"No, I do not consider myself an athlete," said 51-year-old Jill Sheldon, of Sheffield, as her husband, Ken, gives a good-natured chuckle in the background.
"It was just a girls night out."
Only this 'girls night out' did not involve smoking, drinking or dancing. It did involve hard work and a lifestyle change, at least temporarily - for as long as it took for Sheldon to complete her first and only marathon, nearly 30 years after she first dreamed of doing it.
"When I was in my mid-20s, I decided I wanted to do a marathon," said Jill. "I trained for about a week and decided it was too much work."
She needed a little nudge. Okay, maybe more than a little one.
A friend, and former Sheffield High School graduate, Cindy Dilick, who now lives in Buffalo, N.Y., had already done three marathons. She said she would do the marathon with Sheldon.
Secondly, Sheldon would train to race-walk the marathon, never having been a runner.
And, thirdly ...
"We decided if we were going to do it, we were going to do it in Hawaii," said Sheldon. "My whole thought is, with the Hawaii thing, if I'm going to put this much work into it, it's going to be someplace nice."
Thus, the 2008 Honolulu Marathon on Dec. 14.
"I actually started (training) in probably May of this year ... walking," said Sheldon. "Three miles, three different days a week. By about the middle of August, I started a serious training program that Cindy had used for one of the marathons. There's a lot of training; I've put in over 300 miles since August, trying to build up my stamina, trying to learn the techniques - up early on Saturdays to walk."
Before training, it would be a rare Saturday to see Jill up before 11 a.m., she admitted.
Oh, and she quit smoking. She had to, right?
"I've quit a couple times (over the years)," said Sheldon. "Both times I was pregnant with my kids. Otherwise, I've smoked a pack and a half a day (since I was 18). With me, it was just, I had to do this, so on this day I was done.
"I was definitely a couch potato. I've changed my eating habits," she said. "I could have done better. I did not give up the Pepsi."
Sheldon made the trip with her sister, Cheryl Bonavita, and Dilick, her best friend since high school.
Dilick was also going to race in Honolulu, but medical problems ended that. So she helped Sheldon.
Dilick met Leslie Geschwandner while training for the San Diego Marathon. Geschwandner is a senior master sergeant in the Air Force and stationed in Honolulu. She offered a place to stay and took leave to spend the vacation with the Sheffield girls, and she competed in her third marathon, running the first 10K and race-walking the rest.
Sheldon felt her first tremor, saw her first volcano, took her first helicopter ride.
"The islands we visited were Oahu, Maui and the Big Island," said Sheldon. "Places we visited were Pearl Harbor, the Hawaiian Aquarium, the Polynesian Cultural Center, Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm, Hawaiian Tropical Botanical Gardens, and several volcanos, to name a few."
And ... her first marathon.
"I was exhausted the whole marathon," said Sheldon. "By the end, it was sheer determination. (Race walking), it was actually more difficult than I thought it was going to be."
Bordering on the obscene, for a first marathon, "it poured down rain. I was soaking wet. I called Cindy and said, 'talk to me, give me some moral support,'" said Sheldon. "I am very pleased and proud of myself for having this, especially at 51, because I couldn't do it at 25."
The marathon started at 5 a.m., and the sun came out at 10 a.m., giving Jill a sunburn by the finish.
Changing her lifestyle, accomplishing such a feat, and the first thing she wanted after finishing?
"I plead the Fifth on that," she said. Sheldon never promised she would stop smoking, or turn her lifestyle completely around. But she knew there was no chance of completing this task without changing some things.
She continues to work out at the YMCA, but might not walk around the track 200 times at one time ever again.
"I think it's terribly impressive running a marathon," said Sheldon. "The first runner was from Kenya and he finished in two hours and 37 minutes."
Not Sheldon, who race-walked in just under eight hours. By the look on her face after crossing the finish line, you couldn't tell whether she ran or race-walked.
"A lot of them would run and then walk," said Sheldon, who finished in 17,838th place out of 20,290 participants.
"She didn't finish last," boasted her husband, Ken, quick to point out she finished one minute behind an 80-year-old man.
In all seriousness ...
"Did you know this is a woman with five grandchildren? I'm really proud of (her)," said Ken. "I really don't want to see the credit card bill, but it's a once-in-a-lifetime thing, so I just said, 'go do it.'"
Is Ken next?
"Not a chance," he said. "When she sets her mind to something, I knew she would do it. Not me, because my mind is set against it."
"One of my inspirations was actually my (late) grandmother," said Jill. "She was almost 60 when she learned to drive. She rode the bus to Pittsburgh to take driving lessons. If she could do this, then ...
"Maybe it's just the pigheadedness that runs in the family," she said.
There will be no marathons in Jill's near future.
"I enjoy my three-mile walks," she said.