I blame it on Russell. He's my pal whose seemingly no-sweat first marathon drew me out to the New York City course in 2004, where I got swept up in the spectacle of two million fans cheering tens of thousands of runners through their 26.2-mile odysseys. Although I'd lived in New York for nine years, I had no idea how intoxicating the marathon could be. At a postrace party, Russell said he'd felt like a superstar out there with all those strangers chanting his name. Having never in my life been someone you'd even charitably call an athlete, I found the idea of becoming a superstar to be irresistible. I immediately called my brother Ken and insisted that we run the next year's race together. So maybe I should blame it on Ken. He'd turned 40 the previous March and had just finished his own first marathon--so he functioned as a shining inspiration for me as I approached my own 40th birthday and stared into the abyss of my middle decades. I wouldn't call it a crisis, exactly--but the funk of facing 40 became far less odious when I contemplated training for the impressive goal of running a marathon. Never mind that I'd never run a race before--I wanted the glory of the full 26.2, and I wasn't the only one with grand ambitions: Roughly a third of the 40,000 or so New York City Marathon runners every year are first-timers. And since about 98 percent of participants finish, it follows that a goodly number of first-timers actually manage the feat. Full disclosure: I am an undisciplined sloth. A lifelong procrastinator. I spent college cramming for every test and pulling all-nighters writing term papers, and my career as a writer and editor has featured far too many wee-hours sprints to hit already stretched deadlines. More than once I have joined a gym, had the monthly fee debited from my checking account for a year, and worked out exactly never. And so, unfortunately, for the next six months all I did about training was contemplate it.
Excerpted from "A Little Help?" in Runner's World. To read the full article,