30 Miles to Reflect on 30 Years

By Jenna Schifferle

Next month will bring warmer weather and my 30th birthday. Looking back on the last three decades, it’s incredible to see how far I’ve come, in the general sense and as a runner.

At age 20, I wasn’t much for running, barely able to run two sluggish miles. It wasn’t until 2014 that I hit my first four miles without walking. Sporting neon blue-and-gray Nike sneakers, I tracked miles on a treadmill in the corner of a gym. When I finished, I felt depleted but proud — until massive blisters showed up.

Little did I know that cotton socks are just as much of an enemy to a runner as ill-fitted shoes. For anyone who doesn’t know, cotton retains moisture, increasing the likelihood that your skin will rub. I’ve since turned to a polyester blend and have never looked back (and so should you!).

A lot has changed since those early days of running, including nearly a dozen half marathons, a full marathon and a community of “run friends” to go with a strange obsession.

Now, I’m about to run 30 miles for my 30th birthday.

I’ve made the decision not to run straight through the 30 miles but to stretch it out over the course of 24 hours, beginning on my birthday and extending into Saturday. By doing this, I hope to make the journey more enjoyable and less stressful on my body.

I’ve recruited two friends to run part of the 30 miles with me and along the way, we plan stop at a few cafes for caffeine and concessions.

I’ve done many races competitively throughout the course of my running career, but this won’t be one of them. Instead, I want to savor the miles and use them as a form of meditation. This will be my way of reflecting on the past 30 years while setting my sights on the next 30.

Here are my ground rules for the run:

  Cover 30 miles in 24 hours. I will run as many miles as I can but give myself the leeway to walk if I need to do so.

  Use each mile for meditation. For the first 15 miles, I will reflect on one accomplishment or memory from the last 30 years. For the last 15 miles, I will set an intention for the next 15 years.

  Enjoy the time with my friends while visiting some of our favorite sites in Western New York.

  Cross the metaphorical finish line and celebrate with the biggest ice cream I can find. There’s no better motivator than chocolatey deliciousness!

My goals for this journey look a little different than they did when I ran the Chicago Marathon. As time goes on, I’m realizing that I have to find joy in the miles if I’m going to be a lifelong runner.

This race is where that mindset begins.

So, here’s to finishing my first 30 years on a high note.

Wish me luck!