Birthday Ultras

Back when I signed up for my Eugene blog posts last fall, I assumed I would be running an ultra for my birthday this month. When I turned 30 two years ago, I decided to run 30 races, and a birthday 30 miler. Always the overachiever, I ran 33 races and a 31 mile birthday run. (31 miles because that’s a round 50km, 33 races because 31 was a lame number.) Last year, for my 31st birthday I found a 50 mile race that was within traveling distance and fell exactly on the right date. Without very much training or thought, I went out to run the Badger Mountain Challenge.

Luckily, my incredible one-woman support crew and the weather were all on my side, resulting in a deliriously beautiful run. I was excited to repeat the adventure this year.

However, my body decided to finally let my mind know that it’s had enough. Plantar fasciitis, or something like it, forced me to rest for the last two months. Two months? Was it really only two months? It sounds like nothing, but when your sanity and your social life revolve around running, it feels endless.

This birthday “ultra” was going to be different. An ultra challenging test of my mental strength. Friends managed to drag me out to a 5km trail race, which ended up being a lot more fun and a lot easier than I expected. The cheesy party hats helped. The poop-emoji cupcakes helped. Running the first 1km with my friend’s four year old helped. Breathing the fresh air, stomping through dirt and over roots, speeding through the downhills, spending time with wonderful people – it all helped. The birthday celebration wasn’t what I had planned, but it was a lot better than I had expected.

I didn’t intend for all of my blog posts to revolve around my injury. I didn’t intend to be injured. I planned to run the marathon at Eugene but now I’m excited for the 5km. Not only because I can actually run 5km again – finally – but also because it means my friends can cheer for me on Saturday.

Races, and life, are like this – you train, you give it your all, you push yourself, you break through all sorts of walls, and at the end of the day something else might interfere with your plans. Whether it’s injury, illness, or some other happy changes, it’s hard to let go and admit I am not in control. It’s hard to start over and not judge myself for being unable to do more.

This injury and my experiences have taught me how to persevere and pick myself up again. Not that I did it alone. Having a great group of people who have supported me was key. So cheers to another year, a couple more grey hairs, and perhaps some wisdom.

(Don’t worry Badger, I’ll be back. 33 is a much more exciting age to turn anyway!)

Tanja Cvekic

Age: 31
Location: Vancouver, Canada
Running: Eugene Full Marathon

I traded cigarettes for running shoes in December 2009. Never having envisioned myself as a runner, I couldn’t imagine running a 10KM, let alone a marathon or an ultra. Now running is such a central part of my life that I almost can’t believe that I haven’t always been a runner. The year I turned 30, I ran 30 races and a 30 mile birthday run. 2016 has been the year of ultras and trail running! Things that seemed impossible even a year ago are now accomplishments. I used to say “I don’t train, I just run” but I will train this time to Boston Qualify in Eugene.

Why do you run?
“I run to feel clarity, calm, peace to rid myself of negativity, to set the bar higher for myself, to socialize, to find solitude, to be in nature.”

Tanja Cvekic