Twenty-seven pairs of shoes.
Thirty-five pounds lost.
Sixty-four weeks of training.
Almost 10,000 miles.
One simple run around the block.
A whole lot of determination, love, and support.
That's what has gotten me to Boston. I never knew that was where I'd end up on that hot July evening when I took my first step as a runner.
On April 16, 2012, I will be running in the Boston Marathon.
Sometimes I say that and I still can't believe that it is true.
You see, I am not an athlete. I am your average 40-year-old wife, mother, daughter and teacher.
But six years ago, I saw a picture of myself sitting at the kitchen table looking overweight, tired and unhappy.
The day I saw that picture was the day I knew I had to do something about it.. as in NOW, that moment.
Therefore, I walked out the garage door, laced up a pair of shoes and ran around the block.
I won't lie. It was terrible, miserable and depressing.
But, in that moment I had accomplished my first goal - to get around the block without stopping.
I did it.
Little did I know that completing that small goal was actually the door opening to so many more wonderful adventures, opportunities and bigger goals.
Little by little, I added distances to my "block."
I'll never forget calling my dad, who has always been a runner, and telling him that I had run a mile in 12 minutes! It was so monumental.
As I continued to run throughout the winter and gain strength, my dad started planting the seed for finding a race to do.
He suggested a half-marathon. It seemed impossible to me.
He took me on what I considered to be a long run of six-and-a-half miles. I was elated when we measured it out!
He assured me that I could complete a half-marathon, and just for good measure, he would run it with me. We signed up for the Whidbey Island half-marathon.
Now, when I say "we" signed up for the half-marathon, you need to know that this is a family affair. We might have been the ones running, but we had one heck of a support crew that traveled with us. My husband Michael, my boys Jacob and Nicholas, and my mom Paula. And they've been at every race since.
After Whidbey, I was on a runner's high. Training for a half had been hard, but I was motivated to continue improving.
Not only that, but at some point during the training, running became "mine." I would lose myself in runs, I could think clearly and I came back with a wash of calm. I was meeting new people in town that were runners, too, and they were whispering "marathon" in my ear.
I'll never forget emailing my dear friend Amy who had just completed her first marathon.
I asked her, "Do you think I can do it?"
Her response: "Of course you can."
With her encouragement, a lot of discussions at home and a complete buy-in from the support crew, I found myself signing up for my first marathon.
I've never looked back.
In fact, since that first marathon, my husband and sister completed a half-marathon, I've participated in a relay with some of my closest girlfriends for the last three years and I've enjoyed sharing in fun runs with my kids as often as possible.
So as I train for Boston in April, I find myself doing a little celebration as I step out the door each day. This is the icing on the cake.
And if there is one thing I've learned over the last six years, it is that the finish line is really only the beginning. To complete any goal simply leads you to the ability to plan another goal.
Running has changed my life.
It has enhanced my life.
I have gained so much; trusted friends, healthy habits, and a world-wide community of people looking to continually improve their quality of life are just a few. I look forward to sharing this journey with you.
Michelle Carpenter is writing a series of columns for the Union-Bulletin as she prepares to run the Boston Marathon. Follow her training on her blog, www.carpcorner.blogspot.com.