JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va. - Pacing back and forth in the dark, cold and nervous, waiting for my wave in the Army Ten-Miler to start, I keep wondering, "Why am I doing this?"

Last year, when covering the ATM as a photographer, I raised the question to myself, "Could I run it, could I even finish?"

I started by eating healthier and losing weight, but I did not start training until February of this year. The first few runs were dismal; I was unable to run a single mile without walking.

Slowly, I built myself up to a 5K event and ran my first organized race ever on the Henderson Hall portion of Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall June 26. With a time of 35:17, it was a start.

I now hear the sound of the 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment Presidential Salute Battery as they fire the first round of cannons, a round of applause from the runners waiting, and the Wounded Warriors are off.

The ATM has started.

Still bouncing around, trying to stay warm, I get more and more excited and anxious. I down an energy bar; I still have close to 20 minutes until my wave starts. The cannons sound again, the first wave of runners start with another round of applause from us in the back.

Our wave, the fifth wave of runners, starts moving toward the start line. The canons fire and there is no stopping now. The plan, if I can stick to it, is to run a mile, then walk for two minutes or less.

Erik, my boyfriend, is just past the start cheering. I cannot help but to jump up and down.

I do not even see the first mile marker or realize I have gone that far. I get onto Memorial Bridge with a sea of runners ahead of me, running toward the Lincoln Memorial. I cannot believe the number of people running.

Mile three and four breeze by, I barely even notice how far I have gone. I have always run alone, running with others, and having spectators cheer, makes it seem so much easier.

Just past the 6-mile mark, I see my boyfriend's dad and stepmom, cheering me on.

Mile 9, I pass people cheering, strangers encouraging that we are almost to the finish. I can hear the loud speaker announcing names of finishers, but where is the finish line? Finally, we come around a curve and I can see the balloons floating near the finish line...just a little more.

More than eight months of training, 35 pounds of weight loss and I finally cross the finish line in 1:53:47. Erik is waiting for me at the end; I tear up.

This is not the last race I am going to run. I am planning on doing a half marathon in March, this time with no walking. After that, we will see. The Army Ten-Miler started off as a finishing goal, just to see if I can do it. Now I realize, it is just the first step along the way.