May 27, 2014 01:04 PM

Courtesy Graham Elliot

Make way for another marathon MasterChef!

After losing 150 pounds since undergoing a sleeve gastrectomy, MasterChef judge Graham Elliot is on to his next challenge. He completed his first 10K in Chicago on Memorial Day and has begun training for the Chicago Marathon, which will take place on October 12th. (Fellow judge Joe Bastianich has run several marathons.)

“I’m very excited but also nervous,” Elliot, 37, tells PEOPLE. “But I’m telling you even if it takes 12 hours and I have to crawl on my knees and hands to get over the finish line, I will make it happen.”

So far, the chef of GE Bistro in Chicago and Primary in Greenwich, Connecticut, can run an 11-minute mile. He finished the 10K in about 1 hour and 16 minutes. “The big thing for me is being able to run and talk at the same time,” he says. “My trainer said focusing on a steady pace and being able to hold a conversation is a big thing. It’s a good way to be more in the moment.”

The award-winning chef will be running the marathon on behalf of Smile Train, a charity that provides free cleft repair surgery for people in need. “I’m publicly saying I’m doing the marathon so excuses are not an option. This is a real commitment.”

Elliot has certainly proven his ability to stay on track once he commits to a goal. He has maintained his astounding weight loss since surgery last July with the help of regular exercise and a diet of 6 small meals a day.

“I’m still around 250 lbs. but I have put on a lot more muscle,” he says. “My arms are really strong and I’ve been very healthy.”

RELATED: PHOTOS: See Graham Elliot’s Amazing Weight-Loss Transformation

His dedication to healthier eating changed his mind set during the latest round of judging food on the set of MasterChef this season. “I definitely have smaller bites than before. And I was nervous about getting too full. There would be 15 lobster dishes to taste! I’m happy to say there were no incidents.”

Another change? “I’m finding that I eat and get hungrier sooner than I expected,” he explains. “I don’t know if its just because the real estate in smaller in my stomach but I’ll eat two scallops and feel full, then an hour and a half later, I need to eat a small salad.”

—Liza Hamm

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