It was a chilly New Year’s Eve in 2005 when I ran my very first four-mile race. I had never run much before, yet there I was, suited up in my running gear, waiting anxiously for the clock to strike twelve when I would run four miles through Central Park for the annual New Year’s Eve race. A friend and I had been entertaining the idea for some time. It seemed like a fun, festive, and definitely different way to celebrate the holiday. We thought, what could be better than ringing in the new year with a challenge? I didn’t mind swapping a glass of champagne for running shoes that night, but I didn’t expect to discover a love for running. I met new friends, absorbed the excitement of others, and even felt the runner’s high that has me hooked to this day. Years have passed since that first race, but my passion for running was only beginning.

Since 2005, I have run several races, including nine marathons to date, and I hope to run races well into my nineties. Who knows, maybe I’ll conquer a half Ironman one day. Running has become a huge part of my life, for reasons that go way beyond the physical benefits. Now, I have a hobby that challenges me on a regular basis by strengthening me physically, mentally, and socially. I have found a new social circle of fellow runners through classes, groups, races, and even marathons. I live for the training process before a race day, the camaraderie with my fellow runners, and the pride that comes with crossing the finish line.

I’m working on putting together an official race calendar for 2016. The change of scenery has been invigorating—my local races are no longer in the New York City area but in the Southwest Florida region. After my move to Florida, my first order of business was to join a running club. Truth be told, it wasn’t easy at first. I felt like the new kid in class who didn’t know anyone, while everyone else had their cliques. But I forced myself to make a second attempt and met some great people who I plan to join for runs in the future. It just took some time to settle in and find my groove, as it does with anything new.

My fitness routine has been a bit eclectic since my move, but for me it’s perfect. Living in sunny Southwest Florida allows me to run on outdoor trails, practice yoga, swim, walk on the beach, and bike along the coast. I feel that I’m making the time to do the things I’d hoped to while living in a beach town. Most importantly, I’m doing what makes me happy.