At the age of 50, I made a decision that would change the rest of my life. I knew I needed to lose weight…and I realized that it was up to me to change my eating habits and start a regular exercise routine.
After doing a little research and learning that extra calories eventually turn into body fat unless they are worked off, I decided to start walking. It was a decision that eventually led me to participate in several 26-mile marathons.
I began by walking 3 miles a day. It felt great, and I loved having the time to myself. Soon, I was losing weight and feeling better than I had in years.
When a 3-mile race was announced in my town, I decided to walk the route even though the other competitors were runners. My goal wasn't to win, but to finish the distance. The only person I would compete with was myself.
After successfully completing that race, I gradually lengthened the distance I walked daily. I also added some slow jogging to my routine, and when I was able to cover enough distance, I entered a half-marathon (13 miles).
Because I planned to walk the majority of the route, I started 1 hour before the actual race time. I was thrilled to be able to complete the event.
On Your Mark, Get Set, Go
Soon I had my eyes set on the 26-mile marathon in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I began training months beforehand…and was so excited to think that an old couch potato like me would be competing in a real marathon!
The day before the event, my husband, John, drove me through the marathon's course. I needed to know the route because I would lag behind the runners. We noted the mile markers, checked preexisting road conditions and identified rest stops.
More than 6 hours after I began, I crossed the finish line and was rewarded with accolades from John—my coach and one-man cheering section.
All of the training leading up to that moment was well worth it. Completing the marathon was tough, but it was a remarkable personal triumph for me.
That was more than 5 years ago. I'm 58 years old now, and I've completed a total of 18 marathons and a few events where biking is added to the route.
Participating in these events fills me with such pride and confidence that training for them has turned fitness into an enjoyable part of each day for me. I continue to walk 6 to 10 miles daily—and logged a total of 2,500 miles last year!
Even if I never participate in another marathon, walking will always remain a part of my life. It improves my mobility and increases my energy, and I look forward to every day with renewed excitement.
I know I'll never win a marathon, but that doesn't matter to me. What does matter is a job well done, crossing the finish line no matter how long it takes to do it.
I've learned that everyone has the power to change, and there's no time like the present when it comes to self-improvement. A marathon starts with one step, just as the journey to better health does.