Training to Run 30 Miles on My 30th Birthday

By Jenna Schifferle

“You’re a glutton for punishment,” my friend said as we cooled down following a morning run. I laughed at the veracity of her statement as a bubble of nerves worked its way to my throat.

I had just shared my secret desire to run 30 miles on my 30th birthday, a milestone taking place this July. Christa, my lifelong friend and running buddy, stoked the fire by suggesting that I might have company during the first half. Her partner might even run the second half with me, she said. (Everyone needs a Christa for your bad ideas.)

Running 30 miles is something I’ve never done before. When I ran the 26.2-mile distance during the Chicago Marathon in 2019, my body took a hit from all the training. Despite exhaustion and a nagging injury, I exceeded my own expectations and ran well. To do 3.8 miles more than that seems like tempting fate. Yet, I’m oddly fixated on the idea.

The idea to run 30 miles on my 30th came from another challenge I’m doing. Run the Edge, an organization based out of Colorado, hosts an annual Run the Year virtual challenge. This year, participants commit to running 2,021 miles in 2021. A different friend discovered the challenge and encouraged me to sign up. In exchange for running or walking 2,021 miles this year, they’ll mail me a shiny medal and T-shirt that tells the world, “Hey, I did this thing!” I was sold.

The challenge aims to get people moving, and everyone can adapt the event to their fitness level. For me, this served as much-needed motivation following a tumultuous year. The pandemic inspired a series of poor health decisions in my life that destroyed my diet and exercise routine. Between working from home and not being able to go to the gym, I lost the drive to move, let alone run. My step count barely exceeded 3,500 some days, and the time had come to make a change. The new year seemed ideal for taking initiative.

Here are my rules for the challenge:

• Strive for 5.5 … miles, that is. I will log approximately 40 miles each week to reach my goal by year-end. That equates to approximately 5.5 miles per day.

• Walks count, but they must be intentional. Daily steps do not count.

• Aim for 1,010.5 miles spent running by year-end.

• In the event of an injury or burnout, I can log miles by biking; however, miles will be counted at a 2:1 ratio. (For every two miles biked, one will be logged.)

Several weeks into this challenge, I have run at least one mile per day. I aim for 5.5 miles daily, which usually includes stretches of running and sporadic walks. Walking can be daunting, so I bring my cellphone and catch up with friends as I stroll the streets and log miles. I’ve found this to be a peaceful act during a chaotic pandemic.

This time has been stressful for all of us, and exercising may seem like the last thing on anyone’s list. You don’t need to run 30 miles in a day or 2,021 miles in a year. Just bundle up in your warmest gear and take the first step. Your mind and body will thank you.