Last updated: Feb 29, 2008

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Or so said the ancient Taoist master Lau Tzu. In my case, the journey to run a marathon starts with the first mile. The picture above was taken as I crossed the finish line of the TC 1 mile—a fun-run event, held to mark “open season” for marathon registration.

Hi, Im Jessica.

Im 29 years old, I live in Minneapolis, and I am training to run my first marathon. More specifically, Im getting ready for the Twin Cities Marathon, which takes place Oct. 7, just five short days after my 30th birthday—my one big goal to ring in the big 3-0.

This marathon marks not only the culmination of 20 weeks of disciplined training, but four years of the life-changing journey of self-improvement that I embarked on just a few days after my 26th birthday. It started out simply enough–quit smoking, lose 50 pounds. I quit smoking cold turkey on Oct. 24, 2003 and moved right onto the weight-loss plans. It took a bit longer than expected, but with the help of Weight Watchers, a gym membership, and a fabulous support system of family and friends, I met my initial 50-pound goal in18 months.

The next steps were more difficult— it wasnt just about my weight anymore. It was about who I am as a person, both inside and out. I was redefining myself and challenging my sense of identity with every mile I ran and every drive-through I passed up.

In three years, I went from an obese, smoking couch potato to an active, healthy, exercise-fitness-nutrition junky. The stakes are bigger now—Ive lost 75 pounds, with 25 more to meet my new goal: Lose 100 pounds and run a marathon.

Its quite a lofty goal, but one Im now certain that I can accomplish.

Im not anybody special. I dont have superpowers, an ultra-revved up metabolism, or the discipline and will power of an Olympian. Im just a normal girl who woke up one day and decided to change her life—one step at a time.

Come with me for the journey—all four years, and 26.2 miles. Check back each week for the next 20 weeks and see how Im doing!