I Ran 40 Miles On My Birthday…Now What?

In conjunction with my recently celebrated 40th birthday, I accomplished something I’ve long promised to do. A big bucket list item I’ve talked about on and off for at least the last 5 years.

To commemorate my 4oth trip around the sun, I ran 40 miles in one day.

To a seasoned ultra marathoner that doesn’t sound like much, but given that it was the furthest I ever ran in a day (specifically 13.8 miles longer than any marathon I’ve run), it was significant, symbolic and meaningful to me.

It was also amazingly emotional, cathartic and fulfilling. I didn’t do it for anyone but me, but it was good to hear how impressed and proud people were that I actually did it.

My garmin watch immediately after completing my 40 mile run

My Garmin watch immediately after completing my 40 mile run

Over the past few weeks, I’ve found an amazing sense of accomplishment I haven’t had in a long while as a result of doing that 40 mile run. While I’ve often met and exceeded goals at work, this was different. This was entirely done for me. That’s not to say it was selfish or totally self-gratifying (it wasn’t), it’s just that from beginning to end, I laid the ground rules and was directly responsible for how it all went down. Save for my dad and cousin doing 7 and 5 mile legs of the run respectively, the success or failure of that run fell squarely on me.

As I woke up at 5am that morning, I was keenly aware of that fact. Couple that with the fact that I shared this goal with just about anyone who would listen, a lot of integrity and ego were on the line here.

I have to admit, the after effects have been unexpected. I loved every minute of it and have loved how it has transformed me since. It sort of sparked something in me. At my core, I know I can accomplish big goals. Self-doubt lost the battle that day and while it may rear its ugly head again, I feel more motivated and more sure of myself than I ever have before.

With that said, I came up with a list of  10 other accomplishments I’d like to check off the list. Some are more attainable than others, but none can’t be reached. By writing them down here and hitting ‘publish’, it ratchets up the ol’ accountability meter to 11…

10: Take my kids back to some of the cities and old haunts we’ve lived and played.

In addition to traveling a good amount for work, I’ve also done my share of moving around. Since college, I’ve lived in California, Arizona, Indiana,

my son and me on a hike in Arizona

my son and me on a hike in not far from where we lived in Arizona

various parts of Ohio and the greater DC area (Maryland). It’s sort of cliché to say that each of these places hold a special place in my heart and that the experiences there helped shape the person I am, but it’s true. I want my kids to pave their own path with their own experiences and memories, but I’ve always found it edifying to know the paths and choices my parents, family and mentors have taken before me. My hope is that they get a little bit

of that out of visiting these places too.

While I wouldn’t rehash all the sordid details of my experiences, I would love to show my kids different locations and share different stories that essentially lead up to today. It’s the hopeless romantic in me.


9: Buy a Hofner Bass.

Since my cousin Tim introduced me to the Beatles, I’ve been a huge fan and that’s probably an understatement. It’s not hyperbole, nor am I afraid/ashamed to admit this – I love the Beatles, or at least their music and what it’s meant to me. As an aside, there was a time I couldn’t walk into a bookstore and find a book I hadn’t read on the Beatles. In short, if you’re playing a game of Beatles Trivial Pursuit with your life on the line, I’m your guy.

For me, nothing really embodies what the Beatles were – or are – than that iconic Hofner bass Paul McCartney used to play. It always frustrated me to see that Hofner would inflate the prices of the bass to $2,000 – $3,000, especially given that McCartney picked his up because it was most likely the cheapest bass he could find. While I’m not ready to plop down a few grand on a bass (that I don’t know how to play), I have found some good starter basses for far cheaper.

photo courtesy of flikr - by Focka

Paul rocking the left-handed Hofner bass – photo courtesy of flikr – by Focka

One more thing: just like Paul’s, my Hofner bass has to be left-handed.

8: Learn to play bass

This one only makes sense. If I’m going to buy a bass, I’m not going to hang it on the wall as a museum piece. I don’t have delusions of grandeur, but I would like to eventually be a serviceable enough bassist that I could play out with a band. It could be a crummy, hole-in-the-wall venue where me and four of my closet friends show up or it could be a party in someone’s backyard – I’d check it off my list.

7: Start a band

What the heck, since this is my  list, this is something I want. True story – I was in a short-lived band called Pop Ass Murph. I was one of the lead singers…there are no recordings, but there are a handful of pictures out there. Ultimately, I’m not sure why we didn’t go for show number 2 (some would say a case of stage freight from yours truly derailed our hopes and dreams, but that’s up for debate).

Again, this isn’t something I’m interested in doing to make a living. We don’t have to be particularly good. What I’d love to do is just have a group of people who get together, have fun and eventually develop the wherewithal to play in front of other people. That’s it. Getting PAM back together isn’t really an option. I’m not sure our lead guitarist is allowed in the country presently and the bassist turned out to be a mega-douche. If you’re interested in joining, I’m taking applications.

Of course, I’d be playing the left-handed Hofner bass.

6: Give a presentation to a standing room only room.

Again, this one is sort of cheating a bit, because I actually have been a part of a presentation at a national fundraising conference. But I was only a small part of it – my team was merely a case study for a larger fundraising concept, so I only talked for about 5-10 minutes and was only responsible for 4-5 slides. I’ve always had this feeling that I’d be scared to death to present to a room that big, and to be honest, just prior to going on, I was a little nervous. I had practiced and rehearsed plenty and I was ready, but I was still nervous. Being couched in an accomplished speaker’s talk definitely helped – as it was my turn to go on, I felt my self getting excited to talk. I got a huge rush from doing that and I’d love to do it again – I’d love to run my own show.

5: Have an epic, blowout marriage celebration

For reasons I won’t get into here (yet), my wedding was rushed and while it was one of the best, most beautiful and happiest day of my life, it was probably less than ideal. Marriage is funny and there are ebbs and flows and sometimes people don’t always feel appreciated, wanted or desired. It’s complicated.

One way to re-establish things is to dream it all up again. Not necessarily hit the reset button, but bring something out in a new incarnation. Celebrate it on a grander scale. Rock it out. Details to this are forthcoming, but it’s something I’ve long considered. A lot of things can say I love you and maybe having a huge party where you literally invite everyone you know isn’t the most intimate thing, but damn if it isn’t a way to say hey – we’re awesome.

And sometimes, doing something for the person you love most is the most gratifying thing of all.

4: Write a book

This one is more ominous and one that nags at me. For the longest time, I told people I’d have my first book published by the time I’m 32. Sitting on the other side of 40 I can’t tell you why that hasn’t happened. It’s actually a great source of frustration, embarrassment and unfulfillment. I actually don’t want to talk about it right now.

Check back with me on this later. Seriously. Stop talking about it.

3: Drive across the country – and take a REALLY long time doing it

This is kind of cheating because I’ve already done this a handful of times. Every time I’ve done it though it’s been in a hurried rush. It’s been exhilarating and fun, but usually I have some sort of timeline I’m working on. Something or somewhere I’m rushing to get to. When you travel across the US in 2 ½ days, a lot goes by in a blur. I’d like to take my time. Maybe I’ll drive myself on my first book tour…

Seriously though, I think it’d be a blast to drag my wife and kids along on a trip like this. I have a fear of driving large RVs, but wouldn’t it be cool to drive something you could sleep in across the country, drinking in all the sites? Wouldn’t it be cool to really get to know this great country of ours? Again, maybe I’m romanticizing this, but damn it if I don’t want to pack my bags and leave tomorrow.

2: Take my kids to Ireland

Your hero, traversing the landscape of the Giant's Causeway

Your hero, traversing the landscape of the Giant’s Causeway

On a lark, I went to Ireland with one of my best friends in the summer of 2000. The fall prior to that, we went to a Notre Dame football game and during that weekend we talked about how cool it’d be to go to Ireland. I chalked it up to just talk until he rung me up in the spring of 2000 letting me know he bought his ticket to Ireland and wondered when I was going to do the same. Things got real. I spent money I didn’t really have on a ticket, and for 2 and a half weeks in July and August I had the time of my life. There was a real, tangible magic in every day. From drinking way too much Guinness in a pub in Westport, to seeing the cliffs of Mohr, to climbing Krough Patrick it was great. If I could relive that exact time over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Eventually I’d want my kids to experience something similar on their own terms, but first I want to show them what I loved so much about that country. I want to climb on the Giant’s Causeway with them. I want to talk to people in Belfast about the Troubles while we take in the spectacular graffiti detailing the life and times of northern Ireland and people like Bobby Sands. I want them to see the peace wall and the holes where bullets pierced it. I want to walk into a pub, introduce my kids as Kieran and Quinn Murphy and hear choruses of slightly drunk Irishmen welcoming them home. I’d also think it’d be cool for them to have their first sip of Guinness in Ireland.

1: Start a blog/podcast.

I know what you’re thinking. “P.J., I’m READING your blog! Check this one off your list dude!”

Well do a little bit of digging. Check how frequently this site is updated. Now you might be getting my gist. Sometime soon this site will get an overhaul – not a major one – but it’ll likely be renamed and refocused. When I first launched this puppy, it started with “hey, wouldn’t it be great if…” and there wasn’t much planning beyond that.

Okay, there wasn’t ANY planning beyond that.

If I can take one thing from my buddy Jeff Sanders (and trust me, there is a lot people can learn from that guy), it’s that deciding to jump into a project like this is well-intended, but mapping out your plan will make all the difference between enjoying continued success  and not wanting to visit your own site because it kind of sucks. Jeff is one of many people I’ve found that practically drips inspiration. You can read more of his story here.

And there is a lot more where that came from. As I suspect is the case with a lot of us, there are a lot of people who are on my side with this type of endeavor. Over the past year or so, I’ve learned that people genuinely want to help if you genuinely ask for it. All of these hopes/dreams/goals will require me to take initiative, but I won’t be doing any of them alone. From simple words of encouragement to following others’ examples, other people will be extremely important to the overall success of this list.

Keep checking back to see how I’m doing. Oh and if you do check back and see that I’m not progressing like I should, drop me a line to let me know I’m a knucklehead.



  1. Congratulations … great effort, excellent pace.

    reading your “pre-bucket list” I couldn’t help feeling that we all have a “list” in us somewhere …things that we really want to do that only really “make sense to us”.

    I guess we could read someone else’s list and go meyah but if it “fires us up” … why not?

    In the worlds of the Duran Duran song “I’ve been around the world, seen a lot of things that ..” well that’s me and at 54, kids leaving home I’ve filled in nearly all of my list and thought “is there really anything new”?

    So on March 25th I went for a wee jog .. 10 miles out and back. On the way I realised this time 30 years ago I was feeling much the same way .. that awful feeling: ennui.

    I procrastinated for a bit and then the following year 1986 .. I headed to France .. didn’t speak French but what did that matter? Anyway 18 months later I was working as a Ski Instructor and having a ball .. that led to all sort of new adventures .. skiing the sand downs of the Sahara anyone? And my Life took off.

    Years later I was the archetype Motivational Speaker and Author and then meyah .. again …so during my we jog 6 months ago I decided I go back to Chamonix new year (the 30 anniversary) and this time I’d do the 1000 miles on foot.

    So I started training … tomorrow (25th September) I will have completed 1000 miles in training in six months. I must have found your blog whilst looking for ideas to keep me motivated.

    Before I leave next May … I’ll have completed another 1000 miles in training …. I need lots of ideas to keep that up.

    Being able to follow other people who are doing things “just for themselves” is very gratifying … So keep up your good work.

    What’s really funny is I’m now shifting my focus as I’d rather be spending my time outdoors in Scotland than flying to Nairobi to deliver a Keynote in an identikit Hilton hotel and new opportunities are opening up for me as a Midlife Mentor taking clients on multi day walks through Scotland to discuss their life in a new and stimulating environment.

    Life is a funny old game, but keeping it fresh, doing daft things that only mean something to us is what it’s all about … glad to know there is someone else out there keeping it real.

    • Thanks for reading and replying Andy! You’ve done – and are doing – some great things! I just poked around your blog a bit and am blown away by what you’re doing. When I get my podcast up and running, I’d love to talk with you for an episode or two. If you’re up for it, I’ll be in touch!

  2. Not only was this an inspiring read, I was smiling the whole time as well . Genuinely delightful to read, and I think that most of us have dreams , goals, bucket-lists that we even keep to ourselves and possibly rarely ever share. What I like here is that you start with the run, and with that experience, it carries over to nearly every facet of life. Less than one percent of the world will ever run a marathon . You ran forty miles . Much of it is just getting out there and doing it. I am always fascinated by people who do things and follow their dreams and have no experience , particularly musicians .
    Buy that bass. You will be glad you did. Make it a goal to write 500 words a day. Set the goals. That run has begun to get you thinking , and we all should do the same. What are any of us waiting for anymore? This was a terrific post, one of my very favorites. Life moves too fast, like Ferris Bueller said.
    Ever notice how few people any more have dreams? Stay around people who do, the creative , positive one who want to make a diifference in this old cosmos.

    • Thanks man. I’m going to buy the bass – I’m not 100% sure how much people will care about it, but I’m thinking about making it a semi-regular feature on my blog/podcast.

      You’re also 100% right about spending time around people who have dreams and are positive/creative. Even if it’s an online community, it still makes all the difference.

  3. that’s awesome! You rarely see lefty bass players! Electrics are always nice if you live around alot of people, can just run a headphone amp.

    congrats on the 40 mile run, and happy belated birthday!!

  4. Love reading this blog. It reminds me of me and some goals I have too that I never expressed on paper but did not feel I had my friends support , its nice to see someone writing them down and sharing them and not insecure like I have felt about mine and my life.

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