Every year, I reflect on accomplishments and highlights. I spent many days of 2018 running for miles on end and have used many, many of them to reflect on my life. It turned into a year full of dark days, but also incredible breakthroughs and it would be unfair not to share them. I have a feeling that 2019 will be epic, especially since I turn 30 in less than two months. Let’s take a look back on the highlights and my accomplishments of 2018. 

1. Crushed the TCS New York City Marathon
In the beginning of the year, I set a goal to break 4 in the marathon and I trained really damn hard. I showed up to all my long runs. I’ve powered through tired legs during my tempo runs. I took the meaning of “easy” in easy runs to the next level (seriously – sometimes at 11:00/mile pace). I finished with a time of 4:03:56 but it was a race that I’m incredibly proud of. Sure, I didn’t hit my goal but I fought hard when the wall was staring me down and came painfully close. It was a 17-minute PR. By the end, I felt like a true warrior.

2. Broke 1:50 in the half marathon twice
Look, I would’ve been happy to just do it once and get the validation I need as a runner. But it’s an unbelievable feeling to do it twice, especially once on a course that is extremely hilly and the other on a day with sub-optimal weather. In March, I crushed the United Airlines NYC Half with a time of 1:49:57, just in time with 2 seconds to spare. Two months later, I cruised through Brooklyn in 1:48:13. I still can’t recognize myself in these times but I know I earned them. The half is a distance I’m much happier racing and I can’t wait to throw down a new PR again.

3. Produced and hosted another successful Empathy Jam
The Empathy Jam event is near and dear to my heart. I attended the inaugural event in 2016 and it validated and launched my passion for user experience. I met people there who would be the biggest advocates for my design career. I was on the other side of the table as an organizer of the event last year and had a lot of fun so I did it again. It’s hard to summarize how incredible it was this year. My co-producers and I saw it travel overseas to Galway and we had a phenomenal turnout in New York as well. The best part of organizing was the flood of positive feedback we received. You better believe we’ll be back in 2019.

4. Started a new job in UX at American Express
Ever since I graduated Soka University of America in 2011, I’ve been searching for a career that utilizes my strengths in an area I’m passionate about. I fell in love with design a few years ago but this year, I wanted to transition from “doing UX on the side” to “doing UX as a full-time job.” This position came up during peak marathon training month and I was interviewing with 6 other companies. But this was the clear winner in terms of fit. Even the seemingly-irrelevant qualifications like my background in law helped me land this role. Needless to say, I love it.

5. Ran a cumulative total of 1,800 miles for the year
Don’t worry, I still have my legs and I’m injury free! This is the highest mileage year of my life and I’m still in disbelief that I’ve been able to run all year long. I went in 2018 thinking I’d hit a total of 1,500 miles, which averages out to a little over 4 miles per day. But during marathon training, I packed on a lot of mileage and ended up hitting that 1,500 goal in early October. So what do I do when I accomplish my goal early? Make a new one. I said I’ll do 1,800 in honor of 2018. And on December 29th, I did it!

6. Published an article in Smashing Magazine
In 2017, I published Why attend a UX hackathon? through UX Booth because I got my career start at the Empathy Jam and wanted to highlight the value of attending these types of events. I wanted to write something for a public audience again and started drafting a piece on how diverse design teams are more innovative. I pitched it to Smashing and before I knew it, I was in the process of submitting drafts to the editor and getting feedback. This was, by far, the most challenging thing I’ve written in UX but absolutely worth the struggle. Have a read here.

I love quantifying the highlights of my year, but there were also many precious everyday moments that made 2018 very special. I saw Billy Joel live twice. I reignited my love for short distance races, especially on the track. I traveled to Boston three times to complete the BAA Distance Medley. I went to a Jimmy Fallon taping again. I love it when my big moments are complemented with day-to-day wins. That’s the best. I’m expecting 2019 to be a year full of back-to-basics but am looking forward to it.

Cheers,

Riri