Just four days before Valerie Bertinelli turns 50 Friday, she achieved another personal goal: finishing the Boston Marathon.
“I am so high right now, more high than if I’d had a bottle of champagne!” Bertinelli tells PEOPLE, just after running the 26.2-mile race, her first marathon, in 5:14:37. “I feel euphoric!”
Under partly sunny skies and with her longtime boyfriend and workout buddy Tom Vitale cheering her on, the actress cranked up Pink and Leona Lewis’s “Happy” on her iPod and hit the Boston streets on Monday morning.
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“When I turned the corner and saw the finish line, I turned the music off and just enjoyed the crowd,” she says. “I am blissful! It’s like each day gets better in my life. I gotta ask, ‘What have I done to deserve so much grace and so many gifts?!'”
After the race, and a quick ice bath in the marathon recovery tent, “I feel surprisingly well, mentally and physically,” says Bertinelli, who has maintained a toned and trim physique since reaching her 40-lb. weight loss goal in December 2007, thanks to exercise and Jenny Craig, for whom she is a spokeswoman. “I wonder if it’s anything like childbirth where you forget how painful it was. I think I had a pretty amazing time!”
Before now, Bertinelli had never been much of a runner. At the urging of her trainer Christopher Ross Lane, Bertinelli took up running in January 2009, with short intervals of jogging and regular strength training exercises. Down to a toned 123 pounds and in the best shape of her life, last July she ran her first half-marathon in Napa. “It is amazing what you can do if you believe in yourself!” she told PEOPLE at the time.
Since then, Bertinelli has kept up her workout regimen, exercising four to five days a week, with about a quarter of her time spent running. Four months ago, she kicked it into higher gear and gradually increased her runs in two-mile intervals, starting at eight, 10, 12, and so on – until she hit her farthest, a 19.2-mile pre-Boston run, last week.
When she reached the mile 19 marker during Monday’s marathon, Bertinelli and her trainer exchanged looks “and we went, ‘Ok, dude, this is uncharted territory, lets go for it. And it was fun!”
Running for Charity
For Bertinelli, the marathon was also about giving back. Joining more than 550 runners on the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Team, Bertinelli raised money for the Institute, which is among the leading cancer research and care centers in the United States.
“It made me incredibly inspired to do my best,” she said of meeting Dana-Farber cancer patients and physicians and sharing a big pasta dinner with her fellow Institute teammates Sunday night (yes, Bertinelli indulged in pasta, salad and even a half-brownie and oatmeal cookie!). “There was such camaraderie and joy. It’s very hard not to be emotional.”
Next up is another little milestone on Friday. Says Bertinelli: “Now I get to turn 50! I’ve been so busy thinking about the marathon that I completely forgot about Friday!”
PeopleTV Archive: Valerie’s Race to the Finish