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Growing older and wiser through running

When I was a little girl, I used to dream of all the cool things I would do as a grown up.

I would drive a pink convertible VW Rabbit. I would eat chocolate cake donuts for breakfast every morning and Cocoa Puffs for dinner every night. I would never go to bed before midnight and never wake up before noon. I would wear shorts every day — rain, snow or sun. I would never dust. In the summer, I would only shower by running through the sprinklers. I would never run out of Rocky Road ice cream.

Of course, my 10-year-old self had a different perspective on life.

I now realize that pink is not a great choice for any car, and a Rabbit is just not practical with kids. Donuts are tasty, but the after effects are less than desirable. Ditto on the Cocoa Puffs. I rarely stay awake past 10 p.m. and sleeping in past 7 a.m. is an indulgence. I still love to wear shorts, but realize I look ridiculous with bare legs in the snow. I have kept my promise not to dust. I just make my kids do it. There is nothing better than a warm shower.

We rarely run out of Rocky Road ice cream, though.

Yes, as we mature our priorities shift. Hopefully with age, we don’t just get older, we get wiser.

Of course I’m writing this on my 37th birthday.

It’s interesting. When I was young, all I wanted to do was get older. Once I hit 25, all I wanted to do was stay young. I’ll admit, turning 30 was a rough day. But something changed once I hit 32. I began to realize that life has gotten better with age. It’s no coincidence that it was also the year I began to run.

Turning 32 was a pivotal birthday for me. I had just had my youngest daughter. I was still carrying around a little baby weight which normally would have bothered me. But it slowly dawned on me just how incredibly resilient my body was.

Forget the number on the scale. I was feeling incredibly strong. I’d only been running for a month, but the time I spent outside working my lungs, legs and heart soothed any misgivings I had over the changes my body was going through. It wasn’t about looking good anymore. I was feeling good.

Fast forward five years and I’m feeling better and happier than ever. I’m stronger. I’m more confident. I’m more self-assured. I’m more at peace.

That’s not to say I don’t have my days where I look in the mirror and lament the new lines on my face or the streaks of gray in my hair. Thank goodness for my hair stylist Jackie!

But I can honestly say I’m happier with myself at 37 than I ever was at 27 or 17.

My birthday also falls in the same week as my wedding anniversary. As our family watched old videos and flipped through photo albums, reminiscing the beginning of our lives together, I was reminded of how much this body has been able to do in these last few years.

I gave birth to two beautiful, healthy girls.

I have packed, moved and unloaded hundreds of boxes into three homes in two states.

I have roamed the streets of Paris.

I played on the Oregon beaches with my oldest daughter.

I ran with my husband to the finish of his first half marathon.

I walked the Freedom Trail in Boston with my family. Twice.

I hugged my grandpa.

I’ve ridden my bike hundreds of miles with some of my closest friends who became even closer to me after hours of gabbing along the way.

And it all started with a run.

One of my favorite podcasters, Steve Runner, always says, “Life is short, but it should be long enough.” I love that.

I want to savor the thousands of little moments that make up my life. I want to make sure I don’t waste the gift of health I’ve been given. I also don’t want to waste one moment moaning about my unimportant, and often imagined, imperfections. One day I may not be able to run and jump and play like I want to. But that day isn’t here yet.

I don’t hesitate to tell people how old I am. I embrace my age. I’m proud of what I’ve been able to do. I’m proud of how I’ve changed. I’m proud of the steps I’ve taken to get healthier and lead an active life so I can enjoy this life even more. I'm no longer content to sit on the couch and watch others live. I want to participate in life.

Yes, world, I am 37 years old now and feeling younger than ever. I can't wait to see what happens next!

Kim Cowart is a wife, mother, 24-Hour Fitness instructor and marathoner who still gets excited to find $5 in her birthday card from her grandma.


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