The stress was killing her. Or maybe it was the cigarettes. Whatever the cause, Sophie Shield was on a downward slide.

The mother of three, who was focused on forging a successful career in real estate, knew something had to change. A significant birthday (the Big Four Oh) seemed like a good point at which to start her transformation.

"When I got to 40, I thought 'Ohmigawd, I need to do something'," says Sophie, now 43. "I gave up smoking and really got back into fitness."

Gym work and boot camps worked wonders, both physically and mentally, to the point where Sophie felt she could step it up a notch and compete against the clock. She did a test walk/run at the 2016 Queenstown Half Marathon and, after that went well, will now participate in the May 13 Air New Zealand Hawke's Bay International Marathon.

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She will join nearly 10,000 other athletes in the running festival, with routes incorporating 42km, 21km, 10km and 3km kids run options. Participants will take in the best highlights of the region, with flat easy running via local cycle trails, vineyards, olive groves and quiet country roads.

The Havelock North resident will once again tackle the 21km Half Marathon, representing her employer, New Zealand Sotheby's International Realty, one of the event's sponsors.

Was it a midlife crisis that caused Sophie to take a good, hard look at herself?

"If it was, it's not a bad crisis," she says. "I don't know what I'd call it. It's more about wanting to get to feeling how I was when I was younger. It's a chance to do something for me, and that's a benefit."

While never a couch potato - raising three sons tends to keep you busy - Sophie found her new exercise regime to have added benefits.

"It helps mentally and with your whole attitude," she says. "It helps you cope with all the stuff that's on every day - between children and work.

"With real estate, fitness helps you with the stress level."

Now that she is fighting the good fight against a metabolism that naturally slows down after you turn 40, Sophie says she is "feeling fit. I'm feeling stronger".

Is she looking forward to tackling her second half marathon?

"It will be good. And it will be good when it's done."

For more information: hawkesbaymarathon.co.nz