Some people are content to celebrate their birthdays; others want to CELEBRATE their big day. That means that some of us are happy with the traditional cake, ice cream and a gift of two; others want a little more and will go out for dinner with family or friends and maybe take in a movie. Then there are those who want to CELEBRATE their birthdays, especially the big ones like turning 50 or hitting the big Six-O. Florida's Bob Becker is such a man.
Bob decided he would commemorate his launch into his 61st trip around the Sun by running a race that would prove to himself, and anyone else watching, that at 60 he wasn't anywhere near being over the hill. Now any reasonable, down-to-earth person might choose a nice 10K (6.2 miles or a mile for each decade of his life) or even a marathon (26.2 miles) -- if he were really up to a big challenge. If our birthday girl or boy were really into long-distance running, a 62-mile (a 100K) might be perfect in that you would be running one mile for each year you had lived. However, Bob is not your average individual and he developed slightly more grandiose plans. Here's how it went down.
During a run in the summer of 2004, Bob was asked if he'd ever heard of the Marathon des Sables. He hadn't, but he was intrigued. You see, the Marathon des Sables is not a marathon at all, but rather a 150-mile, 6-day stage race across the Sahara Desert in Morocco. In this race, runners have to carry all their 6-days'-worth of gear while negotiating shoe-swallowing sand dunes over 100 feet high and trying to deal with the desert heat. The race organizers only supply the runners with water and tents to sleep in at night. Obviously, this is not a race for the timid or the running neophyte. Bob, however, was new to the sport in that he had taken up running only less than three years earlier and his longest races had been a couple of relatively tame marathons. If this were us (I'll take the risk of speaking for you), under these circumstances (or any circumstances) the idea of running an average of almost a marathon a day for six days IN THE DESERT would quickly bring us to our senses. But not Bob.
The obvious question is: How did Bob do? After 115 miles of his traipsing through the sands of the Sahara, the race directors MADE him quit. True to his indomitable nature Bob wanted to continue, but the medical staff, party poopers that they are, thought that the fractured femur that was causing quite a bit of pain as he trudged along was sufficient reason to pull his number and send him home. Back in the states, his broken leg was deemed severe enough that he needed surgery to insert a pin and a plate to help his leg heal.
Not having suffered -- er, I mean celebrated -- enough, Bob is determined to return to Morocco in 2010 and CELEBRATE his 65th birthday by finishing what he started in 2005. The real question is: What challenge will you tackle to make your next birthday a real CELEBRATION, and no, blowing out ALL the candles doesn't count.