Thursday, February 20, 2020

2:45:01 and Beyond: Liz Anjos

I met Liz on the now extinct Runner’s World blog site in 2009, back when we were embarrassed to tell anyone that we met online!  At that time she and I were both training to break 1:30 in the half marathon, so we quickly bonded over following each other’s training and then met up at the 2009 Portland Marathon.  Liz graciously opened her home to me before that marathon, and we ran together for most of the race in pursuit of a 3:10 finish. We have kept in touch through the years, while both dropping significant amounts of time from our PRs, and we were reunited at the 2020 Houston Marathon.  Liz was first inspired to work towards an OTQ in 2008, and spent almost 12 years working her marathon time down to being dangerously close – and she came the closest by throwing out traditional training plans and control.  Liz is a talented musician and writer, and a proud cat mom (even if you don’t love cats you’ll want Bo and Juno)!  She gives a lot back to the running community through coaching and running the Rose CityTrack Club, and she is just a genuinely wonderful person.
Photo credit: Steven Mortinson
Name: Liz Anjos
Age: 34
City/State: Portland, OR
Occupation: Running Coach, Rose City Track Club Co-Founder

Hobbies/interests outside of running:
Reading! I'll wake up extra early every day to read a chapter or two of whatever book I'm on, coffee in hand. I'm also a pianist. I spent about five years as a touring musician with indie-electronic act RAC and recently I've gone back to studying classical music.

When did you start chasing the OTQ and what inspired you to try? 
I was inspired following the 2008 Olympic Trials. Back then, there wasn't a live stream or anything and I remember following the race by continually refreshing this basic chart, maybe on Runner's World, that updated the race by mile splits. Magdalena Lewy-Boulet was leading for a long time, then Deena Kastor passed her with two miles to go and won. It's funny how even without real context of what was happening, it was terribly exciting just following the numbers. It was around that time that I perused the USATF website to read more about the Trials and what it would take to qualify. I remember the track standards looking extremely difficult, but the marathon standard of 2:47 at the time seemed attainable for a "late bloomer" runner like me. At that point, I was 22 years old and had only been running competitively for about two years. I thought with some time and hard work I might be able to get there.

Tell us about the races you attempted to OTQ at and the outcomes. 
While I spent 10+ years working on improving as a runner and marathoner, I really only ever made one real attempt to qualify for the Trials. That was in Houston on January 19, 2020. I never had the guts to really go for it in previous races, because I didn't have the belief that I was capable. I had thought about trying to qualify in Chicago 2019, but my confidence was low and I did not want to suffer through the race and feel like a failure at the end. I played it very safe and ran a negative split race for a PR in 2:57. I had already signed up for Houston, which would be three months later, as a back-up plan to Chicago. In those three months, feeling I had nothing left to prove and nothing to lose after Chicago, I found a new sort of confidence. I kind of ditched the tried-and-true training methods I'd been faithful to and just ran as I felt. I put in some big miles on trails and took off days as I felt. I surprised myself in early December, running a 1:22:43 half marathon PR with relative ease. I hadn't broken even 1:24 in 2019. Six days later, I ran my first ultramarathon, the Hellgate 100K+ (technically 66 miles). It was freeing to go into a race with no expectations, as I had no idea what I was getting into. I ran hard and pushed through a lot of pain to the finish, very unlike my Chicago experience. I placed 4th in 14:18, only 18 minutes behind the winner. I realized I was so much stronger than I thought, and had sort of an epiphany that I was overthinking everything when it came to the marathon. So when I ran Houston Marathon, I didn't think at all, at least in the beginning. I just ran with the 2:45 pace group. I didn't look down at my watch until maybe 9-10 miles in. I ran another half marathon PR en route to a six-minute marathon PR of 2:51:34.

What did you gain from this journey? 
I learned that running is so much more simple than we make it out to be. You don't need a complicated training plan, you don't need fancy gadgets, you don't need perfect weather, you don't need to fret about every little detail. If you try to control every element about your running, you become a slave to your own self-perceived limitations.

What are you most proud of about your OTQ pursuit? 
I'm proud of setting a goal and sticking to it for over ten years. That's a long time. I really feel that I did everything I could to get there. It's been this steady climb with ups and downs along the way, with a flourish of "up" just in the last few months leading to Houston. I see no reason not to keep going, but I also feel a weight has been lifted from my shoulders. I don't need this goal to continue consuming my life. I've learned so much and have become a better person for trying.

Do you have any regrets or things you wish you’d done differently in your OTQ pursuit? 
Honestly, I kind of regret wearing the Nike Vaporfly Next% for Houston. It's the only race I've ever run wearing those shoes. They've become the center of such controversy, and I don't like the idea of the shoes I was wearing diminishing my (or anyone's) accomplishment. I mentioned that in December I ran my fastest half marathon ever with relative ease. That was in an old pair of clearance Nike Zoom Flys. Still, I gave in to the hype of the Next%, wanting to feel my best and leave no stone unturned when it came to my OTQ pursuit. I don't think the outcome of my race would have been different had I worn them or not - around 9-10 miles in the pace started to feel tough, so I made the decision to hang on with the 2:45 pace group through the half, then switch gears and finish out the race at a more sustainable pace. But if I felt I could do that regardless of the shoes, why did I feel the need to purchase them in the first place? The feeling of "everyone else is doing it" is very real. The marketing behind the shoes is very real. The shoes fit great and felt great. It's perfectly legal to wear them. But I ended up just feeling sort of icky about it.

What message would you like to send to those following your running pursuits? 
I wrote this at the end of my Houston recap, but I'll say it here too: To those chasing after big goals of their own… speaking from the other side, as someone that didn’t get the perfect storybook ending: you will never regret giving yourself the chance to try. 

What’s next for you? This summer I'm planning a supported run/hike of the entire Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. This has been a dream of mine since I was a kid, way before even the Olympic Trials goal. I decided to target the summer of 2020 about five years ago. I hoped I would accomplish my OTQ goal then move on toward new pursuits. I had this perception that trail running would ruin my ability to run fast on the roads, so thought I'd better put it off until after the Olympic cycle. Ironically, my running has improved tenfold since I began training more seriously for the Appalachian Trail. Now 2020 is finally here and I couldn't be more excited to finally go on this journey. The best part is, is that I no longer see it as the end-all or a capstone to my amateur running career. I'm already getting excited about what's beyond. There's so much more to discover and explore on the roads, trails, and within.

List any ways you’d like people to connect with you (Instagram, Twitter, blog, etc.).
You can find me on Instagram @pinkfeathers and Facebook at Running Liz. You can find my race recaps and long form posts, as well as info on personal coaching at

1 comment:

  1. Run/hiking the AT sounds so awesome, that's something I would love to do as well and is way more attainable for me!