Last Wednesday, I accomplished something I never thought I could do.

I ran ten miles.

Before you call me crazy – and before I agree with you – I have to tell you. It was the most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done in my life. As someone who is literally traumatized by my experiences with the Presidential Fitness Test in high school, I’ve got to admit that the thought of me making it across the city on the two feet I was born with… is powerful stuff.

My running experiences began last year, after I’d lost a little bit of the weight, first. I used to take my then-two year old daughter walking with me every day and, while we enjoyed ourselves and had a wonderful time… there was a point in time where it felt like I should be trying to do something more. I mean, surely I could manage to squeak in a teeensy bit more activity into this hour-long time frame, right?

So, from walking… came dancing. And we’d dance together pacing around our daily path. It was too much fun. Have you ever seen a two-year old try to dance and walk at the same time? She attracted kids everywhere she went, and before too long, there would be all kinds of kids trying to tag along on our walk.

I love kids… but not that much.

So… I needed to figure out a way to keep our daily hour of fun an actual fun thing for me as well as her, while still being able to get in the activity level. One night, it hit me. I asked her if she wanted a piggy-back ride, and once she hopped up… I took off running. I’d run one lap, put her down, and walk one lap. Pick her up again, run another lap, drop her and walk again. I did this for 45 minutes. I’d come home sweating, angry, gross… but satisfied.

My daughter loved the piggy-back runs. I was losing weight, gaining strength, feeling far more powerful… and Mini-me was beyond excited to experience the joys of treating Mommy like a life-sized horsie. “Go, Mommom! You can do it!” It became our little fun time. It rocked.

From there, I learned how to run intervals. Learning how to run for 30 seconds, then walk for 4 minutes. Then run for 1 minute, walk for 4 minutes. Run for 2 minutes, walk for 3 minutes. Run for 3 minutes, walk for 2. Run for 4, walk for 1. Run for 5, walk for 1. Then…. just run. I played that game at my own leisure, and I didn’t progress to the next level until I got bored with the current level. I didn’t upgrade to running for 1 full minute and walking for 4 until I felt like I had mastered the art of running for 30 full seconds, no problem.

Once I was able to run for a full five minutes, I started trying to run a full mile on my own. With the help and support of a wonderful person (or a few of ’em, really), I was convinced that I could do it. Before long, I was not only running a full mile… but I was running several at a time. For someone who took almost 20 minutes to walk a mile and had no idea that I could “walk faster,” let alone “run”… that’s kind of unbelievable to me.

The day that I decided I was going to run ten miles… was the day before I had to return my moving truck. I’d ran four, five… even six miles before and though it was rough, I still managed to make it. No big deal. Right?

Eh… right. It was only almost twice what I was used to running.

Why ten miles, though? I have fantasies of running a marathon. Judge me if you want. I think there’s something sexy and awe-inspiring about being tired as sin, struggling, and pushing your body to its limits… only to see the finish line and perk up a little… just enough to help you find the last bit of energy you’ve got to cross the finish line. A marathon is 26.2 miles, a half-marathon is 13.1… and I would be running 10.

I drove the truck across town to Downtown Miami in the early afternoon. I figured if I set myself up this way, instead of starting at home with the option of always being able to turn around and go back home, I’d be forced to test my body against this distance. I could always call a cab to take me home. I could’ve always caught the bus and said “screw it.” Hell, I could’ve hitchhiked if it was that deep. I just… I knew I wouldn’t.

Once I dropped off the truck and received my confirmation, I headed out of the parking lot, looked around… and exhaled. I was seriously about to do this. Seriously? Seriously.

Let’s talk about the five things I learned – the hard way – about my running adventure, though.

First… go potty first. Don’t ask me why I know how important that is… just know that I know.

Second, there is no other instance where you learn how important food is for fuel… than a situation where you are constantly burning fuel. Like running. If you are constantly hitting the pavement and burning fuel, you have to eat. Because my “Oh! I have to eat first!” epiphany came late, I grabbed a fruit smoothie from a nearby smoothie shop (mango, banana, apple and coconut shavings) and did what I could to tear that whole thing up as fast as I could before I reached my destination. The smoothie, as large as it was, could only carry me through the first 7 miles – I had to stop and get food in order to keep going. That’s how serious this fueling thing is. Your body uses food for fuel. If you’re going to be burning fuel that hard, that highly for that long, give it what it needs to carry you through the activity.

Third. To be a runner, one must “move swiftly on foot so that both feet leave the ground during each stride.” It says nothing of how fast you must move. It also doesn’t say you have to look a certain way, either. You don’t have to be Speedy Gonzales (or look like an olympic hurdler) on the sidewalk in order to qualify yourself as a runner. Own it, regardless of how long it takes you to finish or what size you are when you begin.

Fourth. Runners stop sometimes. You might not notice it because they no longer look like runners when they’re not running – they look like walkers, or loiterers, even – but.. when they become overwhelmed, they stop. And that’s okay. It doesn’t make you a “less than” because you stop. You’re training to be a better runner, not training to win a million dollars.You gain nothing from wearing yourself down to nothingness.

Lastly. stretch. Stretch before. Stretch after… after a very long warm soak. If you don’t… you’ll hate life. I did this run Wednesday. It is now Tuesday, and I’m just now feeling back at 100%. Running long distances is something your body has to get used to doing. I needed to know just how far I could push myself, and what the results would be. I now know, and that’ll help me prepare for my super duper goal.

I’m not gonna lie. I’m mad at myself for being able to complete the entire thing in less than 3 hours… because now it means that I can, without question, take on the Miami Beach Half Marathon in a few months. And though I really don’t want to do it… I reeeeeeeeeeally want to do it.

So… I say, for anyone out there afraid to jump into running… take your time. It took me a year to get down to where I am now. It took time for me to learn to value running enough to invest time and money into it – I saved up to purchase a jogging stroller for Mini-me, a good pair of comfy running shoes and a nice set of headphones. Taking that time to appreciate running actually allowed me to develop a need for it, learn to value it and what it can do for me, and list it high enough on my list of priorities that I could save up money on the things I needed.

Now, after that ten mile run…. I have to start budgeting for marathon registration fees. Y’all know I’m cheap, man.