastic to get older as a woman and realize (at least for me) how much useless baggage I’ve been carrying around that I can just drop. Chuck it, live big, have a blast!

    Reply
  2. Happy Birthday! Thank you for a great read. I too am approaching my 40th this fall and am training for a 1/2 Marathon, but sadly have not been enjoying the training journey like you had. I appreciated your comments about “nourishment” and challenging ourselves to find our joy in the process. As I continue training and get closer to my race & 40th birthday, I’ll try to keep this perspective in mind. Thank you again 🙂

    Reply

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