This week I turned 30. My to-do list for the day read:
- Run 30km.
- Send flowers to Mum.
- Unsubscribe from all companies that send me Happy Birthday messages.
- Eat cake.
I can’t stand the fake intimacy of general, automated emails, so No 3 acts as a good annual cull. And I’ve never understood why birthdays are about celebrating the child for a passive act of which they have no recollection rather than the mother for whom it was probably arduous and highly memorable, hence the flowers.
But throughout my adult life, I have found myself at a loss for what to do with the rest of the day. Eating cake is undoubtedly pleasurable but, as an ultrarunner, it is also an at-least-daily occurrence. So, from now on, I intend to run my age in kilometres each year. Cynics will no doubt point out that I have taken the easy option by choosing metric rather then imperial measurement. But 30 miles before work seemed a tall order and I need to think a few decades ahead.
It turns out I am far from being the first to adopt this annual tradition. David McGillivray, the race director for the Boston marathon, has been running his age in miles since his 12th birthday, back in 1966. He was still going strong at 60.
Ultrarunning is, after all, a sport for the older runner. The average age of participants is 43 and runners in their 60s, 70s and 80s are not uncommon. And records for mature runners continue to fall. At 70, Bob Becker completed the notorious Badwater Ultra (135 miles) in 41 hours. Gunhild Swanson, also 70, finished the gruelling 100-mile Western States race. And in 2016, Ed Whitlock became the oldest sub-four-hour marathon runner at the incredible age of 85 (he also held the sub-three-hour record at 74).
With this sort of pedigree, the birthday ritual could be continued almost indefinitely – provided, of course, it doesn’t hasten life’s final ribbon. Have any of the Guardian running community been following similar traditions? Does anyone want to start? I can attest that it definitely makes the cake taste better …