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Things I know for sure about running
Kim Cowart takes her arm cast out for a run on her 41st birthday. - photo by Kim Cowart
Birthday celebrations should not be limited to children or milestone birthdays. Isnt every birthday a milestone? Shouldnt every year we get older be acknowledged and embraced? I mean, the alternative isnt so great, is it?

In the past, birthdays were all about presents and cake. I admit I still like both. A lot. But with age comes wisdom, we hope, and I find myself thinking less about stuff and more about substance. What have I done with my 41 years on this earth? Have I made a difference? Am I where I thought I would be when my friends and I sat in the commons area of our high school the day before graduation signing yearbooks and dreaming of our future?

My answers are different depending on my mood, but like Oprah, there are a few things I know for sure. As they relate to running, here it is.

First, I know for sure that my body is a miracle. I mean, three weeks ago I was lying on the side of the road unsure of what was broken and what was whole. I was loaded into an ambulance with my head strapped to a board. Today, Im not completely healed but I did jumping jacks. I rode a stationary bike. I brushed my own teeth. I successfully navigated my way out of my sports bra. Every one of those events is a big deal these days. Our bodies break down and I will never be 20 years old again, but what this 41-year-old body can do is nothing short of amazing.

Second, I know for sure that each day is a gift. I used to roll my eyes when people would say that because frankly, not every day feels like a gift. Some days feel like someones re-gift that I would like to return. That said, Im grateful for even those bad days because Im still here. Nothing is guaranteed, not even old age. Losing loved ones, Boston 2013, my bike crash have all been good reminders that every moment counts. How many races have I run wishing the miles would disappear just so I could get to the finish line? What have I missed as I ran those miles with blinders on? No more wishing away the present. My new goal is to embrace the present.

Third, I know for sure that feeling good is more important than looking good. Theres a culture of perfectionism that has been chipping away at my well-being for some time. Im working on that. Its not easy when I work in a profession where so much emphasis is placed on looks, intentional or not. Plastic surgery, super restrictive diets, insane workouts may work for some, but not for me. Theres absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to look beautiful, but Im beginning to realize that beauty is a by-product of taking care of myself. When you feel good you look good, not the other way around.

Fourth, I know for sure that who I am is enough. I dont have to be an elite marathoner or a world-famous instructor to be important. I dont have to be a fitness model or Olympic athlete to have value. My finish times, weight, race places used to mean everything to me. It was all about numbers. Guess what. My kids couldnt care less whether I win a race or come in last. My husband loves me just as much now as he did when I was 30 pounds heavier. My friends have no idea whether I wear a size 4 or 8. To the people who matter in my life, I am enough just as I am.

Fifth, I know for sure that if I take care of my body now, it will take care of me later. My reason for running and staying fit has little to do with weight any more. I have recovered from my recent bike crash in half the time the doctors expected because I strength train and run and bike. I rarely get sick, but when I do I am back on my feet quicker than ever. Im slowing down and lifting less, but this body is still treating me right and Im loving it more every day. Working out and being fit wont guarantee perfect health, but its something in my control, something I can actively do to better myself and my chances of leading a better life.

Last year I ran my 40th marathon on my 40th birthday around my neighborhood lake with loved ones. This year Im nursing a broken hand, separated shoulder and strained hip due to a bike crash. But I know Ill be back at it again. I know this body is taking care of me. I know soon enough this will all be a funny story to tell. And hopefully Ill get to tell that story on my birthday next year.
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