Sunday, November 4, 2018

I'm turning 40. Here are my thoughts.

In one week, I will be 40 years old! It's taken me about a year to accept this, but I have finally not only accepted it, but I am embracing it.

39 and 11 months old
Because this is my running blog, I don't write much about my life outside of running. But every once in a while, I think it's appropriate, and this is one of those occasions. I want to capture my reflections about this point in my life, and compare them to where I was 10 years ago. 10 years ago, in this blog post, I wrote this:

I started thinking about how I'll be 30 in less than two months and I'm just not happy with how I spent my 20's. I know that you're not "supposed to" have regrets. I don't know what I would have done differently, but I just feel like my life has been going in circles and circles for the past 10 years. I'm learning a lot, and I'm growing and changing. But yet my actual lifestyle is the exact same. I don't feel like I am maximizing my potential, and that I am far too "comfortable" in my lifestyle. Being comfortable makes it very difficult for you to want to make any dramatic changes to your life.

I became much more focused on my marketing career in my 30's. I switched jobs a few times, and I am now at the executive level. Am I any better at marketing now than I was at 29? Not particularly. But I've learned much more about general business strategy, how to develop productive relationships, how to motivate others, and how to navigate sticky political situations. My tolerance for dealing with "crap" (so to speak) has increased, and I've learned that the higher up the ladder you get, the less actual work you do and the more "stuff" you have to deal with. People skills have become way more important, as has understanding the business strategy; not just the marketing strategy.

I've accomplished a lot career-wise. I typically get hired to build programs and frameworks that hadn't previously existed. Everything from structuring the back-end databases and processes, to launching conferences, advertising campaigns, and web properties. What I enjoy most about my career is coming into a situation where something didn't previously exist, and then building it for the good of the company.

Finally, I've learned that for me, the people are what make or break a job experience. I left my previous company because the culture wasn't the right fit for me. At my current company, I most enjoy the relationships I've built with my colleagues, and it makes going into the office fun.

Best marketing team ever!
Right Now: VP of Demand Generation at a large software company
10 Years Ago: Head of Marketing at a small software company

Speaking of relationships, I've now been happily married for just over 8 years. Greg and I met a few months after my 30th birthday. When I turned 30, I was depressed about still being single. I wanted,
more than anything else in the world, to find my life partner. I lived alone and I didn't have many friends that I interacted with regularly. In fact, a few of my close friendships were on the rocks at that time. I had always envisioned getting married in my 20's, and when that didn't happen, I seriously started to wonder if it would ever happen for me.

Over the past ten years, I've become more aware of what I need in a friendship. Above all, I value friendships that are genuine. I want to be around people who make me feel like I can be myself. And I want to feel like they are being their true selves. Shortly after my 30th birthday my best friend and I had a "break up." We went our separate ways and did not speak for nearly 5 years. And then I realized that she had been one of the most genuine, truest people in my life and so I reached back out to her and we reconciled. Even though I don't see her as often as I'd like, I know that I can count on her for anything, and there is nothing I can't tell her.

As for new friendships, I've made many new friends through running! Some of them have come and gone, and others have stayed. The ones who have stayed are the ones who appreciate me for the person I am, quirks and all. I have no interest in petty games (I'm 20+ years out of high school). I want to be around people who are straightforward and genuine.

Right Now: Happily married and invested in friendships with people who want me to be "me".
10 Years Ago: Lonely, and invested in some friendships that weren't fulfilling.

Running: Mental
Running has been a large focus of mine for the past 10 years, and I hope it continues to be. I've made huge mental and physical gains in this area. Here's an except from my blog when I was 29:

I run because it keeps me motivated and it gives me something to look forward to. I feel like I am working toward something every day! There are always new frontiers to reach. New races to experience, new PRs to set. When I can't do that, my whole world feels so pointless.

Running was the ONLY thing I had when I was 29 and I knew it. And because of that, when running
Richmond Half, Nov. 2008
didn't go well, my whole world would seem to collapse. I even used the word pointless! Cringe! Here's another one:

My mother and many others have reminded me that my overall health is much more important than running. Somehow, this concept isn't so easy for me to grasp. Really, the main reason I want to be well is to be able to run. I'm more passionate about running than anything else in my life. I don't have a husband or a family like most people my age, so this is what I have devoted my heart to. It's probably hard for non-athletes to understand this passion, but for me, it's been the organizing principle of my life for a long time. My personality suits me perfectly for running. I'm extremely motivated, goal-oriented, passionate, perfectionistic, with a strong belief in the "effort-result" system. I have a need for structure and control in my life, and running every day provides me with that. 

That honestly sounds like an entirely different person. I can't believe I wrote that and it makes me wonder what I will be writing on my 50th birthday! What function does running serve in my life now? It's still a passion, but I recognize it as one thing I do. It's not the only thing I am. I do many things in life, and running is just one of them. It's something I DO- not something that I am. It's still frustrating to deal with setbacks, like illness, but I realize that my overall health is way more important than this sport.

I no longer have a need to prove to myself and the world that I can run fast. I simply enjoy the training, and I like sharing my journey with others-- all the while documenting it so I can look back on it.

Right Now: Running is a hobby that I am passionate about.
10 Yeas Ago: Running was all I had in my life.

Running: Physical
I believe that my lifetime PRs will be set in my 40's. I have no idea how fast these PRs will be, but I believe I can keep getting faster, at least for the next few years. In 2008, I ran the Houston Half marathon in 1:50:43. This year, I ran it in 1:32:24. I don't expect to bring it down another 18 minutes
in my 40's but I think sub-1:30 is something I can definitely look forward to. I ran the Richmond Half
Houston Half, Jan. 2018
in 2008, too, in 1:48:43, so it will be fun to see what I run on Saturday.

I believe what will fuel my PRs is the ability to train consistently, without illness or injury. Illness has been a major roadblock for me over the past 10 years, and I think I've finally learned how to avoid (or at least shorten the duration of) the mono-like virus that I get in the summers. I'm working with an excellent coach, who has gotten me to a point where I can run 70+ miles a week in marathon training, while feeling strong and energized throughout. At least in the cooler months.

Overall, my health seems to be about as good as it was when I turned 30. The only difference is that now I am much more sensitive to the heat and cannot recover as well from hard workouts in heat/humidity. I never tolerated the heat particularly well, but it's gotten worse over the past decade.

I anticipate that at some point in my 40's, I will slow down. And when that happens, I may become a 50-state half-marathon runner, or I may create a list of "experience" races to go and do, like Big Sur, or Capetown.

Right Now: Training for a 3:15 marathon, running 70+ miles a week with the help of a coach
10 Years Ago: Training for a 3:40 BQ using plans from books

Blogging and Social Media
Social media has truly evolved over the last 10 years, and so has this blog. What hasn't changed is that I do blog a lot, and I interact with people on social media frequently. I used to be active on MySpace and the Runner's World forums, and I met a lot of runners that way. Over time, things transitioned to Facebook Groups, Instagram, and Strava.

Since I published my book, Boston Bound, my audience has grown. I never used to actively promote my blog or social media presence, but when the book came out, I made stronger effort to reach more people. The main reason is that I never really thought people would care about my journey. If they did, then great, but I wasn't going to try and build an audience. However, the feedback I received on my book was so positive, and so many readers reached out to me about how the book helped them, that I decided to be more proactive about sharing my ongoing journey.

In 10 years, I'm certain the social media landscape will have changed again. But I plan on my blog still being here. And I will continue to write in it whether or not I am running.

Right Now: Blogging 2-3 times per month, posting on Instagram 5-6 times per week
10 Years Ago: Blogging 2-3 times per month, posting on forums daily

Because Greg and I both work full-time, and we don't have children, we are in a good spot financially. In my 20's and early 30's, I was really frugal and typically had buyer's guilt about everything. Anything I bought that wasn't a huge bargain was like a guilt trip.

I remember once when I was 28, walking around New York City in uncomfortable, $30 shoes, with my feet aching. I went into a store and tried on a pair of $100 super comfortable sandals. I bought them because my feet hurt so bad, but the guilt lasted for weeks! Unless it was running shoes, I had never spent more than $50 on a pair. I didn't consider myself particularly frugal or miserly. Instead, I thought that if you can buy shoes and handbags and shirts for less than $50, why on earth would you pay more? It wasn't until I was in my mid-30's that I ever spent more than $100 on a handbag.

Over time, I have let go of the buyer's guilt with the help of Greg, and learned that it's okay to buy something that isn't the least expensive option. Potentially, I have swung the other way with luxury vacations, a few pieces of zebra artwork, and the money I spend on my wardrobe. But I want to enjoy life while I'm healthy enough to do so; Greg and I are of the same mindset here.

Right Now: Financially comfortable, with a more relaxed attitude about spending
10 Years Ago: Less financially comfortable, but way more uptight about spending

Final Thoughts
As I approach 40, and look back on my 30's, my mind is more open than ever. I'll reach the peak of my career and my physical fitness, and maybe even publish another book. I think the biggest change in the "me" now vs. the "me" from 2008 is that I am way more relaxed. I don't care as much about what people think of me, I have a higher tolerance for putting up with BS in the work environment, and I'm focused on positive relationships, and I prioritize taking care of my physical and mental health. I think that's a good place to be.

September 2008

September 2018


  1. What a fun reflection on turning 40! I had trouble turning 40, so you can only imagine what it was like for me to turn 50! Fortunately, I was running well in my 50s up until about 2 years ago. I cannot complain about that. I am struggling with slowing down. LIke you, I'm a perfectionist and I always want to do my best. I just have to accept that my best has changed!

    Happy birthday!!!

  2. Happy almost birthday! Can't wait to see you in a few weeks!!

  3. Happy birthday!
    I was 40 when I completed my first Ironman. I started running at 38 to lose weight after having 4 kids. I didn't exercise at all before. When I watched a friend finish Ironman Canada in 1997 I decided I wanted to train to do an Ironman. I also had to learn to swim. Since then I've done many tris including 5 Iron distance triathlons. I'm 60 now and I'm working with a coach to get fast enough to BQ. This is a new big goal for me since running has always been my nemisis.Ive been training for 3 years now and I have a long way to go.
    I wanted you to know all that because your best years are ahead of you.
    I also really enjoyed your book. I just finished reading it. You are such an inspiration.

  4. Pretty awesome and reflective post you put forth Zebra! Really says where you have come from and who you are now. Some of those italicized posts seem to be from you book? They certainly feel familiar.

    I concur with your assessment that you still may post some of your fastest and best in the next few years. You haven't technically peaked yet and there are many instances of elite marathoners at that 40-threshold run some of their best races! Given the adjustments in psyche over your "past" and the Coach you have and the approach you take and give to training...I can only see some great performances yet to come that get you back to PR-cake!

    You have pursued your mission...fulfilled journeys in racing and finding you at the next stage...take life as an adventure! I hope that makes sense?

    Happy to know have read your be your friend...albeit blog and cyber-based. But someday I hope to shake your hand and personally compliment you on not only your abilities as runner, author or marketing expert...but how well you have adjusted and come to be happy...simply with yourself and who you are! That's probably the greatest gift you can have as you celebrate another year of life.

    Finally....I suggest the next Boston you run...just sign up for the Boston-to-Big Sur and do that one first...while you still got antelope (also zebra) in your passion and legs! Big Sur is not an easy marathon to run...but you probably won't run it competitively for time in aftermath of will just run it and enjoy the huge hills and the scenery...but probably more and Greg will enjoy the time before and after in Monterey.

  5. Good attitude going into 40 (I'll be there soon enough, so I'm taking notes!). I definitely think you'll set PRs in your 40s. I used to be so sure that I'd age out of PRs, but I think training adjustments can prolong the PR window. Plus, you are almost never injured (unlike me!), so you have a nice big chunk of time in which to develop and improve. Excited to see what your 40s bring. Happy birthday!

  6. Elizabeth, you are an amazing and strong woman!! While I haven't known you long and it's only virtual I second the words of David Mauger and I can only hope that will be Boston 2020. You are such a truly class act, understanding and treat others so well. I intend to read your full blog from the beginning (glad I've started it) and despite knowing how much better of a runner you are today, I feel this giddy feeling as I'm reading it and seeing your improved times because I remember how awesome I felt when my marathon times were improving. You feel like a true and amazing friend and I'm really so happy and honored to know you. I'll be rooting for you in your half tomorrow because as anyone who knows me well knows, I truly love my fellow runners that respect me and I know as a guy I shouldn't say this but it's emotional for me and it puts tears in my eyes to see people achieve their best in this sport because the clock doesn't discriminate and it truly is the time, effort and hard work we put into it. I'm so proud of you and honored to have your respect!! Thanks for being you!!