After crossing the finish line of Sunday's Napa-to-Sonoma Wine Country Half-Marathon in yet another personal first, Valerie Bertinelli told PEOPLE "I can't believe I did it!"
Running the scenic 13.1 mile race in 2:12:19, "My legs are killing me, but I think I'm so high and excited and full of pride – which is an unusual thing for me! – that I probably won't feel it for a couple days," says the actress, 49. "I am in amazement. I can't believe what a body can do if you believe in it."
Bertinelli, who ran with her longtime boyfriend and workout buddy Tom Vitale, 47, has been training hard in the months leading up to the race, increasing her running, sit-ups and upper body work-outs. While she and Vitale did a low-impact workout the night before, including a mile-and-a-half jog, their favorite pre-race activity involved a guilt-free food splurge: panzanella bread, cheese and tomato salad for lunch and beet salad and lemon cottage-cheese pancakes with creme fraiche for dinner.
"The pancakes are to die for! I said, 'I'm eating them! I'm allowed because I'm running!' I'm going to enjoy it.' Sooo yummy!" she says. "The last time I ate whatever I wanted and didn't feel guilty was when I was pregnant!"
Before and AfterOnly two years ago, Bertinelli tipped the scales at 172 pounds before whittling herself down to 132 pounds in about 9 months on Jenny Craig, for whom she serves as a company spokeswoman. She hired trainer Christopher Lane in December and before long was running up to five times a week and doing regular strength training. By this April, she was down to a trim and fit 123 pounds and in the best shape of her life.
Ever goal-oriented, Bertinelli set her sights on the half-marathon as another, once-unattainable milestone in an ongoing health and fitness journey. "[Two years ago], I never would have thought I could do it," she says. "It is amazing what you can do if you believe in yourself."
During Sunday's run, Bertinelli, who turns 50 next April, cranked Pink, Chris Cornell and Kelly Clarkson on her iPod and once she hit mile 10 – "It took forever to get to the double-digits!" – it was smooth sailing. Says the actress, "If I can do this, anybody can. It is really true."
Still AheadHumbled by their good fortune, inspired by the fellow runners and delighting in the beautiful wine country countryside they toured via scooters, Bertinelli and Vitale were moved to tears earlier in the weekend. "We were sitting there and we started crying, we were so happy," she says. "It's been one of those weekends."
Next on Bertinelli's to-do list? "My trainer thinks I'm going to do a [full] marathon before I'm 50. I have till April," she says. "I'm not committing yet! I haven't wrapped my head around it. We're negotiating."
But first things first. With the half-marathon out of the way, Bertinelli kicked into relaxation mode for the rest of the weekend. "We're going to get a glass of wine, take a nap and then go for a scooter ride and see a few wineries," Bertinelli said after the race. "I feel so blessed."