In 2 days, 21 hours, 44 minutes and 2 seconds, I will be at the start line of my 10th marathon!

One word: Yikes!

It’s been a long road to get here — one that began in late 2001 when a friend asked me on a whim if I wanted to run Boston in 2002. A friend of hers had an extra number and the boys we were to train with were cute, so I was in! 

I had no idea what I was doing — no clue about pacing, electrolytes, wicking fabric or Garmin GPS watches.

We just ran.

And I finished strong. I still consider April 15, 2002 one of the most glorious days of my life

Eight years later and 9 marathons later, I am here again.

I don’t expect April 19, 2010 to be one of the most glorious days of my life. But it will be one of the most important for a different reason. When I started running, I was not a runner. I was a chubby college sophomore who during freshman year, ate her way through the cereal bar and frozen yogurt bar and pasta bar at the Allison Hall dorm cafeteria at Northwestern. I ordered pizza from Papa John’s and warm cookies (delivered!) from Dan’z Cookies.

In the summer of 1995, I decided to make a change. I started power walking. In the fall, I got back to school and walked around the track at the fitness center. One day, as the Wildcats practiced in the center of the track (hey, they went onto the Rose Bowl that year!), I decided to run a lap.

One lap. One-eighth of a mile.

Over days and weeks, the lap turned into two and then three and then eventually, I ran a whole mile. It was hard and I hated it but I kept doing it.

I won’t bore you with every detail of my transformation into a runner but in November 1996, I felt ready to tackle a 5K. I  dry heaved at mile 3 of 3.1 but I finished. I liked it this time. I wanted to do it again. So I did.

The 5K became an 8K and then a 10K. In 2001, I decided it was time to take on the 13.1 — the scary half marathon. I trained and in January 2002, I crossed the finish line of the Naples Half Marathon in Florida.

The 13.1 miles became 26.2 miles that April in Boston.

I got hooked. The half marathon became two became three became 20. The marathon became two became 5 became 9. In 2006, I started running to support the Dana-Farber Marathon Challenge. I wanted my legs to raise me — and to raise others — up. When I joined the Dana-Farber team, I told myself I would run for them five times and make it to 10 marathons.

And here I am.

I’ve told this story many times, to many people, in many settings. The moral here is simple: Anything is possible. You have the power to make change in your life. You can become whoever or whatever you want.

If you do what you always did, you’ll get what you always got. So, do something different.

I’m not going to lie and say it’s been an easy journey with running. Like many others, I sometimes love running and I sometimes don’t. While running has taken me to places like San Francisco and New York City and Nashville and Chicago, it has also taken me to the ER and marathon med tent more times than I’d like to recall.

I’ve had a challenging season this year motivating myself to do the work for proper training. There was a new job to start at Healthworks and a boy to spend time with and I was tired of giving of myself to the sport first.

But somehow, here I am.

Marathoning has changed me. Running has changed me. I am a better, stronger, kinder, calmer, tougher person all at the same time. I wouldn’t change that for anything.

To all of the marathoners — Head down. Heart big. Chin up. Run strong. 

— Judith

PS If you are not running on Monday and want to do some good in your own way, PLEASE try to help this 9-year-old girl who is in desperate need of a bone marrow transplant.

Details here:

PPS Looking for inspiration for next year? Check out this awesome marathon video from our friends at Task Rabbit featuring Healthworks Back Bay trainer Kate Cooney!