’40 by 40′ accomplished!

I did it! It was down to the wire but I completed my “40 by 40” challenge. I ran three days in a row, capping off the fitness frenzy with a four-mile run on my birthday.

IMG_4222I’ve run 40 miles over the past 16 days—on dirt trails when I could, up more hills than I liked, through canyons and around my neighborhood—all in pursuit of a specific goal with illusive meaning.

In my first blog post about this challenge, I wrote that I didn’t feel 40. Now I unfortunately do. My right knee is tender. I’m wearing my knee brace and patella bands again. And for the final runs, I spent as much time stretching as I did running. I rolled on my foam roller and ran my awesome Homedics handheld massager over my entire body.

But I don’t mean to sound so negative. This has been a fun adventure. I learned more about where I live, like discovering beautiful Bommer Canyon. The views have been great. And my boyfriend achieved his own personal challenge that we’re calling his “4 at 40.” He joined me on my final run at Quail Hill and ran four miles for the first time ever!

I’m going to keep running, just not as often. I don’t want to squander this better shape that I’m in so I’ll try to keep exercising 3-4 times a week by working out or taking classes at the gym, hiking, doing much-needed yoga and, yes, running.

But this challenge has been a reminder that I need to take care of myself more than I used to. My mom had wise advice when I called her on her birthday, which is a day before mine: “When you’re exercising at an advanced age, whether it’s 40 or 70, you do have to do some conditioning. And you have to know when to cut it off too.”

My mom dances, so her conditioning is weekly 30-minute sports massages and an IT band stretch. If she does these things, she can dance for hours and sleep well that night.

I know I need to stretch fully and use my foam roller both before and after I run. But I can’t forget the other part of her advice. “You have to know when to cut it off too.” I didn’t realize how hard this challenge would be because I hadn’t run this much in a while.

I set out to prove that I could be in shape at any age. That I accomplished. I feel in great shape. But I also faced my limitations. I’ll never beat my high school cross-country times. I don’t plan to ever run a marathon again. My boyfriend asked if I’d run another half-marathon. I can’t rule that out because I (obviously) love a good challenge and it’s been fun to run destination races with my sister. My brother-in-law promises he can get me to run a half-marathon in under two hours (my PR is 2:10). My left leg could handle that but I’m not sure my right leg could. I strained my right hamstring playing rugby years ago and over time the knots and pain have crept up to my lower back and down to my knee. The pain is more acute now from having run all these miles. Even if I stretch like a mad woman, could I handle those long runs?

I know I can continue to make running a part of my life, which is good because running makes me feel at peace, positive and balanced. But I also know I need to take care of my body. Otherwise, how will I accomplish 50 by 50?

It rained the day before my final run, so we had a great view of the snow-capped mountains from Quail Hill.

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