Last night, my BFF Michael came over to deliver some wonderful treats. She’s a great friend and an excellent neighbor. One of the magical treats was a huge bag of Starburst. She knows what I like.

This morning, Brian came back from his training ride as I was getting out of the shower.

With a big, goofy grin on his face, he looked at me and asks, “Did you eat Starburst for breakfast?!”

“No,” I told him. Because I hadn’t.

“What’s that smell then?” sweet Brian asked.

I just sort of gave him a little smile, and then he realized: “Is that mango soap?!”

Mango soap on the left, grapefruit candle on the right. Zebra plate underneath.
Mango soap on the left, grapefruit candle on the right. Zebra plate underneath.

You’re damn right you smell mango soap, buddy! (And good idea on the Starburst for breakfast…)

I’m celebrating today. I’m celebrating happiness and a slight semblance of health. I’m also celebrating a hat trick: three bathroom stop-free runs in three days.

I already told you about Sunday’s run.

BOLD! (That's Brian's team. I'm an "honorary member," which means I get all the gear and am invited on none of the group rides.)
BOLD! (That’s Brian’s team. I’m an “honorary member,” which means I get all the gear but am invited on none of the group rides.)

Yesterday, I was able to get out for a lunchtime run along the West Side Highway — the route where I fell in love with running a few years ago. It was a beautiful day and I ended up covering 7.1 miles without making a single stop.

Take my breath awaaaaaay.
Take my breath awaaaaaay.

Then, this morning, I made my way to Central Park, and when I tell you it was a perfect morning to be out there, I really mean it was the most perfect day of all time. Everyone was out. Everyone was happy. Brian was in the park riding and I saw him three times, and that always adds a little pep to my otherwise husky step.

Brian out for a training ride.
Brian out for a training ride.

This morning, I ran 8.5 miles and I did not have to stop and use a bathroom even one time. I ran happy and dare I say I ran healthy? I even got to spend a few minutes at the end chatting with Bernie. But then someone sat on him, so I left.

BFFs. I wonder about Bernie In Real Life almost daily.
BFFs. I wonder about Bernie In Real Life almost daily.

So that’s my hat trick: Three runs, no stops. This feels downright monumental. I know not to get too excited about these things, but I’m also in a perpetual “you can’t bring me doooooown!” (name that musical) kind of mood these days.

Instagram was made for springtime in Central Park, I think.
Instagram was made for springtime in Central Park, I think.

While Brian and I were driving back from Massachusetts on Sunday evening, Kelly Clarkson’s song “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger” came on the radio.

“Ugh, change it,” I told him right away. “I hate this song.”

And then I backtracked.

“I actually don’t hate the song,” I claimed. “I just hate the title of it and I hate that quote. I hate when people say that to me when I’m sick.”

It’s true: Whenever I’m in my darkest, lowest places, someone inevitably comes around to optimistically remind me that “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”

And, inevitably, I hate that person and refuse to give into this quote. Because when I’m so sick and so sad, I don’t believe that having Crohn’s and dealing with those flare-ups will make me stronger. I only feel like it’s killing me.

An old shot, but a classic.
An old shot, but it’s always relevant.

Crohn’s disease doesn’t make me stronger physically, no. It kicks my ass.

But I guess I’m somewhat on board with the quote now. Because mentally, I am a hell of a lot stronger than I have ever been. This disease — its big ups and those down down downs that come on without notice — has changed me so profoundly over these past few years.

STRONG ENOUGH TO DRIVE A TRACTOR VROOM VROOM. I was actually terrified this thing was going to somehow turn on while Tyler and I were playing on it. That's probably why you're not supposed to "play" on heavy machinery.
STRONG ENOUGH TO DRIVE A TRACTOR VROOM VROOM. I was actually terrified this thing was going to somehow turn on while Tyler and I were playing on it. That’s probably why you’re not supposed to “play” on heavy machinery.

I was in such a bad place last year at this time that I even scared myself, let alone scaring my loved ones. I was so unstable and just so incredibly unhappy. I was sick and exhausted and I cried to the point of dehydration.

So maybe this disease has made me stronger after all.

Or maybe the strength comes with age.

I turn 29 today.

Lovely flowers (those are tulips, right?) in front of my second-favorite Central Park bathroom. This photo was taken on my leisurely walk home last night. Special.
Lovely flowers (those are tulips, right?) in front of my second-favorite Central Park bathroom. This photo was taken on my leisurely walk home last night. Special.

I am not where I ever thought I would be at 29, I suppose.

Growing up, I assumed that at a fairly young age, I’d be married with children, a house, a car or two and a thing people refer to as a “401(k).” I didn’t ever have a “plan,” just loose expectations based on my own parents’ lives (married at 23, Ryan at 25, me at 27, happily ever after soon thereafter).

If nothing else, having a chronic and unpredictable illness has taught me that making plans — life plans, lofty plans, long-term plans, dinner plans — is actually kind of overrated. (And if you’ve been reading this blog for longer than a year or so, you know that this is a major shift in mindset; but a good one.)

TOO MANY PLANS. Yes, I prefer paper calendars to Google Calendar. Always will.
TOO MANY PLANS. Yes, I prefer paper calendars to Google Calendar. Always will.

I hate that I feel like I lost the past two years of my life — I don’t have an abundance of happy memories from age 28. My disease took over and I didn’t get to do so many things. I didn’t get to run all those races I registered for, I didn’t get to take that trip to Hawaii with Brian, and I didn’t get to plan or attend Tyler’s first birthday party. I missed out on so much.

NOT Tyler's first birthday party. This is his second birthday party, and he didn't understand the concept of blowing out the candles. Instead he smacked the cake with his hand and yelled "It's Mickey!" It was cute and I didn't care that he punched a hole in his own cake.
NOT Tyler’s first birthday party. This is his second birthday party, and he didn’t understand the concept of blowing out the candles. Instead he smacked the cake with his hand and yelled “It’s Mickey!” It was cute and I didn’t care that he slapped a hole in his own cake.

This disease — and perhaps the wisdom I’ve gained in the past 29 years — has made me appreciate today. I appreciate every good day.

Lyrics from one of my current song obsessions: "Chasing the Sun" by Sara Brarieislailes. Not sure about the spelling of her last name, but that seems right enough.
Lyrics from one of my current song obsessions: “Chasing the Sun” by Sara Brarieislailes. Not sure about the spelling of her last name, but that seems right enough.

I may get sick again tomorrow and that may lead me down a spiral that sucks away another two years of my life.

But I just had a great weekend, and a few great weekends before that, and today started the best way I can imagine.

Brian, should we frame this for our apartment? Probably not, I guess. But let me know what you think.
Brian, should we frame this for our apartment? Probably not, I guess. But let me know what you think.

I am basking in every single one of these good days.

As I walked home through Central Park last night, I couldn’t stop taking pictures of all the gorgeous flowers in full bloom. At one point, I stuck my face right into a pink-flowered tree.

This is the tree about which I am talking. (Sometimes proper grammar sounds really stupid, doesn't it?)
This is the tree about which I am talking. (Sometimes proper grammar sounds really stupid, doesn’t it?)

I realized at that moment that I was finally in a good, can’t-stop-smiling kind of mental place: I had literally stopped to smell the roses…or cherry blossoms.

Last year I made a whole bunch of birthday wishes for myself. Some never came true (Celine Dion hasn’t committed to a New York City residency and I didn’t get to run the Brooklyn Half Marathon), but so many of the important ones eventually did — it just took a really, really long time.

Screen shot 2014-04-27 at 3.11.56 PM
Back at yoga! Back at spinning! Back with Bethany! BACK WITH JENNY FROM CHINA after she abandoned me and my love at the end of second grade.

I ran a lap of the Reservoir…and then I ran many more laps, and even the New York City Marathon.

I’ve enjoyed a few days without pain.

I got to be at Tyler’s birthday party.

If that smile doesn't just make you melt...it's because you're an asshole. Noooo, kidding.
If that smile doesn’t just make you melt…it’s because you’re an asshole. Noooo, kidding.

I’ve slept through the night, I got a new couch and I did eventually get my Pepperidge Farm cake (it wasn’t as delicious as I had remembered).

Best of all, I got to remember what it feels like to be healthy. Maybe not fully, but good enough really is good enough for now.

I’m embracing a new job, a change in environment and atmosphere, and a lot of really valuable, quality relationships. Sometimes it seems like a miracle that I have friends left after these past few years. I know I haven’t been the most fun, the most available or the most tolerable, but that makes me cherish the people in my life so much more.

This is my office now.
This is my office now.

Thank you for sticking with me through the past year. I imagine reading my nonstop complaining about being sick wasn’t entertaining at times, but the support I found through this blog has been life-changing. The Tweets, comments and emails I’ve received on my worst days are the ones that kept me going. You have kept me going. You helped me get to 29.

Now for real, when are we going to have our Cheese & Dairy Queen & Pitch Perfect Singalong & Baby-Sitter’s Club Movie Viewing & Lurlene McDaniel Book Club Party? I already said I’d host, I just need a headcount. And someone to bring the Dairy Queen.

So let’s do this, 29. Hit me with your best shot.



74 Responses

  1. Firstly… Happy Belated Birthday.
    I would really like to thank you for creating this blog:)!!! I am so happy that I found it during one of my many sleepless predinose insomnia nights:)
    I have had ibs since i was 22, but it never really got bad until i had my daughter (17 months old now) and literally no one could cure it!!! PS– newborn + flare from hell = life sucks!!! ( though she is the best daughter ever and i thank my lucky stars everyday that she is so awesome!!!).
    I started on remicaid this past november with the advice of several female health specialists as i really want to have another child:) So far so good without any additional drugs so fingers crossed:)…..
    I loved reading your birthday post and hope your last year of your 20’s is awesome!!! (I’m 34, and while 30’s are great…. 20’s rocked:)).
    I do have a question for you or any of your readers…… what were any side effects that you’ve had from remicaid? The reason I ask is that hairloss and weight gain seem to be my main issues? While i am in no way getting off remicaid until i know i safely can (nothing will ever make me go back to last year and that flare) I was wondering if you or anyone dealt with the same issues and how you controlled it? I am an avid runner and the scale keeps creeping and the hair keeps falling:(….. any advice from you or your readers would be awesome:)

    Keep up the awesome blog!!!!

    1. Thank you for such a nice comment, Christy! I’m so glad the Remicade is working for you so you can spend your time with that sweet little girl of yours instead of in the bathroom! I was on Remicade for a few years (it was my miracle drug for so long and I was so grateful for it) and was lucky that I didn’t experience any side effects from it. I’ve heard that some people do see some weight gain, but that’s also typically a result of your body being able to absorb nutrients, which it isn’t doing when you’re flaring. Wishing you all the very best!

  2. No way. Tuesday 5/6 was not really your birthday, was it???? Because it was mine, too. And George Clooney’s. I wish I’d known, we would have invited you to our party!

    Seriously, happy birthday…it really is the BEST day to have a birthday and the coolest people are born on that day. I really hope the coming year is spectacular…for both of us 🙂

  3. Ohhh I love reading your posts so so much! And I’m so happy that things have been going great for you!!!! Hope this is your best year yet :))

  4. Happy Birthday! And If you are curious about some delicious Crohn’s recipes check out my blog! We seem to have a similar health story and I love to run as well 🙂

  5. Happy birthday Ali!! It’s Thursday, I’m thankful you are still blogging:) I so enjoy reading your blog, never got tired of reading your health stories, felt elation when you could run, spin, yoga, etc. I’m thrilled you are feeling better. happiness and health for your 29th year and beyond my virtual friend:)

  6. Happy Birthday, Ali! I have been reading your blog for years and always find strength and inspiration in your posts. Thank you. I wish you a wonderful 29th year full of love, health and happiness.

  7. Happy “late” Birthday.. Love “Chasing the Sun”.. that is my daughters lyrical solo song this year.

  8. Happy birthday and really… You’ve whined WAY less than I would have! Heck I’m on week 10 of resting after 2 hip surgeries and trust me I’ve whined more. People are afraid to tell me when they’re going for a run

  9. Happy birthday!!! I felt like that when I turned 25 this year (I know you are probably rolling your eyes)…but i swear i had a 1/4 life crisis. omg. im no longer building up to mid 20s… im on the other end…building up to 30. hahaha. I thought I would be so much more “put together” by now but thats the fun part of life right? Speaking about being all over the place… I lived in philly (i grew up around there) moved to morristown nj for a job after graduate school where i stayed from july to this march and now im back with my parents but probably moving to hoboken soon! haha! how do you like nyc? I am curious how the running is there..I did the nyc half and loved it but im afraid of feeling “closed in” if you know what i mean. i was thinking of joining the local running stores group runs to get my bearings, etc.

  10. I have only been reading your blog for about six months, but have really come to admire your positive attitude and your ability to take life as it comes. You’ve become a bit of a role model for me, because I totally suck at taking life one day at a time. Wishing you a very happy birthday! I sincerely hope this is a super healthy year for you!

  11. I want to come…even if I’m a lurker stranger from the Internet, so I totally understand if I’m not excited. But I had a really rough year in terms of injury/illness/exercise last year too and your blog is so helpful even when things aren’t going well. I’m so glad you are doing well.

  12. Happy Birthday! When’s the party you mentioned? I’ll bring one of everything -cheese, blizzard, and lurlene McDaniel book. All you need to supply for me is the bsc movie.

  13. Happy Birthday!! I have the same paper calendar (the weekly life one) and am totally with you on those 🙂
    Hope you have a spectacular Day!

  14. Dang it, I missed your actual birthday. I guess I need to add you to my feed reader so I will get your updates more quickly because the email seems to come a day after you post. Anyway, happy belated birthday! I truly hope this is an amazing year for you. I’d say your off to a good start! 🙂

    Oh, and I was on the verge of crying as I was reading this post, but then I almost spit coffee out of my nose when I got to your spelling of Sara Bareilles. So thanks for letting me experience all the emotions! 🙂

  15. We need the Lurlene McDaniel to keep the party at a controlled decibel. Happy Birthday from a random blog reader with the same first name – which is not as big of a deal as Celine Dion but still. Hope it’s a good one!

  16. Happy birthday!! Mine is today– so we are almost birthday twins!! These last two posts have made me so so happy for you…. You so deserve all of the good stuff!! Here’s to a year full of good things and smelling the cherry blossoms!! Oh… And eat the starbursts for breakfast!! 🙂

  17. Happy Birthday!! You are inspirational! I’m turning 29 later this year too, and I also feel like I’m not where I thought I would be when I was younger–but I don’t think that’s a bad thing ha! Hope you have a wonderful year 🙂

  18. Happy Birthday! I threw out my “life plans”at 30, 35 & 40! I kept revising them, but I’ve learned that’s OK!

    I love it when you shows pics of lists…it inspires me to print/write neater.

  19. Happiest of birthdays! I would totally travel to New York AND bring Dairy Queen to celebrate!

    P.S. I believe you were referring to Wicked, one of my all time favorite musicals, up top. Now Defying Gravity is stuck in my head.

  20. Happy Birthday Ali!!! Have a wonderful day.

    (I think you should frame the Olympic Podium one from the race recap because it made me laugh so much).

  21. JOYEUX ANNIVERSAIRE !! I am truly glad for you if things are brighter. I hope your 30th year will be totally different from your 29th one 🙂 I’ve been following you for a while now (since 2011 I think) and you have never been boring. You have a chronic disease. It is your life and you are true about that all the time. You are strong and inspiring. Keep going and enjoy your day 🙂

  22. Wishing you a wonderful rest of your birthday and year ahead! So happy to hear how you are really being fully present in all the good moments and appreciating them – what a great perspective, it takes many of us a lot more years to realize how important that is!! Hope the happy days continue and let me know where/when to bring all the CHEESE!!!

  23. Happy Birthday!!! To read your blog and feel your joy about each day is the best. I wish you so much happiness this year. I look forward to each post from you. It make me happy to know you are having better days. Happy Birthday !!!

    I am so happy that you are having a fabulous day, and enjoying these moments. Thank you for your honest, funny, and sincere blog posts. They make me smile, cry, laugh, and they make me feel grateful for the things I have as well. have the best day ever and never stop smelling the cherry blossoms!!! xoxo Erica!

  25. Happy birthday! It’s pretty awesome to hear that you are having many more happy days. You are def one of my favorites to read even in the down times. But here hoping there are much more happy and healthy times coming !

  26. Um, YAY! I ran in Central Park when I was in NYC recently and thought, “If Ali gets healthy, maybe one time I could convince her to run w/me when I’m in New York,” and woot — looks like you’re getting healthy!

  27. Happy birthday!!!!!!!! Your happiness is infectious and you deserve so much of it! I’ve been reading along through the ups and downs and am so happy for you!

  28. Happy Birthday Ali!! Cheers to a new year filled with lots more great runs, weekends, maybe some PR’s, and definitely more cheese and ice cream! Have a great birthday, you deserve it girl.

  29. Happy Birthday! I am so happy to be reading this post! I’ve been reading your blog for several years now and I love your honesty. I know what you mean about good enough for now. My flare didn’t last nearly as long as yours, but 2013 was the bad year for me. And it ends up that the year is such a blur because I was just so sick . And like you, I’m still not at 100%, but I’m way closer to it than I was last year so I’ll take it! I’m so glad you’re feeling better. Here’s to hoping that just continues to get even better!

  30. Happy Birthday! I’ve been reading for a few years, and you were seriously a huge inspiration for me to even do this crazy running life. I stumbled upon your blog when I was sort of pretending to be a runner, and 3 half marathons, 2.5 years, and registration for my first full marathon later.. here I still am! So proud of you (that’s weird, I don’t really know you, but it’s the truest emotion I can think of!) and so happy for you! Happy, happy birthday!

  31. I love this post! Happy happy birthday, and I am so glad things are looking up right now. I’m a little (a lot) jealous of all the running you’re able to do before/during work (I guess a big perk of working at a running store!) and I’m just so happy to hear you sounding so positive. The pic of Brian on Tyler’s bike is adorable. Again, happy birthday!

  32. Happy birthday! I am too a fan of the paper planners, and even though things don’t always work out the way we’ve planned, they can still turn out to be pretty good. 🙂

  33. Happy Birthday. Mine is Friday & I am a lot older 🙂
    My bucket list to run on the some of the routes you mention on your blog. I live in Albany.

  34. Happy Birthday Ali – you deserve an incredible day.
    Also, musical reference = Wicked.

    We will always be here to keep you going, because believe it or not – your journey and your words keep us going too.

    Enjoy your birthday!

    1. I know I know I know! I wasn’t patient enough to let it defrost all the way. MY OWN FAULT. Pepperidge Farm is perfect.

  35. I’ve been reading your blog almost since you started it, (close to when you started at least) and I could not be happier for you and your good days!! 🙂 It’s nice to hear that you’re so happy!!

  36. I feel like this is weird to say since I don’t actually know you (blogs are so strange, amirite), but it made me super happy to read that you’ve been running successfully! Happy birthday Ali!

  37. Happy Birthday Ali!!!!

    Your 29th birthday deserves so cake and then maybe some more cake and to top it off a nice piece of cake.

    And don’t worry this year will bring you some interesting new adventures lets keep our finger crossed that they are all good once.

  38. Happy Birthday, Ali!!! I truly hope you have the best year ever! Count me in for the Dairy Queen, Cheese, and BSC party. 🙂

    1. OK but are you REALLY going to bring the Dairy Queen? Don’t say you’re going to bring it if you’re not going to really really bring it.

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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