August 19, 2018 – update
It seemed like such a good idea 42 years ago, on my 30th birthday. Now on the eve of my 72nd birthday, dare I wonder: What was I thinking?
On August 20, 1976, the day I turned 30, I awoke with a brilliant idea. Being fit and energetic at the time, and committed to a daily running routine, I decided to go on my first annual celebratory Birthday Run.
Three miles. One-tenth mile for each year.
"Well that was fun!" I panted as my pedometer reached 3 miles. "Next year I'll add another tenth-mile! How hard could it be?"
So, the morning of my 31st birthday, I laced up my trusty Nikes and breezed through the 3.1-miles happily, up and down the hills of Ruston, Louisiana.
Each August 20th thereafter, no matter where I was, I continued the tradition, adding a tenth mile.
Those next three decades whizzed by.
Gradually, as my age increased, my pace decreased. Alas, the Birthday Run in my 30's, became a Birthday Jog in my 40s, and eventually, in my 50s, a Birthday Walk.
Three were especially...um... memorable. Like my 41st birthday.
I decided to kick it up a notch and do my 4.1 miles up a steep mountain road behind our home in Vicenza. Perfect. But that morning, halfway up, a huge truck passed me, emitting a trail of thick pungent exhaust fumes. I gasped. I sputtered. I choked all the way back down the mountain, wondering if that birthday would be my last.
On my 46th, I had to postpone my jog until the dark of night. My pedometer hit 4.6 miles just before midnight. Not too bright, in any sense of the word.
But the one that wins the prize for the scariest, and longest, was my 49th Birthday Jog in Vienna. A family member had mapped out 4.9 miles the night before with pen and paper.
"Just go up here to the Little Danube, then down here, around there, turn here and arrive back at the hotel." Simple. I velcroed the visual to my brain.
"I can do this," I mused. "I'll be back before the other three are up and ready for our day of sightseeing."
Tiptoeing out our hotel room at dawn, I began my trek. After the first couple miles, I noticed a sign: Big Danube.
"Hey, that's right up ahead, I'll just take a teensy detour, pop over and take a peek."
Well, a few jigs-and-jags, over-the-bridges-and-through-the-woods later, I made a rather disturbing discovery: Nothing looked familiar. Rather than heading back, I seemed to be a wee bit off-course. Okay, so I was totally, utterly, hopelessly lost.
Houston, we have a problem.
Foolishly, I had taken off empty-handed. No map, to tell me where I was, no hotel name, to tell me where I needed to be; no contact information to call for directions; no money to buy food or water. And cell phones? They were yet a thing of the future. Panic set in.
About that time a stranger approached me for directions, pointing and babbling in some language. Me? Directions? I laughed. Then I cried. By now it was mid-morning and I knew everyone would be up and worried about me. They were. Search teams had gone out, two by two.
As the hours passed, so did my hope of ever seeing my loved ones again. I continued to wander, and pray. "Lord, You know where I am. You know where they are. Please bring us together." Miraculously He did, eventually. Everyone hugged. I apologized profusely. In the end, it was a memorable birthday and by the grace of God, I lived to see my 50th the following year.
The good news is, those extra 4.5 miles logged that day have been carefully banked, to be withdrawn on my 90th, as I venture out on my 9-mile Birthday Crawl. Or roll. Or scoot.
Or maybe they'll come in handy tomorrow on my 7.2 mile Birthday Stroll, we'll see. Stay tuned.
In the meantime, I am profoundly aware of what a blessing it is to be able to do such a thing. My heart aches for dear friends who struggle to breathe . . . or move . . . or even dream of a chance for a birthday stroll.
Every breath we take, every move we make, every sunrise we see, every birthday we celebrate, are gifts from God. With every candle we blow out, may we be ever more mindful, and grateful, for these gifts, and to pray for those whose journeys have taken them through deeper valleys and harder places.
Lord, may we who enjoy Your gifts of good health, mobility, and abundant provisions, to any degree, say thank You! Let us never take them for granted--or presume upon our tomorrows. We are so grateful. We lift up those today who would love to take a birthday stroll tomorrow, but for whatever reason can't. Give them an extra measure of Your grace today. Your healing. Your bountiful blessings. Your help, and Your hope. Let them feel Your pleasure, and Your presence, in all they do. Your name be praised, Amen.
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