Forty is the old age of youth; fifty the youth of old age.
– Victor Hugo

For my 50th birthday on November 20, I was supposed to be on the East Coast preparing for the Philadelphia Marathon, one of the few races I’d registered for this year before a microscopic virus with a nasty disposition knocked the world off its axis.

When that race was (predictably and rightfully) canceled in July, we shifted our focus to one of our favorite destinations and the Queenstown International Marathon, happening Nov. 21 in New Zealand. Unfortunately, the New Zealand government had (predictably and rightfully) communicated in no uncertain terms that potentially contagious Americans were not welcome, even those willing to quarantine upon arrival. So there went that idea.

(On the topic of pandemic control, Queenstown ended up hosting 8,330 finishers on race day—1,374 in the marathon, 4,418 in the half marathon and 2,538 in the 10K—making it significantly larger than any American race held in the past eight months. Clearly the Kiwis are doing something right whereas we… are not.)

With nowhere to travel, no one to visit and no place to race, I decided instead to take advantage of our beautiful SoCal surroundings and postcard-perfect weather to spend my 50th birthday doing what I love—running. And though running your birthday in miles can be pretty cliché, I don’t know many runners older than 30 who choose to “celebrate” in this way. (In fact, I briefly considered quitting myself at the 50 km = 31.1-mile mark; luckily, my brother Chuck was running with me at that point so quitting wasn’t really an option—that is, until he quit at mile 35 after we passed the point of no return. Shrewd Chuck, veeeeery shrewd.)

And so, with Katie as my seemingly omnipresent and omnipotent support crew, I set off from Marina del Rey just after sunrise, my only goal being to reach Fashion Island in Newport Beach by dark and under my own power. That gave me roughly ten hours to cover a largely paved & flat course at sea level including refueling stops, rest breaks and traffic negotiation, plus any unforeseen challenges. No problema.

Best of all, unlike my usual A-to-Z race report, I’ve managed to encapsulate ten hours of high-energy, edge-of-your-seat shuffling athleticism in just 2+ minutes of video, courtesy of the Relive app. Join me on a speedy virtual tour of SoCal beach cities:

Crunching the numbers and analyzing the data yielded an average pace for my 2020 birthday run of 1 mile/year — assuming my parents and birth certificate are to be believed, ‘cuz I know my Garmin is.

Not bad for a young’un, eh Mr. Hugo?

Birthday weekend brunch c/o the Griddle Cafe at Yamashiro Hollywood, an LA favorite—if you squint, you can just make out the white Hollywood sign between palm fronds

Nov 20, 2020 (start time 7:16 am, finish 5:24 pm)
50.3 miles from Marina del Rey, CA to Newport Beach, CA
Total elapsed time: 10:08:01 (12:05/mile)
Sunrise/sunset: 6:32 am/4:47 pm
Weather: clear & cool at the start (50°F) and finish (64°F), high of 72°F in Long Beach
Elevation change (Garmin Connect): 586 ft gain, 500 ft loss
Elevation min, max: 0 ft, 194 ft

(Click on the image for a higher-resolution version)
  1. MaKr says:

    Fun! Kind of… I stopped doing this on my 38th birthday bc a January birthday means it’s cold and dark at the start AND finish. But if I lived in Socal, I’d lose that excuse. Well done

    • Mike says:

      So true, fun is definitely in the eye of the beholder! We really are lucky to live in SoCal, which affords me a) optimal late November running weather and b) juuuust enough daylight to finish the entire 50 miles. Though 38 sounds like a much more sane milestone… “the older you get, the farther you run” would be a tough sell for any clear-minded individual. I’m thinking this will be the last time I “celebrate” my birthday this way, but don’t hold me to that! 🤭

  2. Congrats on the 50 mile run and Happy Birthday! Good to hear that New Zealand was able to hold a larger race, they obviously are doing something right, I’ve been saying for months that I want to move there because of how they’ve handled covid. America seriously needs to work harder to control it! Hopefully the vaccine will help so we can all travel and race again in 2021!

    • Mike says:

      Thanks, Sue! Yes, fingers crossed (and double-crossed) that mass vaccination saves the day in 2021, since we can’t seem to save ourselves. I’m with you 110% on New Zealand—Katie and I have likewise toyed with the idea of moving there ourselves, an idea that seems to get more appealing with every passing day… 🤔

  3. Cathy M says:

    Very nice birthday run, beautiful pics! Happy Birthday, Mike! Not bad for an old-er dude. I can say that because I am 51. 😉 It’s been quite the year. Hopefully your 51’st will see a return to some normalcy.

    • Mike says:

      Ha ha ha, thanks Cathy! For whatever reason, in my mind I kind of skipped over year 49, so I’ve been thinking of myself as 50 for a while now. And finally, my dream has come true! 😂 So nice to hear from you and YES, here’s hoping your 52nd year makes up for my 50th 😉. Happy holidays!

  4. csohaskey says:

    That was a great run. I had fun. Of course I only did 10 miles in the middle. I was home relaxing before you got out of Huntington Beach.
    Speaking of beach I wonder how much of your run was within sight of the ocean? From the video it looks like quite a bit.

    • Mike says:

      Thanks for joining! And for motivating me through some of the toughest miles. This was my favorite day in a crazy year, or at least it was until I reached Sunset Beach and you and Katie hit the slurpee station without me—that stretch immediately after I left you was particularly rough. Luckily I was able to run about 28 miles within sight of the ocean, much of it right on the beach.

      This is a run I’ve wanted to do for years but never have for, well, obvious reasons. And while I’m hoping to celebrate year 51 with an actual race, I reserve the right to change my mind and add on one more SoCal mile. And if I do, I’ll expect you to be there.

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