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I have been a runner ever since I joined the middle school cross country team at age 12. When I was 14, I set a goal of running a marathon someday. I always had the goal in my mind and thought that it would be a bucket list item for me. I figured once I had run a marathon I could simply check it off the list and move on.

In 2008, I decided to finally tackle the marathon distance. I had two boys at the time, ages 2 and 4. I was 28 years old, so I was literally double the age when I first set the goal. I was motivated to finally accomplish my high school goal, and figured that it could serve a dual purpose of helping me take off the last few stubborn pounds of baby weight.

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I had run up to 16 miles in training before, so I figured I was off to a good start. I had never raced a half marathon before, but since I had run even further in training, I thought I would be OK. That was mistake #1. I also didn’t use a specific training plan to help me prepare for the marathon. I thought since I had already been running for 16 years at this point that I could just make it up as I went. That was mistake #2.

I spent the summer of 2008 haphazardly training in order to prepare for the Akron Marathon. The race was scheduled for the end of September and even though I wasn’t tracking my miles very closely, I was absolutely convinced that I was ready and could achieve my goal.

Race day came and I was a nervous wreck. The sheer weight of what I was about to take on finally hit me. As the starting gun went off, I was overwhelmed by the fact that I was going to accomplish the goal I had set 14 years earlier and I began to cry. I got some odd looks from fellow racers who passed me and couldn’t figure why I was already sobbing in the first mile.

I finally got my emotions under control and settled into a consistent pace around mile two. Unfortunately, I let the race day atmosphere get to me and the pace I settled into was over a minute faster per mile than I had trained for. That was mistake #3 for those of you who are counting. I was able to hold the pace through mile 16 when we approached the biggest hill on the course. At this point, I hit the wall HARD!

The last 10 miles were extremely slow. I had to alternate walking and running, and it took every ounce of determination I had to keep me from quitting. When I reached the last mile, I finally felt confident that I was actually going to finish. Crossing the finish line was such a rush of pride and adrenaline!

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>> Read more: 21 Days to Total Marathon Recovery

As tough as that first marathon was, I realized that I actually loved the distance and the challenge that came with it. I resolved to correct my newbie mistakes and come back even stronger. I’m now 35 years old with four children and have completed 20 marathons to date, including 7 ultramarathons. My current goal is to complete 40 marathons or ultras before my 40th birthday.

If there is one lesson that running has taught me it’s that I’m capable of accomplishing far more than I ever thought was possible. My one-time bucket list item has now turned into an ongoing passion for a sport I love.