UPDATE: Jackie and Kathy completed their third Joints in Motion marathon in Portland, Ore., in 2009 and plan to take part in the ING New York City Marathon in November 2013.

“How did we get ourselves into this?” Kathy and I playfully accuse one another of being the instigator. One thing we both agree on is that it was an experience of a lifetime – and we’re going to do it again! My big sister Kathy Lubbers and I, plus a few good friends, walked a marathon – more than 26 miles through Athens, Greece, as part of the Arthritis Foundation’s (AF) Joints in Motion program.

Decades ago, I completed the New York City Marathon, and Kathy walks on the beach daily near her Key Biscayne, Fla., home, but neither of us is accustomed to running – or even walking – long distances. Raising funds to improve the lives of millions with arthritis – including Kathy, who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) 20 years ago – provided us with the drive.

Throughout the years, Kathy’s quality of life has been transformed by better medications and therapies. Although her fabulous attitude never wavered, there were dark times, says Phyllis Head, Kathy’s childhood friend who walked the marathon with us. “I saw her at a really bad point,” says Phyllis. “Now I feel that she can do anything, and she has proven that by doing this marathon.”

The marathon ended in the Panathinaiko Stadium, the site of the Olympic Games of 1870, 1875 and 1896 – a truly inspiring place. As we entered the stadium, seven hours and 47 minutes after we started, I turned to Kathy and yelled, “Nike!” The smile on her face was proof that she, too, felt victorious. We all finished the marathon and raised more than $40,000 for the AF.

Our new team name, America to Any­where for Arthritis (A2A4A), reflects our plans to make this an annual adventure. This past October, we walked another Joints In Motion marathon in Dublin, Ireland. And yes, we’re going to do it again this October in Portland, Ore. To inspire others to join in, we're keeping an online journal (blog) of our progress as we follow the training regimen of U.S. Olympic runner Jeff Galloway.