Age 24 -- take more risks, run with joy

Tomorrow -- 1/31/2011 -- is my 24th birthday. I'm a HUGE fan of birthdays, holidays, etc... I love pretty much any day that gives me a reason to celebrate with family and friends. I kicked off my birthday last week with high school friends in Vegas and last night enjoyed dinner and drinks with about 20 of my closest friends. As the doorbell rang again and again and as more and more friends trickled in, I couldn't help but feel incredibly blessed and loved. And then today, on my last run as a 23-year-old, my good running buddy Alexa and I watched the waves crash across the sand as we ran along Baker Beach, with the Golden Gate glimmering in the setting sun... Celebrating with wonderful friends and running joyfully along the Pacific coast was the PERFECT way to start off this next year of my life :)

As with the New Years resolutions that come every January 1, I like to do some self-evaluation and goal-setting with the coming of a new year of life. A new age is a clean slate of sorts -- this year will be whatever I make of it. So, here's what I hope to accomplish in the next 365 days:

--Run a top-24 time in the 10k.
24 women will toe the line in Eugene at the 2012 Track & Field Olympic Trials, and I plan on being one of them. Times run between now and mid-June 2012 will count for qualification. For the 2008 Olympic Trials, the "A" Standard for women was 32:45 and the "B" Standard was 34:00. Last spring I ran 34:01 for 10k and my time ranked 50th in the nation in 2010: The 24th-place time was 33:28. Last year I thought 33:30 was in my wheelhouse, but between a diseased gallbladder and tactical championship 10ks, the race (and the time) never came together. This year I hope to run 33:15 in the 10k, and PR in the 5k (sub-16:00) and 1500 (sub 4:30) as well.

--Take more risks.
In the past year I ran far too many races full of fear. What was I afraid of? you might ask. I was afraid of failure. I was afraid to push myself and make it hurt so much that I might blow sky high or collapse on the track and DNF. I raced hard, but always within a comfort zone. Failing scared me so much that I wasn't willing to take risks that could possibly result in failure, so I played it safe and stayed within a comfort zone. Was I happy with those "comfortable" results? Absolutely not. I'm realizing now that to get where I want to go and achieve my big goals, I have to get uncomfortable, I have to overcome my fears, yes I might fail along the way but the ultimate reward for taking those risks will be worth it. My goal this year is to live by these words: 
"What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?"
"Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go."

--Run with joy.
In the last 3 months I've rediscovered my love of running and can truly say that I 100% love what I do. Nearly every day I find myself feeling so lucky to run through green parks, along rolling hills, past colorful sunsets and crashing waves... I ask myself, "Is this really my life??" and am always in awe of how blessed I am. This overwhelming feeling of joy has made me a happier runner, which has translated to a faster runner :) I spent a good deal of college struggling to find joy in my running and for the past 2 years I've been rather disappointed in the outcomes. But now, in this new environment surrounded by friends, family, teammates, and supportive coaches, it's impossible to not run joyfully (and hopefully fast too!). In talking about life as a professional runner, a role model of mine put it best: "It's really not that hard when you love what you're doing" -- Magdalena Lewy-Boulet, Olympic marathoner.

Growing a year older means 365 new days for exploration, adventure, and risks. I'm sure to have some ups and downs along the way, but I'm confident that my great support system will help me weather the lows and join in my celebration of the high points.

And speaking of celebrations, I'm off to go turn 24! Here's to a great next year!