My big goal for fall 2023: Running a sub-90 half marathon

Back in February, I signed up for the 2023 Richmond Marathon this coming November. I put down my expected finish time as 3:15, but I was really hoping to break 3:15 and run closer to 3:10 for a sizable PR.  

But as I trained for Boston 2023, logging the miles and pushing hard in my workouts, I started to feel the slightest hint of marathon training burnout. 

And that scared me a little bit. 

Though I’d been a reliable gym rat and treadmill runner for years, I started getting more into running in 2013 to cope with job-related burnout. I was about a decade into my career in local journalism and the work felt more tedious and thankless with every passing year. At that time, I was covering county politics, a beat I’d never aspired to, and fielding emails and texts and calls from editors and sources at what felt like all hours of the day and night. It probably would have been stressful for someone who was a political junkie, so imagine what it was like for someone who didn’t loooove politics. Oh, and I made less than $35,000 per year. I could barely scrape up the registration fee for the 2013 Annapolis 10 Mile Run, but I did (let’s be real, I probably put it on my credit card). And this gave me something to focus on, and a goal to chase, outside of work.

The 2013 A10

I eventually left that job for another journalism job, which came with its own set of challenges, though I was happy to no longer be covering politics. In 2017, I finally made a much-needed career change, but my new gig wasn’t all roses and sunshine, either. It was OK for a few years, but 2020 almost broke me. Seriously, I don’t know what I would have done had I not had running to distract me that year! 

In early 2021, I landed my current job and it has been such a blessing. I like the work, I’m paid fairly, I work normal hours – no expectation that I be available all the time – and my leaders like and respect me. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that my running really took off over the last 2 years, either. (While I have used running to cope with work stress, said stress can still have a negative impact on running.) 

The last thing I want to happen is to start to feel burned out on an activity that’s been a true source of joy and sanity over the last 10 years. I truly love marathons and plan to run many more, but I’ve been going hard over the last 8 months or so. I trained my butt off for Chicago last October, then I ran Philly in November, then I ran Algonquin 50K in February, then Boston in April. That’s a lot of marathon and ultramarathon training! When I started to think about training for a sub-3:15 marathon in Richmond, I wasn’t feeling excited. But the idea of focusing on the half marathon distance and really crushing it – THAT lights me up. 

So I officially dropped down to the Richmond Half Marathon and I put my expected finish time down as 1:29:30. But I’ll be happy with a 1:29:59. My big hairy audacious goal is to break 90 minutes in the half marathon! 

I set my PR last December in Rehoboth, running a 1:33:19, meaning I have less than 4 minutes to take off. But when you are in your 40s and have been running as long as I have, that’s actually harder than it sounds. Still, hard is not impossible. I already found a training plan from who else, Pfitzinger, and I plan to start following that in August. I’m also signed up for the Rehoboth Half in December again, so if I miss my goal in Richmond, I’ll have another shot a few weeks later.

It seems like it wasn’t that long ago that I was determined to break 1:40 in the half. I can’t wait to see what’s next!    

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Running a sub 3:20 marathon in Boston: My experience at the 2023 Boston Marathon

Last week, I ran my 3rd Boston Marathon on a rainy, chilly Patriots Day. It ended up being my 2nd fastest marathon ever, and I broke 3:20 for the 2nd time. I couldn’t be happier, and am already looking forward to next year.

Here is my recap of one of the most magical days of the year!

I had probably the best night of sleep I’ve ever had before a marathon. My alarm woke me up at 5 (well, alarms — I’m paranoid and I set an alarm on my phone, made my husband set an alarm, and I got a wake up call from the hotel.) I felt so rested and made my coffee and had a Cliff bar, then packed up my bagel with peanut butter to eat on the bus. Left the hotel at 6 with another runner, Diane, whom I had met the night before, and we hopped on the T. I was at Boston Common an hour before I was supposed to board the bus at 7:30, and killed time in the same McDonald’s I’ve hung out at in previous years.

I made the mistake of looking at my Whoop and it told me my recovery was in the red and that I should consider taking a rest day 😬 That worried me a bit, but I tried not to get too in my head about it. I didn’t feel tired or sluggish!

The bus ride to Hopkinton seemed to fly by and I chatted with another runner who was doing her first Boston. She qualified in Pittsburgh during her first marathon ever — amazing!! That was my first marathon too and it’s a tough course.

It was chilly and misty in Athlete’s Village, but the rain mostly held off until it was time for wave 2 to walk to the start corrals. Then it started to come down — not an all out downpour, but I was definitely getting wet. I kept my throwaway jacket on as long as I could. I got to see one of my Instagram friends, Katy, while waiting in line for the porta potties right before the start, and then I walked over to my corral and finally ditched the jacket. The rain was coming down and I was shivering in my singlet and shorts, but I knew it was going to be in the 50s and I’d be fine once I started running.

I was nervous, but excited and ready to run.

Miles 1-13

Before I knew it, we were off and I quickly started to warm up! I had forgotten how crowded the first few miles are. The spectators were already out in full force despite the less-than-ideal weather! The first few miles felt easy enough— splits were 7:52, 7:49, 7:39, 7:35, which seemed fast but sustainable.

Once I hit mile 4, though, I reached into my flip belt to pull out my first Maurten gel. And!! All my gels were GONE! Somehow they’d fallen out and I have no idea where or how. My phone was in there, but no gels. I used the belt to hold my phone and gels in Philly with zero problem, and I have used the belt plenty of times since then as well. WTF!!

I panicked at the thought of running a marathon without gels, then remembered volunteers would be handing out Maurten gels on the course. I just couldn’t remember when. I tried to stay calm even though my fueling plan had just gone to hell.

I ran mile 5 in 7:42, then started to speed up, running 7:26 for the next 2 miles. That did seem a little *too* fast early in the race, so I tried to dial it back and ran mile 8 in 7:34, mile 9 in 7:33 and mile 10 in 7:31. I was feeling strong, even though by that point in the race, I should have already had 2 gels in me.

I zipped through mile 11 in 7:25, then saw a sign that Maurten gels were at the next aid station. I asked for 3 gels, explaining I’d lost all mine, and they gave them to me. Thank you volunteers!! You are the best!

Miles 12 and 13 were speedy — 7:21 and 7:15. This is when the race goes through the Wellesley Scream Tunnel and the energy is like none other. You can hear the screams a mile away. I high-fived so many Wellesley women and saw some men kiss a few of them, too.

Giving out high fives in Wellseley!

Miles 14-25

I took my first gel at mile 13 (should have been my third gel!) and was still feeling good. There was a mild headwind, but certainly nothing like the Philly Marathon or anything I faced in training, for that matter. My next few miles were spicy. I ran 14 and 15 in 7:13 and 7:18 and then mile 16 in 7 flat. Whoa. But that did give me a nice cushion leading into the toughest part of the race, the Newton Hills. Which seemed much bigger than I remembered 😅 I hung on pretty well, though, running 7:24 for mile 17, 7:29 for mile 18, 7:25 for mile 19, and 7:36 for mile 20. I took my second gel at mile 18.

As I approached Heartbreak Hill (around mile 20.5), the rain started to come down. I knew another IG friend, Jude, was going to be on my left side cheering on the runners, and I was excited to see her! Mile 21 was my slowest so far at 7:56, but the B.A.A. tracker clocked me at over 8 minutes for that split, so I obviously did a crap job of running the tangents.

After summiting Heartbreak, it was onward to Brookline and Boston. My quads were starting to yell at me at this point and I knew I was coming up on the point in the race where I fell last year. The road was slippery and uneven and I was determined not to bite it AGAIN. I took my third and final gel at mile 22, which I ran in 7:22. I knew then I only had 30ish minutes left to go and reminded myself to soak it all in.

I got through mile 23 in 7:33 and then I could feel myself hitting a wall. It’s actually been a while since that happened to me in a marathon. Was I too aggressive with my pacing? Feeling the effects of not having enough gels? Maybe both?

My husband was right there before the mile 24 mark, and I ran over to the side and kissed him. My watch clocked me at 8:03 for mile 24. I was hurting, but I knew I was almost there!

I knew a photographer would be at mile 25 waiting to snap runners’ photos with the iconic Citgo sign in the background. Even though I was feeling like hot garbage, I hammed it up for the camera! I still don’t see any pictures with the sign, though! Mile 25: 8:09

The finish

At this point in the race, the crowds were absolutely deafening. I was both so ready for the race to be over and not wanting it to end! Usually making the right on Hereford and left on Boylston makes me tear up, but I was too zapped at this point to cry. You can see the finish line when you turn onto Boylston and as I was running toward it all I could think was, “Jesus, it is so much further away than I remember!” 😂

Mile 26: 8:25 (B.A.A. app has me slower because tangents).

Finally I crossed the finish and stopped my watch. I didn’t have it set to elapsed time and figured I’d be around 3:2x when all was said and done (forget trying to do math in a marathon.) When I saw 3:19, I was shocked. Two years ago, I was struggling to break 3:30. Now I’d run my 2nd fastest marathon time ever in Boston, on a tough AF course.

A bunch of people asked me ahead of time what my goal was and I kept saying around 3:25ish. I promise I wasn’t sandbagging. I truly didn’t see myself going under 3:20 and being that close to my PR from Chicago 2022.

One of the wonderful volunteers put a medal around my neck, another wrapped me in a heat blanket, and I hobbled toward the warming buses to wait for my husband to meet me at the family meeting area. The T was an absolute shit show, but that’s another story.

I was so cold and tired and happy. I can’t wait for 2024.

Shippin’ up to Boston for the 3rd time: Getting ready for the 2023 Boston Marathon

I’m less than a week out from running my 3rd Boston Marathon! 

How am I feeling? Excited. Like I’m surprised how excited I am. It’s my third time, after all. I figured the novelty would have worn off by now – but it hasn’t. I just feel so lucky that I get to do this! 

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged, but I had a busy March in terms of racing. Here’s a brief recap of what I’ve been up to! 

Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup “4 Miler” 

3rd overall female, 24:20/6:40 pace

Why the quotes? Because a bunch of us at the front of the pack missed a turnoff after the wind blew over a directional sign and accidentally cut the course. 

This race in PA was more than 2 hours from my house, but it sounded fun – grilled cheese and tomato soup after, hello! – and the race director Pat is great. He’s the one who organized the Chasing the Unicorn marathon in 2020 and did everything in his power to make that a safe and fun event at the height of the pandemic. So I signed up, hoping to be able to run 4 miles in 26 minutes or so to test my speed.

The race was held in a municipal park and it was windy AF, a common theme of pretty much all of my runs this training cycle. In fact, it was windy enough that one of the directional signs after the mile 3 mark blew over, and so a bunch of us missed a turn and accidentally ran 3.65 miles! Pat didn’t DQ us, I guess because so many people effed it up, and I was awarded the 3rd overall female prize – a nice blanket! I had fun and pushed hard.

Annapolis Running Festival 10K

3rd overall female, 42:44/6:53 pace

I said to friends a few times I wasn’t planning on the Annapolis Running Festival – I’ve done so many races on that course over the last decade that I just wasn’t excited about it. But then I saw I had 10Kish worth of speedwork on my plan the week of the race and I’d rather do that in a race than on my own! Plus, my friend Shannon was running it, too. 

The weather pretty much sucked – it was once again super windy and I tried my best to draft off other, taller runners! My shoelace also came untied right before mile 3, costing me precious time. I didn’t really have a time goal, but I thought 41-42 miles was doable. I also had no expectations of placing and it was really hard to gauge where I was in the race since there was also a 5K and a half marathon and we were all mixed together at various parts of the race. So I was pleasantly surprised when I crossed the finish line and the volunteer handed me a card that said I was 3rd female. 

I’m glad I ended up doing it – just wish we’d had better weather! The after party was a lot of fun, and the band playing was awesome, but it was just so cold and windy. That’s March in Maryland for you – you could get 20 degrees or 80 degrees. 

Barlowe Bolt 5K

1st overall female, 21:28/6:42 pace  

Well, this one was a cluster. 

A little background about me and the Bolt – I am not new to this race. In fact, this was the fifth time I’d run it – I ran in 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2022. I even won it in 2020 and 2022 and was hoping to win it again this year. (It’s a pretty small race.)

But!! Even though I had run it multiple times in the past, I couldn’t remember the course, so I made a wrong turn about three-tenths of a mile into the race. I was running up at the front with two teenage boys, so I led them astray – sorry! When I realized my mistake after we literally ran into a dead end, I was so annoyed with myself. 

We turned around and I hauled ass to get back in first place, which I paid for dearly with a huge positive split in the end. I did manage to still win and in the end I added about a tenth of a mile onto my race, so it could have been worse. I mean, I ….could have cut the course again.

My mileage hasn’t been as high as it was last fall when training for Chicago, but I’ve averaged between 55-60 miles per week, peaking at 62 miles. Basically, I took Pfitzinger’s 12/55 plan from Advanced Marathoning and modified it to add a few more miles each week. Thinking about doing 12/70 this fall again for Richmond, but that is a heavy training load and I don’t think I can mentally (or physically) handle it every marathon training cycle.

The plan included two 20-milers, the second of which I ran during the B&A Marathon last month. I didn’t register for the race, but the trail was open to the public and I knew so many people running either the half or the full that I thought it would be fun to run alongside them. I ended up running mostly with a fast friend of mine and averaged 7:29 pace for 20 miles. That is obviously WAY faster than I would normally ever do a 20 miler, but I also ran the Charm City Run 20 Miler three weeks before Chicago last fall at a 7:25 pace and it didn’t hurt me in the marathon.

When your training run coincides with a race, you show up in the pictures!

Goals/plans for Boston

I don’t know! LOL. Enjoy myself and get another BQ.

My Garmin thinks I’m running a 3:03, but it’s clearly full of crap. That would be a 15-minute PR and I do not think I am in PR shape – that 3:18 I ran last fall is really solid, plus I ran it on a flat course in damn near perfect weather. The Boston Marathon is a tough course and the weather is looking warm and wet. Not the worst, but not the best either. I do think a 3:2x is doable and I should be able to BQ (3:40:00 or faster) unless things really go to hell. 

Other than that, no major goals. Sometimes it’s more fun that way anyway!

Having my cake and eating it, too: My first ultramarathon, the Algonquin 50K!

Earlier this month, I ran my first ultramarathon, the Algonquin 50K on Maryland’s Eastern Shore! It was a hell of an experience and I accomplished my two main goals of having fun and finishing in one piece. As someone who swore FOR YEARS that I would never go beyond 26.2, I still can’t believe I did it! 

I signed up for it basically on a whim last summer, and was promptly put on a waitlist – the race sells out very quickly every year. Then, last fall, I commented on Vanessa with She Runs By The Seashore’s post on Instagram about the race and mentioned that I was on the waitlist. The race director (dictator? At least that’s what his emails said, haha!) saw it and found a spot for me. I accepted it, knowing that it was 2.5 months before Boston and deciding to just go for it anyway. 

I am happy I did! 

Trail running vs. road running

While I am an experienced road runner, trail running is relatively new to me. I’ve run Rip It’s Little Patuxent River Run, both the 10K and the half, for many years and that takes place on a trail. And then I’ve run the Bigfoot Endurance trail run, both the 10 miler and the 5 miler. But that’s it. I love the idea of running through the woods, but I am clumsy and the potential for injuries always scares me. So I knew I needed to invest in some trail shoes, start practicing on trails more, and just commit to the idea that I was going to be a lot slower on trails than on the road. I joined my friend Danny, who is a very experienced ultramarathoner, on some practice runs several times throughout January and that got my confidence up. Training for ALQ overlapped a bit with the beginning of my Boston Marathon training plan, but that worked out fine. I actually ran a 20 miler (on a paved trail) the weekend before my Boston training officially started, and I joked this was the first time I would begin marathon training with a 20 miler under my belt. 

I’d heard trail running is a completely different vibe from road running – that ultras are less intense, it’s not really about your time, and that ultra runners have a “we’re all in this together” mentality, rather than a competitive attitude. Oh, and that the aid stations are decked out with all kinds of delicious food. All of that sounded great. Especially the food part! 

Still, I was nervous. The last thing I wanted was to get injured before Boston. I also had no idea how I’d feel running for 31+ miles (my Garmin logged 32 miles at the end of the race!)

The race!

Micah and I headed out to the Eastern Shore Friday afternoon before the race so I could pick up my race bib and swag. The bib pickup was held at a place called Hopper’s Tavern, so we got some food and beers there – I got my old standby, a veggie burger and fries! – and then headed to our AirBnB in Snow Hill. The AirBnB was about 5 miles from the start line, so I figured that would be nice and convenient. 

When I woke up on race morning, it was 15 degrees, but thankfully, the nasty wind from the day before had died down. I got dressed in running tights, a long-sleeved shirt, a jacket, neck gaiter, gloves with Hot Hands, and a hat. It ended up being fine and I was never too cold or too hot. Micah drove me to the start and we really cut it close– because we were pretty much in the middle of nowhere, my Google Maps wasn’t working great and it took us to a location that was about a mile from the actual start. Luckily, we found some volunteers with the race and they pointed us in the right direction. I made it there with about 4 minutes to spare, which did not help my anxiety one bit. I hate being late! 

The first few miles were on a narrow part of the trail, so for the most part we were all running single file. I didn’t even make it two miles before I bit it on a tree root, even though I was trying to run cautiously! I wasn’t hurt – just a skinned knee – and got back up with no problem. Another friend of mine who has run a bunch of ultras, including 100 milers, told me ALQ wasn’t that technical. I beg to differ, but again, I’m a newbie. The whole trail was very flat, which made it great for beginners!

Photo by Craig Young

I’ve been told, and have seen plenty of pictures that prove it, that ALQ is usually a muddy ass mess, with standing water in some parts of the course. But because it was so cold, everything was frozen and dry. Some other runners joked that I wasn’t getting the full ALQ experience, but since this was my first ultra…. I was OK with that! 

The first 5 or so miles passed quickly. I chatted with other runners, one of whom was running her 5th ALQ! She said she had never done a road marathon before and was planning to run one so we talked about that. I kept the pace very easy (I think probably in the 11s) and just tried to focus on not falling and enjoying the scenery. There was an aid station at mile 4, which ended up being the only one I didn’t stop at, just because I didn’t feel like I needed to. I had Maurten gels with me (6 total) and ended up taking all by one of them throughout the race, plus snacking on Smith Island Cake — Maryland’s official state dessert! — at the aid stations. 

I ran with my friend Gretchen for a while and she had a nasty fall at the 15K mark, right around the part of the race that’s usually a giant mud pit. She finished the race, but found out later she fractured her wrist! I am truly so happy to have made it through injury free, as I am klutzy (hello, I literally fell in the Boston Marathon last year.) 

The first aid station I stopped at was mile 10. I was pretty excited to grab a piece of red velvet Smith Island Cake. In marathons, I always grab a water or Gatorade from the stations and keep on truckin’, but I had been told that it’s typical in ultras to stop for a few minutes at the aid stations and eat. So, that’s what I did! I was so fixated on the cake that I didn’t even notice Micah was standing there. I had told him before the race there probably wouldn’t be any place to spectate, but somehow he found his way to the mile 10 point. I was so happy to see him! 

After enjoying my cake, I went off on my way again. Everything was feeling good! 

At around mile 12, I fell again, but luckily this fall was even more benign than the last. I guess I fell into a soft surface! I think the next aid station I stopped at was around mile 15 or 16 –  I stopped to pee and get more Smith Island Cake. The volunteers at all of the aid stations were SO amazing! At every one, they were like, “What do you need? What can we get you?” Truly the best and kindest volunteers I’ve ever encountered at a race! 

At this point of the race, the course veered off to the right and into the woods for maybe another 3 miles until we hit the turnaround. It felt great to hit that point of the race and know that I was past the halfway point! The mile 16 aid station also served as the aid station somewhere around mile 20, as well, so you know I stopped and grabbed, you guessed it, more Smith Island Cake. As far as my gels went, I did what I do in marathons and took them at miles 4, 8, 13, 18, and 21. I was going to take another one at mile 26, but by that point I’d had even more cake and felt like I was all sugared out. LOL. 

Once I hit mile 20, I knew I had about 12 miles left. Technically, 50K is 31 miles, but I was told the distance wasn’t exact and I was likely to run about 32 miles when all was said and done. I was getting tired, but told myself I run 12 miles all the time. During peak marathon training, that’s, like, a typical Wednesday. No big deal, right? 

Around mile 23, I started running with another runner, Jen, who was running her third ALQ. We ended up keeping each other company through most of the rest of the race. She told me that the course was the dryest she’d ever seen it and said when she ran in 2021, when the weather was horrible, she could barely see where she was on the trail. I guess I really lucked out! 

There was a sign at the mile 26.2(ish) mark that said “you just finished a marathon!”, which made me smile. I think that was the part of the race that was on a long, mostly smooth stretch of trail. I had pulled a little bit ahead of Jen and there were only like two other runners in sight. I had told Micah I would call him when I was around mile 28 or 29, so once I got to the final aid station, I saw there was a sign that said 5K to go. But I knew that was probably more like 4 miles. I called him and told him where I was and he said, “OK, I’m near the finish line! I’ll see you in a few minutes!” I laughed and said it was going to be taking me longer than a few minutes! I think my miles at that point were in the 11-13 minute range.   


Photo by Michaela Young

And yeah, those last few miles were a slog. Jen caught back up to me and had a bad fall shortly after that last aid station, but got back up again quickly. She said she had fallen 5 times throughout the race. I was lucky to only fall twice. This part of the trail was super rooty and rocky and I was very much watching my footing. I had wanted to take a shot of Fireball at one of the last aid stations, because of course I did, but decided to do the responsible thing because I knew I was getting tired and fatigue + a buzz + rough terrain didn’t sound like it was going to set me up for success in those final miles. Look at me making good decisions! 

When my watch beeped at 30 miles, I knew the finish line was near. I was more than ready to be done by then, but kept patiently trucking along. Really, those final two miles were kind of a blur. At one point, we crossed a road and then headed toward the field where the start/finish was. Jen told me to look for the flags lining the finishers chute and head toward them, so that’s what I did. After 6 hours and 15 minutes of running, I crossed the finish line and was awarded my prized finishers mug. Micah was waiting for me at the end and he directed me toward the nice food spread in the pavilion, where there was also a roaring fire going. I wasn’t super hungry, but I enjoyed some hot Maryland crab soup, a beer, and yes, more cake. 

We hung out for a while and chatted with other runners before heading back to the other side of the Bay Bridge. 

Even though I said I didn’t care about my time, and I really didn’t, of course I was curious to see how I ranked among the other runners. It turned out I finished 18th female out of (I think) around 100, and that surprised me. I did much better than I thought I would. 

My mom asked me if I would do another ultra, and I think I would! I still am gun shy about falling and injuring myself, but I did have fun, even when it got hard. The trail running community is so supportive and cool. And if I haven’t mentioned it enough in this blog – CAKE. 

If you’re looking to try out the ultra distance for the first time, I highly recommend the Algonquin 50K. Not only is it a flat course, it’s extremely well-organized and the swag is fantastic. Truly a great trail ultra!

I ran a 5K in 2 degree weather: The Christmas Eve 5K in Allison Park, PA

I’ll be the first to tell you I like running in the cold. Give me 25 degrees over 85 degrees any day of the week. At least for running. I always say there is drinking margs outside weather and running weather, and those two types of weather are not the same. 

However. Running in single digits, with a wind chill in the negative teens, is just a little too cold even for me. 

The beyond frigid temps didn’t stop me on Christmas Eve, though, when I ran the coldest race of my life in Pittsburgh (Allison Park, to be specific. It’s like it was meant to be!) 

It was one of my slowest 5Ks in quite a while, but the entire course was covered in snow and the temperature was 3 degrees when I finished. So I was more than fine with that. My time of 23:51 got me 2nd place female and I won a sweet campfire mug! 

And I drank out of it all day at my grandma’s Christmas Eve party! 

Why a Christmas Eve race? 

With Christmas Eve falling on a Saturday this year, it dawned on me that just maybe there would be a local race happening. We were planning to travel to Pittsburgh for the holiday, so I started looking around to see what was going on. And sure enough, the week before Christmas, I found a 5K scheduled to take place in North Park in the suburb of Allison Park, about 15 minutes from my sister’s house. 

The weather didn’t look great. Meteorologists were calling for much of the country to be in a deep freeze, and at the time, the predicted race day temperature was 10 or 11 degrees. Brrr. I decided to sign up anyway. 

As Christmas weekend drew closer, the forecast got more and more brutal. The predicted high dropped to 6 degrees. Then 5 degrees. The wind chill looked like it was going to be positively cruel. My mom said the race would probably get canceled, and I thought it might as well. On Dec. 21, the race directors sent out an email saying they would still hold a live race, but also offered participants the option to run the race virtually any time the week after Christmas, once the weather warmed up. But I was committed to running the live race if it was going to happen. First, I’d already paid for a live race. Second, I ran enough virtual races during 2020. I’m over them! I kept checking social media and my email, expecting the race to get canceled anyway, but as of Dec. 23, it was still on. 

On Christmas Eve morning, I woke up and it was 0 degrees. I think the wind chill was around -15 (it got all the way down to -35 the night before!) I put on two pairs of running tights, two pairs of socks with toe warmers, two shirts, my Boston 2019 jacket, a running vest, two pairs of gloves with Hot Hands hand warmers, a hat, and a ski mask. I wasn’t going to wear sunglasses, but Micah was concerned about my eye protection and convinced me to wear his. He and my brother-in-law Justin drove me to North Park, where they waited in the warm car while I did my thing. Packet pickup was inside the North Park Boat House, and there was some drama going on with a fire alarm going off in the men’s bathroom and frozen water all over the steps – a few people slid and fell. But I was happy to have an actual bathroom to use before the race, rather than a port-a-potty! 

After getting my bib and race shirt, I did a quick warmup (LOL, “warmup”) outside. I realized quickly that the sunglasses were going to fog up, and that the Alpha Flys were a poor choice. There were several inches of snow on the ground and I stupidly assumed – you know what they say about assuming – that the roads would be clear. Oh well. 

More than 800 people had signed up for the race, and only a little over a hundred showed up for it in person. We were the crazy ones! The race kicked off right at 10 am when the temperature had risen to a balmy 2 degrees. Honestly, though, I never felt cold and the race was in an area that was wooded enough that the trees were blocking most of the wind. But two things made this race really difficult almost immediately. 1. The damn ski mask. I’ve run in it before on cold days, though it’s been a while and I’ve never worn it during a race when I’m trying to run at race pace. It was hard to breathe in this thing. And then there was the issue of the sunglasses fogging up! 2. The snow-covered roads. It was really hard to get a momentum going and again, the Alpha Flys were just not it. I knew within the first mile it was going to be a struggle and my whole goal was just to finish in one piece.

The course wasn’t very hilly, especially considering we were in western PA, but we did go up and down one long stretch of road in the second mile, with a turnaround right at the 1.5 mile mark. That’s when I slipped and fell on the snow. At least the snow made the surface feel a little softer, and I wasn’t hurt at all. I got back up and kept going. 

At around mile 2.5, I stopped to walk for a few seconds. Yes, in a 5K. It happens! A man who was running near me asked if I was OK and I assured him I was fine, just having a hard time breathing in the mask. I actually ended up finishing before him! 

When I stopped my watch after crossing the finish line, I saw I had just barely cleared 24 minutes. More than 3 minutes slower than my last 5K, the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving, and more than 4 minutes off my PR, just set last October. But as I said, I was on the struggle bus immediately and just wanted to finish. 

I had read online that there was going to be an awards ceremony for overall winners and age group winners at 11 am, but when I went inside the volunteers told me they weren’t having it due to the weather and people wanting to get to their Christmas celebrations. One of them told me he was pretty sure I had at least won an age group award and to feel free to take a mug – so I did. I was happy to see later that I had placed second! 

My dad wasn’t happy at all that I did the race and told me later he was very concerned about my skin being exposed. But I felt that I dressed appropriately and was safe. Do I want to run in these conditions again? Not particularly. And I probably won’t. This sure made for a good story, though!   

Run hard, party harder: The Rehoboth Seashore Half Marathon

It took me 20 half marathons to finally break that 1:40 barrier – and then another 10 to break 1:35.

On December 3, I ran my third Rehoboth Seashore Half Marathon and 30th half marathon. I was determined to beat my then-PR of 1:37:58, which I felt was pretty soft given my recent 3:18 marathon finish in Chicago

And I did, running a 1:33:19, finishing 12th overall female and second in my age group! As always, this race was a complete blast and the after party was lit, and I cannot wait to sign up for the 2023 race. 

Here is my recap! 

Rehoboth is my happy place

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you know I have been traveling to Rehoboth Beach since I was very young and that I have run many races there. In fact, I ran my first BQ five years ago (!!) at the Rehoboth Seashore Marathon and smashed my longtime goal of a 3:30 marathon at the 2021 Coastal Delaware Running Festival. I was signed up to run the Rehoboth Seashore Half in 2020, but we all know what happened that year. I would have run it last year, but then Coastal Delaware was postponed from April to November due to COVID, meaning it was just about three weeks before Rehoboth Seashore. So I deferred to 2022. 

It ended up working out great, because our good friend Shannon was in nearby Bethany Beach celebrating her 50th birthday and invited Micah and me to stay at the Airbnb she rented for a long weekend. The race is always on a Saturday, so Micah and I went down after work Friday night, picked up my race packet, and had dinner at the Cultured Pearl sushi restaurant, one of my favorite restaurants in Rehoboth and also the location of the inside portion of the race after party. I had two eel rolls and two sakes, which I suspect turned out to be a poor choice. More on that in a little bit.  

The forecast was looking to be less than ideal, with rain the whole time and heavy winds (haha, like I didn’t experience enough wind in Philly??!) But it was also supposed to be warm, around 56-58 degrees. I dressed in shorts, a singlet, arm warmers because of the wind and rain, and a hat, but I could have easily ditched the arm warmers and I almost did during the race! 

Micah dropped me off at the race start around 6:40 and went to get brunch at Egg, and the race started right at 7. We had a gorgeous sunrise that I wish I could have taken a photo of, but before I could, we were off and running. And for now, it was still dry, but warm for December. I lined up between the 1:30 and 1:40 pacers. I thought 1:30 would be a little too fast for me, but I expected to be way ahead of 1:40. 

The course had changed since I’d last run in 2019. We left the bandstand and went down Rehoboth Avenue, then turned left and ran through the neighborhoods along Silver Lake, then down the boardwalk before running into north Rehoboth and, for the half marathoners, turning around at Cape Henlopen State Park. I really liked running down the boardwalk, and lots of people were out spectating! 

I ran my first 3 miles in 7:10, 6:59, and 6:55. I knew it was risky to be ripping off those sub-7s so early, but I just went with it.

Tummy troubles

It was at about mile 4, after the turnaround at the park, that my stomach started to bubble a little. If you read my recap of the Chicago Marathon, you’ll recall that I had stomach issues and felt like barfing during the last 8 miles. I blamed the rich Italian dinner from the night before, but for lunch the day before, I had also had sushi and sake, just like I had at the Cultured Pearl. Sooo……

It’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me! 

The night before Philly, I had my tried-and-true veggie burger and fries, and felt great during the whole marathon. Food for thought. Literally. 

Also around this point, I was seeing a lot of other runners who were a mile or so behind me on the other side of the road. One woman called out to me “You have a fighting chance at top 10!” so I knew there weren’t many women ahead of me. I did start to notice it was getting windy and there were a few times when I ducked behind taller men in front of me to draft off of them. However, the wind was still nothing like what it was in Philly, and again, it was about 30 degrees warmer. 

These miles were pretty fast, too: 

Mile 4: 6:50

Mile 5: 6:48

Mile 6: 7:05

We headed out of the town of Rehoboth and toward the Junction and Breakwater Trail at mile 7, and then entered the trail right before mile 8. The trail is a mix of crushed stone and gravel, but it’s pretty easy to run on, in my opinion. I ran mile 7 in 7:10 and mile 8 in 7:04.

At mile 9 of the half marathon and mile 23 of the marathon, runners run beneath what’s called Flag Alley, which is where flags from all over the world are hanging up above the trail. There are also volunteers playing music, and you run over a timing mat. When I ran past, I smiled and waved my arms and one of the volunteers said “Here’s Allison from Edgewater, bringing the energy today!” 

Which was a nice pick me up, because I was really starting to feel like crap. I was burping and tasting that morning’s coffee and I really thought it was going to come back up right there on the trail. I also started to slow down a bit, running mile 9 in 7:15 and mile 10 in 7:19.

But I knew I was going to smash a 1:37 half and told myself to keep pushing – I could puke at the finish line.

The rain also started coming down pretty steadily when I reached mile 10, and continued through the last few miles. I felt bad for the marathoners, most of whom had several hours to go! 

I noticed another course change around mile 11.5 from what I had previously remembered. Instead of turning left and heading back toward the finish on the road, we went straight on the trail until it intersected with Rehoboth Avenue. This portion was my only complaint about the new course– there were so many fallen leaves on the ground and given that it was now pretty wet out, I was a little afraid of slipping and falling. But I didn’t, and soon enough we were off the trail and back on the road to the finish. Mile 11 was 7:11 and mile 12 was my slowest mile of the race at 7:34. 

Around mile 12.5, I saw 2:45 half marathon pacer Vanessa (here’s her recap of the race!) and I yelled out that I was getting a PR. I knew I was under 1:35, and definitely well under 1:37, but I didn’t have my Garmin on elapsed time so I didn’t know how far under. I just knew the 1:30 group was a few minutes ahead. To be honest, I kind of like being able to race by feel instead of staring at the damn watch the whole time. 

I ran mile 13 in 7:04. 

When I made the final right turn to the finish line, I saw 1:33 on the clock and threw up my hands in excitement. I also expected to, well, throw up in general. But a volunteer handed me water with my medal and heat blanket and I sat down for a minute and then felt better. I still blame the sushi and sake combined with hard running – as much as I love my sushi and sake, perhaps it is best to avoid it the day before a race! 

This was my first time getting an age group award at this race!

Party time! 

This race has become known for its insanely fun and wild after party. There’s a huge food buffet, plus all runners get three Dogfish Head beer tickets (and, uh, it’s never a problem to get more. My PR from a previous year was seven tickets, and Micah had to physically remove me from the party.) And, of course, Team Fireball. In pre-COVID times, the members of Team Fireball – they have personalized hats and all – passed around a bottle for people to chug from, but this year, we were a little more public health friendly and took shots out of plastic shot glasses. 

I started boozing pretty much as soon as I walked into the party tent shortly after 8:30 and continued through the early afternoon. Even though the food is always great, I didn’t really feel like eating and made the stupid decision to have a liquid brunch/lunch. At one point, I tripped while reaching for a shot of Fireball and skinned my knee (and here I was afraid to trip on those leaves on the trail!) Micah came and picked me up around 2 in the afternoon and took me back to the Airbnb. 

In other years, I’ve been able to rally and hit the Purple Parrot for karaoke in the evening, but this year my hangover hit me like a ton of bricks around 7 pm and I just sat on the couch for the rest of the night and went to bed early. I blame not eating at the party. Rookie mistake! I guess this just goes to show that I may still be able to run relatively fast, but I am nonetheless 42 years old. 

I have this thing where I get older, but just never wiser.

The 2022 Philadelphia Marathon: A cold, windy 26.2 miles around the City of Brotherly Love

In the days leading up to the Philadelphia Marathon, I said a few times that I’ve been spoiled by the weather at my last three marathons, so I was due for one with crappy weather. 

Coastal Delaware? Perfect. Boston 2022? Perfect (a true miracle for Boston!) Chicago? Perfect. 

So when I saw the forecast for Philly, complete with starting temperatures in the high 20s (cold even for me) with wind gusts reaching 45 mph, I just had to laugh. Of course it would be terrible! 

But I was OK with it. I said all along that Philly was just going to be for fun. I had an amazing marathon in Chicago and absolutely gave that race everything I had. I had a loose goal of finishing Philly between 3:25 and 3:30, but I knew I wouldn’t be upset if I were slower than that. And being an optimist by nature, I looked on the bright side – at least it wouldn’t be heat and humidity! Or a cold rain! 

I ended up completing Philly in 3:24:43– my second fastest marathon time. More importantly, I had an absolute blast running this race, despite the crazy winds! 

Here is my recap of the 2022 Philadelphia Marathon! 

Before the Race

A week before the race, I ran the Bay Bridge Run, a 10K race that I do every year. Normally, I’d never race the week before a marathon, but Philly was just for fun, right? So I decided to race it as I normally would. 

I ran my 10K PR at the Bay Bridge Run a year ago, and knew that time would be extremely tough to beat, but I gave it my all and finished in a strong 41:04. First in my age group, 2nd Masters female, and I believe 9th or 10th overall female. I admit I was a little disappointed not to be under 41, but that long incline up the bridge took a lot out of me this year and I guess I was in the middle of another marathon taper, so it should be expected. It was also a very windy and cold day, though I heard other people talking about the tailwind and how much they loved that it pushed them along. I didn’t feel it at all!! I didn’t actually mind the temperature when running, but I was so cold afterwards that I didn’t even take advantage of the all-you-can-drink beer bracelet I blew $20 or whatever on. Will remember that for next year!

The Philadelphia Marathon was on Sunday, November 20, so I headed up to Philly the day before. I went back and forth a lot over what to wear during the race. I get pretty hot when running, but with that wind forecast, I worried I’d be underdressed in shorts, a singlet, and arm warmers. At basically the last minute, I decided to run in tights, a long sleeved shirt, gloves with Hot Hands tucked in, and a hat. (It ended up being the right call– I never got that cold during the race and didn’t overheat, either.) I also got a throwaway coat at the local Goodwill to ditch at the start of the race, which was then picked up by the Salvation Army in Philly. I headed straight to the convention center, picked up my bib, and then met up with my friends Staci, Sarah, Melissa, Melissa’s husband Harry, and their daughter Lucy for lunch at Iron Hill Brewery. Then we explored the German Christmas Market and headed back to Melissa and Harry’s house to watch Brittany Runs a Marathon (fitting!) and order takeout from Haveaburger, where I ordered my usual veggie burger and French fries, determined not to make the same mistake I did in Chicago! Melissa and Harry set me up in their basement and I was in bed before 10. I was nice and comfy, but I still didn’t sleep great, typical the night before a marathon! 

Race Day! 

My pre-scheduled Uber arrived early at 5:10 am and I was off! I’d heard horror stories of the lines to get through security being super long at the half marathon the day before, so I didn’t want to take any chances. Got through with no problem and just chilled (well, OK, the opposite of that!) in the warming tent before the race. I remembered having a warming tent before the Philly Half in 2019 and thought that was such a great idea. I saw my friend Amy from Rip It Events and we hung out for a bit. Before I knew it, it was time to get into my start corral. I had wanted to hit the porta potty one last time, but the lines were ridiculous so I told myself if I had to stop on the course, whatever. 

Once I got in the corral, I lined up behind the 3:30 pacer, who was wrapped in a heat blanket from another race and totally shivering. I saw my friend Sami, who was running her first marathon ever (and ended up absolutely killing, running a 3:17!!) and we chatted for a bit and decided to ditch our throwaways at the side of the corral. As soon as we did this, a HUGE gust of wind blew through and several of us huddled against each other. I knew right then we were in for an interesting race! The race started about 10 minutes late, making me wish I’d held onto my coat a little longer, but what can you do? Pretty much as soon as I started running, I had to pee. I knew I’d have to stop eventually, but I decided to see how far I could get before I absolutely needed to hit a porta potty (luckily, they were all over the course.)  

The first few miles felt OK. The wind had died down a little and the sun was out, and I even contemplated taking the Hot Hands out of my gloves. I’m glad I didn’t, because once we got to mile 7 or 8, the wind picked up again and it was fierce. The crowds were amazing, though!! The cold and wind did not diminish their enthusiasm one bit. I knew Sarah was planning to be out on the course around mile 9, even though I’d told her not to feel obligated to come out and spectate in the cold. I really think it was worse to be standing still than running in those conditions! At mile 8, I saw a line of porta potties and quickly ducked into one, after walking in on some dude in another pot. Lock the damn door next time, buddy! I peed quickly and caught up to the 3:30 group within the next mile, and Sarah was right where she said she’d be! I also got to see her just before the halfway point, because she was standing at a spot where we ran by twice. She also said she saw me around mile 25, but I completely missed her then, probably because I was deep in the zone. 

There were some hills between miles 9 and 14 of the course, but nothing too crazy. I knew it wouldn’t be pancake flat like Chicago anyway. I did have to be careful around the water stops, because people were spilling water out of the cups and it was starting to freeze on the ground. I saw a few runners slip and fall! 

At mile 16, I was still with the pace group and feeling strong, so I decided to pull ahead. Soon after began the very toughest part of the race, the long out and back down Kelly Drive along the Schuykill River. I’d heard that it’s windy through that stretch even on the nicest of days. Well, the wind on marathon day whipping off the river was just nuts! It was kind of blowing me sideways at some parts and I did my best to tuck in behind some taller runners to block it. But there wasn’t much I could do. Definitely the craziest wind I’d ever raced in. I still wasn’t too cold, though. I was wearing a neck gaiter that I’d gotten for free at the expo, so I pulled that up over my face a few times, but overall I was OK. 

We entered the neighborhood of Manayunk at mile 20, which is where you turn around before heading back to the finish in front of the art museum. This was by far my FAVORITE part of the race. The crowds were so, so much fun. A lot of people were partying hard (a fraternity at Drexel was handing out beers and I think shots, too) and just loudly cheering for everyone by name – a cool thing about Philly is they print your first name on your bib! I saw someone holding a sign that said “Welcome to the Manayunk 10K” and that made me smile. After I passed the turnaround, I saw I was a few minutes ahead of the 3:30 pacers, but I had no idea how far ahead since I wasn’t really looking at my watch. I just decided to keep on pushing and was hoping that maybe we’d get a tailwind on the way back (we didn’t!) 

There was a guy handing out small plastic cups of beer at mile 21, and I NEVER take beer during marathons or any other races, but since my goal was to have fun and I felt good – way better than I felt at mile 21 in Chicago, in fact – I took one and chugged it and went on my way. I definitely was reaping the benefits of starting out at an “easy” pace and was clicking off miles in the 7:20-7:30 range. 

I never felt like I hit a wall. I did feel a blister pop on my left foot at mile 25.5, and that sure sucked, but it hurt for a minute and then went away– and I was so close to the end by that point anyway. The crowds were deafening during that last stretch. But it felt like the finish line was SO far away and I remember thinking the same thing when I ran the half in 2019. You go around the art museum and you know you’re near the end but can’t really see the finish. It’s weird. 

I crossed the finish line, stopped my watch, and was absolutely stoked to see 3:24. Sub-3:25 in a marathon I was running “just for fun” a year after I finally broke 3:30 for the first time. I ran a smart, controlled race in shitty conditions and I’m as proud of it as I am of my 3:18 in Chicago the month before. And most importantly– I had so much fun!  

The volunteer who gave me my medal noticed my Boston shirt and said “It looks like you’re going back to Boston!” I smiled and said yes I am! Yes, I already had my 2024 BQ from Chicago, but any BQ is special!  

Sarah came to meet me at the finish area after I picked up my checked bag full of my sweats and puffy coat. She was holding onto my Uggs for me and it felt so good to take off the Alpha Flys and put those on. Then we met up with Melissa, Harry and Lucy and had lunch at Schlessinger’s Delicatessen. 

The Philly Marathon was an awesome experience. It’s a well-organized race, the spectators kick ass, and the route around the city was fun and scenic. I highly recommend it! This was my 13th marathon and I would say Philly is now high on my list of favorite marathons. If you’re looking for a great big city marathon in the later part of fall, check this one out.  

I broke 20 minutes in the 5K at the Baltimore Running Festival

Last month, I broke 20 minutes in the 5K for the first time, taking almost a minute off of my previous PR of 20:29. I’m still pinching myself over it. 

I’ve run upwards of 50 5Ks in the last decade or so, at least. If you’ve followed me for a while, you know I’m not a big fan of 5Ks, despite having run so many of them! I prefer the slow burn of a longer distance. But I end up signing up for a lot of 5Ks because friends want to run them, so I agree to run them, too. (And every time, when I’m in the red zone at mile 1.5 and I still have another mile and a half to run, I swear I’m never doing it again!!) 

That said, breaking 20 minutes was always in the back of my mind, but it wasn’t a big important goal for me like qualifying for the Boston Marathon was, or breaking 1:40 in the half marathon. If I did it, cool. If I didn’t, that was fine, too. 

But then it actually happened! By a pretty big margin, too. I ran a 19:37 at the Baltimore Running Festival 5K. 

Here’s how it went down! 

A fast 5K 6 days post-marathon

On October 9, I ran the Chicago Marathon and PR’d with a 3:18:46. After marathons, I typically like to take at least 5 days off of running, sometimes 7 or 8 (though I’ll usually return to kickboxing if I’m feeling decent.) But I love the Baltimore Running Festival, which was taking place 6 days after Chicago. I’ve participated in it every year since 2016, and have run every distance from the 5K to the marathon. I even ran the half marathon virtually on the B&A Trail in 2020. It’s a fall running tradition that I just don’t want to miss. I also had a free entry for coming in second in the 10K last year, so I used it to enter the 5K. I’d last run the 5K five years earlier, and came in second in my age group with a 21:xx – can’t remember the exact time. It’s a flat, fast course! 

I genuinely had no idea how I’d feel racing a 5K 6 days after a marathon. I posted on Facebook that it would either be a PR or a complete dumpster fire. A few friends on Instagram encouraged me to shoot for sub-20. Of course it was in the back of my mind, having just run a sizable PR in Chicago. But 5Ks and marathons are completely different beasts. Still, I had nothing to lose by going for it! I also had run the Kensington 8K at a 6:30 pace just two weeks before Chicago, so that indicated to me like a sub-20 was possible.

We had great weather for the race, which is always the case with the Baltimore Running Festival. That may be why I like it so much– it always takes place on a gorgeous fall day.

The race started at 7:30 and I was in Baltimore by 6:30 or so, which gave me more than enough time to pee approximately 80 billion times and find my way to the start line on Light Street. 

We went off shortly after 7:30 and my strategy was the same as it always is for 5Ks and 10Ks– go out hard and see how long I can hold on! The course, which as I mentioned is flat, goes from the Inner Harbor and then down Key Highway and back again, finishing along Pratt Street. 

I tried not to look at my watch too much and worked on running by feel (and I could feel that I was working very, very hard!) I ran the first mile in a zippy 6:19. 

The turnaround to head to the finish is at mile 1.5, and that’s when I saw my friend John, who runs 17 minute 5Ks every weekend. He was obviously several minutes ahead of me, and I noticed he was probably in 10th place at that point– so I knew it was a very fast field. 

Somewhere around mile 2, I saw my friend Normailed, who was doing the Baltimore-on-athon, which is the 5K plus the half marathon. She snapped a picture of me where I actually don’t look like I am dying! I ran the second mile in 6:23 and thought, OK, just hang on for 1.1 more miles. 

The last mile was a complete blur. I just kept pushing and pushing. It hurt like hell. I remember looking down at my watch just before I hit the 3 mile mark and saw a 6:00 flat pace. Ran mile 3 in 6:16. Then I made the final right turn onto Pratt Street and saw 19 on the clock up ahead. I had done it!

I ran the final 0.1 in 37 seconds, stopped my watch, and grabbed a bottle of water from a volunteer. I couldn’t really speak for about two minutes! I hugged another runner who had also broken 20 for the first time– and then later learned she was an Instagram follower! – and then met up with John. 

To say it was a fast field was an understatement! My 19:37 got me 2nd in my age group. The top three women all finished in the 16 minute range, and the top three men were in the 14s! Maybe that helped me run faster, too. 

Afterwards, I spectated the marathon for a bit and saw my friend Josh around mile 9. He yelled out to me, asking if I’d gone sub-20, and it felt so good to say yes!

I joked afterwards that it’s time to retire from 5Ks, but of course I won’t. I am planning on the Greensburg Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day, a Thanksgiving tradition. Of course this is only 5 days after I run the Philly Marathon, but hey, I now have learned that I can run really strong 5Ks on the heels of marathons! This 5K course is extremely hilly, though, so not counting on another sub-20!

My experience running the 2022 Chicago Marathon

I’d just passed the sign that told me I had 800 meters left to run in the Chicago Marathon, and all of a sudden, I felt like I was running the 2019 Boston Marathon – the race that earned me a qualifying time for Chicago more than three years earlier – all over again.

Just like in Boston 2019, I started to get really emotional. Hundreds of screaming people lined both sides of the street. I was about to cross the finish line. I wasn’t just going to meet my goal of running 3:20 – I was going to smash it. I’d trained for three months for this moment, running up to 70 miles a week, but this race was really three and a half years in the making. And finally, after everything, here I was. 

And just like in Boston 2019, I told myself, “Get it together, you can’t keep running if you’re gasping for breath because you’re sobbing.” I made the final right turn onto the *only* hill in the entire race (it’s a very small hill, but given how flat the course is and the fact that the hill is at the tail end, it’s an ass kicker!), then left into Grant Park and across the finish line. I stopped my Garmin and saw 3:18:46, and then I really did shed a few tears. An 8 minute PR and a qualifying time by more than 21 minutes for Boston 2024, my 6th BQ. I did it! 

I keep saying that I can’t believe it, but that’s not really true. I can believe it. I put in the training and worked really hard. Of course, that’s never a guarantee in a marathon – a lot can happen over 26.2 miles – but I felt as prepared as I’d ever been.

Did I feel amazing the entire time, like I did last year in Coastal Delaware or in Boston 2022? Nope! I kinda felt like I had to barf from mile 18 on. But I powered through and I am so proud of myself. 

Before the Race

As I mentioned, this race was more than three years in the making. I registered for the 2020 race with a qualifying time from Boston 2019. Then COVID hit and of course, the race, a World Marathon Major and one of the largest races in the world, was canceled. Everyone registered for 2020 got three years to use their entry, and I decided to wait until 2022 because I was afraid there would still be restrictions and maybe even a possible cancellation in fall 2021. There wasn’t, but the 2021 race had brutal temperatures into the 80s, so I am glad I waited! We had great weather this year. 

I flew to Chicago from Maryland two days before the race and met my sister Catherine, who flew in from Pittsburgh, there. She loves to plan trips and choose all the restaurants and bars we’ll go to, so I turned the agenda over to her since I know she has good taste! On Friday night we went to Girl and the Goat, a fantastic place, and then had some tiki drinks at Three Dots and a Dash, which was right across the street from our hotel in River North. We probably would have stayed out later, but we were both doing the Chicago 5K the next morning. When I saw that was happening, I wanted to do it as my shakeout run and I talked Catherine into running, too (she agreed because she liked the beanies we got, ha!) 

The 5K was fun and I did run very easy (finished in 28:06). I had heard ahead of time that GPS watches don’t work well in Chicago due to the skyscrapers, and that was definitely true in the 5K and in the marathon as well. Note to future runners in these Chicago races– you can either manually hit your lap button at every mile, or you can just set your watch on elapsed time and do marathon math the whole 26.2 miles. I chose the latter, because…. I like to make things more challenging for myself? Anyway, I digress! 

We did a lot of exploring the day before the race. After going to the expo, where I bought NOTHING – seriously, who am I? But all the stuff was so overpriced and honestly not that cute!! –  we went to a sushi restaurant where I enjoyed two sushi rolls and a flight of sake. Then we walked to the Navy Pier, where we met up with my friend Danielle from Rip It Events. It was an absolutely gorgeous day!

We then tried to go to the 360 Observation Deck atop what was formerly called the John Hancock Center, but the line to get onto the deck was 45 minutes long, so we stopped and had beers at the Signature Room overlooking the city.

Then for dinner, we went to RPM Italian just a few doors down from the hotel. This place was AMAZING and I kind of pigged out, which, as I alluded to earlier, came back to bite me in the ass a little bit. I had cheesy bread, then some rich cheesy pasta, then Catherine and I split a huge piece of cheesecake, and I washed it all down with prosecco. If you’re reading this and thinking, “Well Allison, sounds like you weren’t making good choices with your sake and your cheesecake and your prosecco the day before a marathon…..” you are correct. 

But listen, I was also in Chicago to have a good time, too. I didn’t want to just sit in my hotel room and foam roll and stretch (and LOL if you think I do either of those things regularly, anyway.) Catherine’s birthday was also Sunday, marathon day, so of course we planned to celebrate all weekend!

The Race! 

The race recommended that people in my corral, C, should be at Grant Park by 5:30 am, which ended up being overkill….. But I always get nervous about being late to races, so I set my alarm for 3:45 and was in an Uber to the start by 5 am. 

PS – Don’t take an Uber or Lyft if you’re doing this race. The staff at the hotel had even warned me not to, and I did not listen. Most of the roads were already closed by 5 am, but my Uber driver was a baller and managed to get me within two blocks of Grant Park anyway. He got a big tip for his efforts!  

I checked my bag with my clothes for after the race and then was able to find an open bathroom in the park to just keep warm until we started at 7:30. A lot of other runners had the same idea and I got to chat with some ladies from the Netherlands, Ireland, and England, as well as others from all over the country and world. I have never heard so many foreign languages spoken at once – it was really cool! The time passed relatively quickly and I felt excited, but calm. Around 7 or so, I left to walk to my corral and positioned myself behind the 3:20 pace group. There was a group of three 3:20 pacers in corral C and then another group of 3:20 pacers in corral D. Apparently, it’s a popular goal time. The race started at 7:20 with the wheelchair and handcycle athletes, then wave 1, which corral C was in, went off at 7:30, but I didn’t actually cross the start line until around 7:37.  

Unsurprisingly, it was super crowded for, well, most of the race, but especially the first 10K. I felt like I was elbow to elbow with the other runners who were with the pace group, and I worried about bumping into someone and tripping, or causing them to trip, etc. Luckily, that didn’t happen! The first few miles felt pretty easy, as they should at the beginning of a marathon, and I tried to take in the spectators and their funny signs as much as I could. The crowds were absolute fire!

I knew to look out for Catherine at mile 9, where the infamous drag queens would be dancing. I had told myself I was going to stay with the 3:20 group at least through mile 20, and then see how I felt. But when I saw her at mile 9, I was already ever so slightly ahead of them and then pulled ahead even more. I was feeling good! She cheered and screamed and waved her Terrible Towel at me (we won’t talk about how shitty the Steelers played later that day!) and I knew she planned to be at mile 23, too! 

Miles 10 through 15 went by quickly. I took Maurten gels at miles 4, 8, and 13, with plans to take the last two at miles 18 and 22. Around mile 15 or 16, I kept hearing people yell Go Blue at a runner who was in head to toe University of Michigan gear. As an Ohio State grad, I couldn’t help but yell out “O-H!” and then another runner yelled back “I-O!” The Michigan runner gave me a dirty look. I think he was having a bad race and I pissed him off even more. Whoops.

I was maintaining a super steady pace – not that you would know it from my very confused watch, which told me I ran mile 14 in 6:22? False – and things felt good, not necessarily GREAT, but good until about mile 18 or so when I took that 4th gel. And then my stomach started to bubble a little bit. It wasn’t a horrible wave of nausea, but enough that I was like, OK, time to just take sips of water from the water stops and maybe avoid the Gatorade. I really do think it was the extremely rich meal I’d consumed the night before. It sure was good, though! 

Running through Chinatown starting at mile 20 and smelling all that Chinese food was a bit rough. By mile 21, I knew I couldn’t take my last gel because I was likely to spit it right back up. But I knew I was at least a minute or two ahead of the 3:20 group and was able to maintain the pace, and I was looking forward to seeing Catherine at mile 23. She is pretty much the best and loudest race spectator there is and got a video of me as I ran past her waving my arms and yelling out “sub-3:20!!” At least I look strong and happy in the video. 

At mile 24, there was a DJ playing music and calling out “all my party people, throw your hands in the AIR!” and all of my energy was just focused on just holding a steady pace and not throwing up. I knew that if I kept it going I was going to be right around 3:18 or 3:19. Things were kind of a blur at that point! The crowds were super boisterous and enthusiastic and before I knew it, I was coming down the final stretch and about to make the last right turn onto “Mount Roosevelt” (seriously, it’s barely a hill, but why tf is it right there at the end?) and getting all weepy. 

I crossed the finish line and saw volunteers were handing out cans of Goose Island beer with Finisher written on them, but I wanted to wait to have a beer with Catherine at the after party and didn’t want to use my beer ticket quite yet. I later learned the finish chute beer was actually a bonus beer and so I was mad I left that on the table! As soon as I stopped running, my stomach felt better and I could have totally slammed a beer then. Oh well. 

We more than made up for it later at Happy Camper, where the waitress brought us chambongs (champagne in a bong, just as it sounds) on the house, Pilot Project brewery, and Cafe Moustache for karaoke, where we wowed the crowd with our renditions of I Wanna Dance With Somebody and Hot In Herre and enjoyed a few Chicago Handshakes. Needless to say, I woke up Monday morning more in pain from the hangover I got than from the marathon. I might still be able to run relatively fast, but I am 42 years old, so, you know.

What’s Next? 

Philly! I am running the Philadelphia Marathon, another 2020 deferral, on Nov. 20. I’ve never run two marathons this close together and since I met my goal and then some in Chicago, Philly will really just be for fun. I am doing a reverse taper right now and will build my mileage back up a little over the next few weeks before tapering down again. I’ve heard great things about the Philly Marathon and can’t want to run it!

And! Six days after Chicago, I raced the 5K at the Baltimore Running Festival and BROKE 20 MINUTES for the first time ever! Stay tuned for that recap.

8 days until I run the 2022 Chicago Marathon

Nearly three years after registering with a qualifying time from Boston 2019, I will get to run the Chicago Marathon next weekend! 

I feel ready. My training couldn’t have gone better and my body held up well throughout the high mileage weeks. As long as I stay healthy this next week, I am good to go! I got my new COVID booster and my flu shot at the beginning of September, not wanting to take any chances! I do have a quick business trip to Dallas at the beginning of the week – I fly out Monday and come back late Tuesday night. Then I go to Chicago on Friday. Crazy week and I’m trying not to be too anxious about it! 

OH! And I also got my official Boston Marathon 2023 acceptance this week. This was my 4th time registering for the race and the first time I had a big enough cushion that I knew I was in no matter what. Can’t wait to go back for my 3rd Boston in April! 

I ran a race every weekend in September. Here’s a quick recap of my last few weeks of training and racing! 

Rip It Events’ Police Pace 10K

I wasn’t too happy with my time of 44:28 in this race, and I recognize how silly that is. Until just about a year ago, my 10K PR was 44:50, and that was from 2017. It took me years to beat that! But I had just won the Mike Sterling 10K in Crisfield with a 40:52 the week before, so running more than three minutes slower was tough to swallow. 

That said, it’s not surprising I was so much slower. First of all, the weather was God awful. It was pouring down rain on race morning, to the point where I did not want to get out of my car. (At least it wasn’t 90 degrees and humid?) The course was at Centennial Lake Park in Columbia, which was hilly and also had a lot of windy curves. Those always slow me down. And, because it was so wet outside, I was afraid of tripping and falling, so I’m sure I was running more tentatively than usual. I did like the course, but it was a double loop (the race also included a 5K, which ended after one loop.) That is mentally challenging. I did pass a ton of people, but at least for the first half of the race, it was hard to tell who was doing the 5K and who was doing the 10K, so I wasn’t sure what place I was in. 

After I crossed the finish line (almost mowing down an older lady – sorry!!!), I checked my results and it said I was third place female. Cool! Except the first place female’s time was listed as 31:xx. So, we had an Olympian in our midst? Hmmm. I knew that couldn’t be right and was pretty sure that was someone who had registered for the 10K and then noped out at the 5K. Sure enough, the awards ceremony was canceled because of issues with the timing chips. I actually came in second, behind a 17-year-old who ran 39:xx.

So overall, a good race even though I wasn’t excited about how I did!

As a Rip It Events ambassador, I ran this race for free. Opinions are entirely my own!

Photo by Anthea Diano

Charm City Run 20 Miler

I had been wanting to do this race, meant to be a supported training run for people registered for fall marathons, for years and was originally supposed to run it back in 2018 while training for the Baltimore Marathon. But then I strained my calf doing a stupid 5K fun run two days before the race, so I did the smart thing and bailed on it, hoping that I’d be able to run Baltimore with no issue. (And I did.) 

I just had no idea how the hell to pace this race. Long run pace? That seemed like the logical thing to do, but racing it would be more fun. However, I was concerned about burning myself out before Chicago. I decided to make a game day call and determine how I was going to run it once I started running it. Strategy! The weather was nearly perfect, though it got kind of warm toward the end, and I started out running a 7:50ish pace. Then I picked it up a bit … and picked it up more. This race is a point-to-point (my favorite!) that takes place on the NCR Trail north of Baltimore. The whole thing is just slightly downhill, so it was kind of hard not to go fast. After four or so miles I started clicking off miles in the 7:30s, then a string of sub-7:20s. Well, OK, I thought to myself. Let’s just see how long I can hang on.

Pretty long, in fact, and I felt decent — never hit a wall or anything. I ended up averaging a 7:25 pace for the whole thing, finishing in 2:28:25. Whew! I came in 7th place female and third in my age group. While I was pumped about the time, I immediately started to worry I’d ruined my marathon by going so hard in what was really supposed to be a training run, three weeks out. 

However, the day after the race, I felt just fine – not at all sore. And I continued to train that week normally, including a hard track workout. All good. So, I decided not to worry about it any more. That 20 miler also topped off a 70-mile week, and I obviously was not tapered or anything. I feel like that’s gotta be a good sign for the marathon. Or, at least not a bad sign! 

Kensington 8K

My plan called for me to run a race two weeks before Chicago that was between 8K and 15K, and way back in May, when I was plotting out my fall marathon training, I saw the Kensington 8K happening on September 24. Perfect! Except, as the day drew closer, I also saw a few other races that fell in the 8K-15K range that I would have preferred to run instead. There was a 13.1K (8+ miles) scheduled for September 25 on the Eastern Shore, and then a 10-miler, my favorite distance, the same weekend in Reston, VA. So I started to have some serious FOMO. When I woke up the morning of the race, I didn’t really want to do it! Shorter distances really are not my thing. 

But! I’m so glad I ran it because I had an amazing race! 32:17/6:30 per mile pace, good enough for first place female master – which came with a $50 cash prize – and fourth overall female. There were some really fast people in this race. Like, I was not even a little bit close to the third place female – she was four minutes ahead of me. The top three females all ran at a sub-six minute average pace! Blazing fast. 

Also, I just really liked the race! It was mostly flat except for one last little hill at around mile 4.5. The weather was fantastic – cool enough for arm sleeves. And, most importantly, we could use the nice bathrooms in the Kensington Town Hall at the start, so I didn’t have to pee in a porta potty! Score! It was a great experience and I shouldn’t have been so sour on it. 

It also has me thinking that maybe a sub-20 5K is within my reach after all. So much so that I switched my Baltimore Running Festival registration from the (hilly) 10K to the (flat) 5K. This race is actually six days after Chicago, so it’s probably still a tall order, but YOLO!   

But first – CHICAGO! Going for that 3:20, but I’ll be happy with any PR (sub-3:26:00!)