Capturing the unicorn: A magical day at the 2022 Boston Marathon

Last month, I ran the 2022 Boston Marathon, my second time running this epic and prestigious race. And it was as magical as I remembered – perhaps more so. 

I didn’t go to Boston with the expectation of running a PR, even though I followed the same training plan from Advanced Marathoning that helped me run my PR of 3:26 last November at the Coastal Delaware marathon. Boston is a notoriously difficult course. The weather usually sucks. And the fact that you start later in the morning than most marathons makes fueling challenging. My main goal was to run a strong race, not blow up on the final 10K like last time, and HAVE FUN. 

I accomplished all of those goals. 

I finished the 126th Boston Marathon in 3:27:52, less than two minutes off my PR, 20 minutes faster than the last time I ran Boston, despite tripping and falling at mile 22. Yep, that happened, but I only sustained skinned knees, thankfully. I’m still on cloud nine over my experience and I am counting the days until Boston 2023! (I re-qualified at Boston, but that was really the icing on the cake since I already had a 2023 BQ from Coastal Delaware.) 

Here is my recap! 

Before the Race

I really didn’t think I’d be as excited about Boston the second time around, but I totally was. I’m not sure the thrill of running this marathon will ever go away, to be honest. It was also the 50th anniversary of female runners being officially allowed to run in the race, so it was a special year to run. That being said, I didn’t do much Boston touristy stuff, since we had done all that the last time, or really even Boston Marathon-related stuff aside from, well, hitting the expo and running the race. Micah and I decided to drive from Maryland the Friday before the race and spend Friday and most of Saturday in beautiful Mystic, Connecticut! We fell in love with this sailing town – not really surprising, as we live outside of Annapolis and Micah works in the sailing industry. We stayed at an Airbnb in an adorable 1800s farmhouse, ate at some delicious local restaurants (yes, including Mystic Pizza!) and had a blast at the Mystic Seaport Museum. I would have wanted to stay longer if we weren’t shippin’ up to Boston. We left Saturday afternoon, but not before I stopped at a local Goodwill to buy a throwaway sweatshirt to wear Monday morning in Athlete’s Village. I walked away with a zip-up from the chi chi Groton School, which, as a graduate of a public high school in Pennsylvania, absolutely cracked me up. $6 – what a deal!

 

We got to Boston a little too late to hit the expo on Saturday, so we just checked into our hotel in Bunker Hill and headed to the North End, home of many amazing Italian restaurants. We went to Riccardo’s, where I impressed the waitress with my ability to hoover a huge plate of gnocchis, then back to the hotel. 

50 years of women running Boston!

The next day was Easter Sunday, and I had to keep reminding myself that it was Easter! We are not religious and don’t have kids, so the holiday is not a big deal to us, but had I not been running the marathon we probably would have gone home to visit my family in Pennsylvania. I did get us reservations for Easter brunch at a trendy restaurant called Beehive – great food and drinks, expensive as hell! – and so we went there after I did a 3-mile shakeout run around Bunker Hill. Then, it was time to go to the expo. Uh, word to the wise, don’t wait until the last day of the expo if you’re trying to buy a bunch of stuff! They were sold out of SO MUCH. I wasn’t too disappointed, as I’d already bought some items online, but I was a little sad that I wasn’t able to get the 2022 version of Spike the Unicorn, which Adidas makes. I did buy a “knockoff” Spike at Marathon Sports, so it’s all good.

Spike 2019 and the unofficial Spike

That evening, I actually did *not* get my usual veggie burger, fries, and beer because we felt like taking it easy and grabbing dinner at the hotel, and they didn’t have my preferred pre-race meal. I got their pasta special and a beer and it was fine, nothing special but it did the job. 

I was in bed before 10 and fell asleep right away, but was rudely awakened around 2 in the morning by a bunch of drunk people screaming and partying outside our room! WTF? Most people at the hotel were there for the race. I almost got up and started yelling at them to keep it down, but someone in another room did the job for me. So rude!

Race Day! 

I woke up raring to go, having already pre-scheduled an Uber to take me to Boston Common, where you board the buses to go to the start line in Hopkinton. I was in wave 2 this year, and my wave was to go off at 10:25. As someone who really fears being late, I got to Boston Common way earlier than was necessary and killed time by hanging out in the same McDonald’s I hung out in three years ago. Chit-chatted with someone who was from my good friend Maura’s hometown (small world), along with a few other runners. I also got to use their bathroom, which I much preferred to a porta-potty.  

Around 7:15, I walked over to the bus area, as my wave was supposed to begin boarding at 7:30. In 2019, I remember just walking over, showing my bib, and hopping right onto a bus. The process took a lot longer this year. A bunch of us stood around for quite some time waiting to get on the bus. Not sure why, maybe there were fewer buses? In any event, I don’t think I boarded until after 8:30 and the ride takes about 45 minutes. I was a bit stressed since I knew I’d need to use the porta-potty in Athlete’s Village and the lines there would be long. But in the end, everything was fine. I didn’t have a ton of extra time. Once I got to Athlete’s Village, I hopped in the porta-potty line, did my business, and then it was time to start walking the 0.9 mile walk to the start line. But, no big deal. I love walking through Hopkinton to the start line. People are out in their front yards and they are already cheering for you, before you’ve even done the race! It’s the coolest thing! 

And then before I knew it – we were off! 

The First Half

It’s really easy to screw yourself in Boston by going out too fast. OK, that can and does happen in any marathon, but especially in Boston. That’s because there is a lot of downhill in the first half of the marathon! I reminded myself I needed to hold back, that I needed to hold a pace no faster than the low 8s. I ran the first mile in 8:03, which I was happy with, but then I started to speed up. Whoops. Ran mile 2 in 7:53, 3 in 7:50, and 4 in 7:47. But it all felt good, super comfortable, and I just decided to roll with it. If I blew up, I blew up. Having fun was more important.

The crowds were freaking INSANE. They were amazeballs in 2019, but this year was something special. I think everyone was just so excited to have the Boston Marathon on Patriots Day again, for the first time since the pandemic started. I can’t even begin to tell you what my favorite sign was. Possibly the huge sign at mile 5 at a local bar that said You Go Girls! 50 Years of Women Running! Or maybe it was the huge cardboard cutout Will Smith head? (Definitely a fan favorite!) They were just the best and had me smiling the entire way from Hopkinton to Boston. I high-fived so many kids. And of course, the Wellesley girls absolutely brought it in the Scream Tunnel. Pretty sure I heard them from a mile away. Sadly, I did not see any runners making out with any of the girls this year! 

My spits were really consistent through this part of the race and I was feeling great. The weather was about as good as it gets for Boston – low 50s, no wind. I was wearing a singlet, shorts, arm warmers, and running gloves, and I thought about ditching the gloves and/or arm warmers because it was sunny and I was getting pretty warm. But I decided to hold onto them.  

Mile 5– 7:57

Mile 6 – 7:50

Mile 7 – 7:50 

Mile 8–  7:57

Mile 9 – 7:49

Mile 10 – 7:49

Mile 11 – 7:58

Mile 12 – 7:46

Mile 13 – 7:50

Like I said – super freaking consistent! But I knew the Newton Hills were coming and that’s when the race really starts to get tough – not just because you’re more than halfway through a marathon, but because you start hitting the uphills. At some point around the half marathon point, I felt something pop on my left foot that was mildly uncomfortable. I wondered if I’d lost a toenail. (Sorry, I know that’s gross!) It bothered me for a minute, then I didn’t notice it anymore. It ended up being a popped blister. Yeah, still nasty. Runners are repulsive people, what can I say? 

Miles 14-21

I really didn’t slow down through Newton, and I attribute that to 1. Seeking out hilly long run routes and 2. Just being better trained in general. I didn’t do any specific hill repeats as part of this plan, but it didn’t matter.

Mile 14 – 7:54

Mile 15 – 7:54

Mile 16 – 7:38

Mile 17 – 7:58

Mile 18– 7:49

Mile 19– 7:44

Mile 20 – 7:45

The infamous Heartbreak Hill is at mile 20-21 and honestly? It’s not that bad. (If you’re local to me, I’d say the Naval Academy Bridge is steeper and harder.) It’s just where it comes in the race that makes it difficult. But yet again, the crowds were so wild this year that they took my mind off of the hill. So many people were out cheering us on, telling us “This is your moment! You have worked hard for this!” They made me feel like an elite athlete! I finished mile 21 in 8:02, my slowest mile since the first mile.  

The Fall

After Heartbreak, there is a lot of downhill from Brookline through the finish. In 2019, my quads were dying by this point – this year, I felt strong. And again, I attribute that to better training. I crossed the mile 22 mark in 7:36 – fastest mile of the race! – and then, shortly after that, I bit it. 

Right there in the middle of the Boston Marathon. 

I don’t really know how it happened, other than I was in the zone, going downhill, and there was a pothole. Before I knew it, I was landing on the ground, palms face down – and was happy that I’d kept my gloves on, because that spared my hands from being too wounded! I was more in shock than anything else and looked behind me to see a flood of other runners coming. I hoped I wouldn’t get trampled on! No one offered to help me up and I was kind of surprised by that. I know we were all excited to get to Boylston Street, but geez, if I had seen a runner fall, I would have stopped to help him or her up. That said, I really was fine. Just skinned knees. I picked myself up and started to run again, and a bunch of spectators cheered for me! 

I hit the mile 23 mark in 8:04, slowest of the race thus far, but certainly not bad considering the fall! I was keeping my eyes peeled for Micah, since I knew he’d plan to wait for me in Brookline, where he and my parents and sister went to spectate in 2019. I saw him right there at mile 24, before he even saw me, and called out to him. He waved to me and yelled “Reel in the Citgo sign!” This is the famous landmark at mile 25, but you can see it at mile 24. I responded by throwing up deuces, to signify that I only had two miles left, and he later said he was confused by that, but that I looked happy and strong. Haha. 

With the sun blazing down on me, I was pretty hot by this point. I stopped briefly at a water stop, dumped water on myself, and walked for a few seconds. Ran mile 24 in 8:03.

By this point in the race, the spectators were absolutely deafening and I was just taking it all in, knowing it was almost over. This part of the race is mostly flat, but there is a little hill almost at the end, right before you make the turn onto Hereford. It’s really not bad – it just comes at the end so it seems pretty hard. 

I don’t think making the iconic right turn onto Hereford, left turn onto Boylston will ever get old. Seeing the Hereford sign in 2019 really made me choke up, and I got emotional again this year. I had all the feelings – exhaustion, pride, joy. And I was a bit sad that it was all coming to an end, at least for another year. 

Mile 25 – 7:56

Mile 26 – 8:12 (I blame that last little hill)

Last bit – 2:41 (My watch registered 26.37 miles, likely due to weaving around other runners)

I was determined to get a good finish line photo this year, since I’m barely visible in my finish line photos from 2019! When I crossed the finish line, I threw my hands in the air and flashed the peace sign. And I got great photos, which of course I bought!  

After I walked through the finishers chute, a volunteer put my medal around my neck and then another wrapped me in a heat blanket. All I wanted to do was sit down – even though I felt so good for most of the race, that course will beat you up! – and I tried to sit down on a curb, but a volunteer gently scolded me and told me to keep moving. “We don’t want you cramping up,” she said. Of course she was right. She also directed me to the warming buses near the family meetup area. I don’t remember those from 2019, but of course it was hot that year. Even though I’d felt warm enough to dump water on myself during the marathon, once I quit running, I was cold. 

I got on the bus, called Micah and started to respond to the many text messages of congratulations that I had received from friends and family who were tracking me. My mom told me to go to the medical tent and get my wound cleaned out. I would not have done so otherwise, because seriously, I felt OK. But I guess it’s good that they did. The medical volunteer who helped me asked if I wanted her to take my picture, and of course I said yes. This picture of me in the medical tent, holding my 2022 medal, may be my favorite post-race picture ever. 

Reuniting with Micah after that was a bit of a cluster – the marathon is super high security following the 2013 bombings, and he and I did a really bad job of coordinating where to meet afterwards. We didn’t find each other for over an hour, and by then I was shivering and so tired and just ready to go back to the hotel room. We will do better next year. We decided to take the T back because an Uber would have cost us $50 (hellooooo surge pricing!) and that ended up being a bright spot because a very nice lady in the station handed me a pin that was a replica of the marathon medal. She said she and her mom make them every year for finishers and give them away for free. So sweet. It really is amazing how much the people of Boston support the marathon and the runners.

We’d planned to go to the Mile 27 afterparty at Fenway that evening, but once we got back to the hotel, I decided I was too cold. (The weather was great for running, not so much for partying outside, plus the wind had picked up.) Instead, we went to an amazing Mediterranean restaurant near the hotel called Sarma. If you are in the Bunker Hill area, check them out! 

See you on April 17, 2023! 

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