When I was a young whippersnapper, the idea of running a marathon held nothing for me. I used to express to people I would run a marathon on the twelfth of Never.

Actually, I thought marathons had to be an acquired taste, much like chicken pox is an acquired illness. I hated the idea, nay, even the thought of running a marathon. It seemed masochistic. Nearly insane…

However, a single fateful summer my cousin, Jeremy, bet me a really, really large sum of money that I couldn’t finish the Utah Valley Marathon. He didn’t say I had to finish it in a particular amount of time. No. He taunted me by saying I couldn’t even finish the marathon.

Certainly, never one to turn down a bet (or cash) I took him up on it. And I’m so glad I did.

After training for several months, the day of the race came. I had my lingering doubts about marathons. In fact, my general strategy was to begin off working slowly and then taper off. I figured as long as I completed the race I would be able to collect on the bet and the money and nevertheless have a scrap of dignity left to spare.

But that all changed when the gun sounded.

It was so weird. It was like my inner competitive alter ego took over. I didn’t want that girl within the red jersey to beat me to the finish line. Or that guy with the mismatched Asics shoes. I was on fire! There is just some thing about running with all those other individuals and having crowds of people cheering you on. It was an adrenaline rush!

There is just this feeling like you were accomplishing something that really mattered. There was something about getting in shape for a particular event like this. There is just something about running a marathon that resonated inside of me.

I was addicted. I love marathons now.

Truth be told, when you run a marathon, you occasionally feel like you’re marching into battle. However, depending on how well you trained for this “battle” you are going to feel like Napoleon or you are going to really feel like Custard.

By the time I completed the race, I felt deeply disturbed. But I also knew I had discovered a new passion in life. It’s such a great feeling finding new types of exercise routines and ways to compete that you enjoy.

My goal now is to run in a number of marathons worldwide. I want to run the marathon they maintain about the Great Wall of China. I wish to take a boat to the Arctic Circle and run the marathon they maintain up there in the snow. Then I want to run the marathon they maintain at The Dead Sea. I want to run in the Boston Marathon. My appetite for marathons is insatiable.

All thanks to my cousin and his stupid dare and bet. You can also run the Utah Valley Marathon this year and experience the pain and the fun, which is where I started!

Jill Shepherd is a former Miss Utah and has run the Utah Valley Marathon in 3:24:41.3 (2008) and 3:17:33.9 (2009).