Good for you! I'm largely in the same boat... Trying to make for a healthier life.
I hate running. Absolutely detest running. A series of unfortunate events left me with incredible back/leg pain and barely able to walk/hobble. With the sedentary lifestyle I ended up packing on a lot of weight. Years of procedures/therapies/surgeries only made it worse and I had given up hope that I'd ever be able to backpack/hike/run again. toward the end of 2010, I finally found the right surgeon, and after months of therapy and learning to walk properly again, I set expected milestones for my recovery, measured in athletic events.
I did my first half-marathon last year. Last weekend I completed my first full marathon (in 5 hours, 13 minutes). Next year, I'm shooting for an Ironman 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run). At that point, I'll know I'm as good as I ever was.
I can second (or third or...) the call for a chest-worn heart rate monitor. Mine was PIFed to me on these very forums, and I use it on every workout. It helps me make sure I don't overdo it and keeps me from burning out too quickly. I'm also a bit "chesty". I wear it under my... uh.. I call them pecs (my daughter calls them "moobies", my wife calls them "manmaries", and I can't say what my son calls them). For a lady, I'd wear it an inch lower than the bra.