I didn't believe there *was* such a thing. Or rather, I believed there was, but I was never going to be one of those people that experienced such a feeling. I hated running. With a passion. Besides chin-ups, running was my most hated activity growing up. I could do sprints, but I stuck to under 200m distances. I couldn't fathom my body moving in that fashion for any longer distances. There were these fitness tests they did in school that included the 12 minute run. I walked for 1/2 of it. It wasn't that I was in bad shape. I've always been athletic. I played volleyball, badminton, basketball, figure skated (for 10 years - I even taught it), I weight-trained, I could do 200 sit-ups without stopping (at one point I held the county record), karate, I was on the swim team (was a jr life guard), etc. growing up. But running was my nemesis.

That was until just after my 37th birthday this year. Maybe it was the training I was doing leading up to my birthday that included a good amount of cardio (I usually stuck to the stairmaster, HIIT on the treadmill and cross-fit challenges that got my cardio up). Or maybe it was my state of mind. But one day, my good friend and now marathon training partner, Eric, decided he wanted to start working out with me and suggested we run on the treadmill. I reluctantly agreed, but did it. And it was fine. I think I ran for 30 minutes our first session. At about 20 minutes, I stopped feeling the pain and started feeling the high.

I've been hooked ever since.

Today I ran 9 miles (or 14.5km). This is significant. That is 1/3rd of a full marathon length! For those of you who have run all of your lives, you may be thinking, "Meh." But for me, that is a HUGE victory. I ran it and it felt good. I had several runners high-gasms. And I definitely could have kept going. My knees where a little achy and, on the treadmill, it gets a bit tedious, but I picked up speed at the end and could have kept going. Next Sunday I do 10 miles. 10 miles!

In the past 6 months or so, my body has fundamentally changed. Running has not only changed my physical shape (my hips are actually narrower than my shoulders for the first time in my life), but has changed my overall stamina all around. As I run, I can feel my muscles lengthen. I visualize how each one is connected from toes to the top of my head. I'm more aware of my body than I've ever been in my life.

Mentally, running prepares me for anything. Not only do I become incredibly zen while running, but it has carried into my everyday world. When I don't run regularly, I start to get less patient, less calm and more anxious. When I'm running regularly, I handle everything in stride (so to speak). Running has helped me become an adult about things in the best possible way.

My training schedule is pretty rigorous over the next while. I'm running the distances, but I need to increase my speed over time. I also need to do more stairs (I still get out of breath!). The marathon we've chosen is quite a marathon: The Great Wall of China! There are 5164 steps. The top female runner completed it last year in just under 4 hours. I'm not aiming to beat that - just finishing it will be a victory - but it's a nice goal to shoot for. Eric bought me the book 4 Months to a 4-Hour Marathon. The thing is...I know if I keep training hard enough, I feel I can complete this one, steps and all, in at least under 5 hours.

Just think. In just 10 months of training, I will go from not being able to run 12 minutes to completing an über challenging marathon in a good time. Crikey. I can't wait to see what my next challenge will be! We aren't finished putting together the pieces yet, but we plan to raise money for a school in Nairobi as part of our goal. Eric is even more ambitious than I am. ;)

Thank you to everyone who has encouraged me, trained me, advised me and just generally followed me along this journey. I promise to keep challenging myself!