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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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!!)
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!
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 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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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!)
I’ve always considered myself to be a lower mileage marathon runner. For years, I’ve followed other runners on Instagram who regularly run 60, 70, 80 mile weeks when marathon training. I, on the other hand, usually peak in the 50s. Hal Higdon’s Advanced 2 marathon training plan had me peaking at 53, and I think there were maybe two or three other weeks where I hit 50 miles on that plan – most of the weeks were in the 45-mile range. And that worked for me– I qualified for Boston three times following it.
Seeing some success with higher mileage, I decided to bump up my training for the Chicago Marathon and have been following a modified version of Pfitzinger’s 12/70 program, so I am peaking at 70 miles over 12 weeks. I say modified because I was supposed to hit 70 miles per week in my sixth week of training, but I was a little nervous since I’ve never run that kind of mileage before. So far, my weekly mileage has been 55 for week 1, 59 for week 2, 55 for week 3, 64 for week 4, 59 for week 5, and 62 for week 6. I just finished week 7 and ran 66 miles. This week, I’ll enjoy a cutback week with 61 miles, and then I’ll hit 70 the week after that before easing into the taper. There were also some days where I had 13-15 miles on the agenda on a weekday, and I broke those into doubles (usually, 10 in the morning and 3-5 in the evening, depending on the daily mileage. That’s just an awful lot to run all at once on a workday.) So far, I am feeling pretty decent. Just tired and hungry all of the time!
Since I started training, I’ve run two races, and both have gone great – so I am feeling pretty content with this plan! Here’s a quick recap of the two races I just ran!
The Annapolis Ten Mile Run
If you’ve followed me for a while, you know this is my favorite race. But I’ve had some great A10s and some really bad ones. The race was canceled the last two years due to COVID, and I really missed it. I was quite excited when I learned it would return in 2022 and signed up for it the day registration opened. The 2022 A10 fell at the end of week 6 of training, and I didn’t quite know what to expect. My legs were obviously going to be tired, and the weather was typical of August in Maryland – hot and humid. The night before the race, I asked my husband Micah if he thought I could run 1:10 and he outright laughed at me! I reminded him I ran the Cherry Blossom Ten Miler in 1:08:03, and he countered that that was on a cool day. (It was also on a flat course – the A10 is hilly.) No matter – I decided to line up just behind the 1:10 pacer and see if I could hold on.
And it paid off!
This was my 8th time running this race, so I pretty much know the course like the back of my hand and it always seems to go by so fast, no matter what pace I am running. And I felt like that was the case this time. The first three miles, around the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, down Rowe Boulevard and Main Street, zipped by, in 7:08, 6:55 and 7:05. The 1:10 group was a little bit in front of me, but I was able to keep them in my sight. Then we were going up and down the Naval Academy Bridge (7:07 for mile 4) and into Pendennis Mount. When I crossed the timing mat at mile 5 (another 7:07) a volunteer told me I was the 20th female! Pretty good for a big race like the A10.
Then it was up and down B&A Boulevard for mile 6 (7:09) and 7 (7:06) and back toward the bridge. I picked up a lot of speed in the last three miles, which I was happy about! I ran mile 8 in 6:53 and mile 9 in 6:55 – special thanks to the mid who sprayed me with a hose at the mile 9 water stop! (Did I mention it was hot and humid AF out?!)
My final mile was 6:57 and just as I was turning the last corner to go up to the finish at the stadium, I heard a “Go Allison!” Micah had pulled up on his motorcycle just in time to see me finish. The announcer called out my time as 1:11, but I later learned that my chip time was actually 1:10:40, so I was quite happy to prove Micah wrong!
While not a PR, this was a huge course PR. My previous fastest A10 was 1:15, set five years ago. I also won my age group, which was a first. The A10 is pretty competitive, but I am in a new age group (hello Masters runner!) Check out this great mug I won, created by Annapolis Pottery!
Can’t wait for the 2023 race!
Mike Sterling 10K
This little race takes place every Labor Day weekend in Crisfield, Maryland, a town on the Chesapeake Bay that sits at the southernmost point in Maryland. I hadn’t initially been planning to race a 10K over Labor Day, but I saw Vanessa of She Runs By the Seashore post about it on Instagram. That week, I was supposed to run a 12 miler with 7 miles at 15K to half marathon pace. Truth be told, I don’t love long solo speed workouts and would much rather just run a race. Hmmm, this 10K sounds fun, I thought. I figured if I could find a cheap enough Airbnb, then I would travel for the race over two hours away from my house (further than I realized at first!) I did find a great Airbnb for less than $100 in town and Micah and I drove down to the Eastern Shore after work on Friday of Labor Day weekend.
I wasn’t totally sure what to expect from this race, either. My 10K PR is going to be a tough one to beat, ever – 39:33 at the Bay Bridge Run in 2021. But I knew this course was flat and fast, so I thought I could run it in maybe 42 minutes.
I actually finished in 40:52 and was first overall female! So excited about that – and most thrilled with how I paced it and how I was able to stay consistent when the last two miles got tough.
The race began at 7:30 right at the Crisfield City Dock, and it was definitely warm and humid, but nowhere near as bad as the A10 was. I lined up at the front and went out the gate at a sub-7 pace. I ran mile 1 6:33 and mile 2 in 6:35. Somewhere in mile 2, I think, the woman who came in second place passed me and I didn’t think I’d be able to catch her, but then I did during mile 3 (6:37). I ran mile 4 in 6:39 and that’s when I started to feel really gassed. But I wasn’t going to give up and instead focused on the man who was running about 50 yards ahead of me. Just follow him, I told myself. And it worked! I ran both miles 5 and 6 in 6:35. It may not have been a PR, but this was easily the best pacing job I have ever done in a 10K. Maybe in any race, ever!
As top female, I was awarded a handmade anchor crafted by a local artist. Unfortunately, as I was putting stuff in my car after the race, I absentmindedly put the award on top of my car and freaking drove off without it! I was absolutely devastated. But! I emailed the race director and the race crew found it! They are going to mail it to me. I’m so happy! It was such a special prize.
This was a nice local race and it was worth the drive to do it. My only regret is that I did not get a Smith Island Cake while I was there. (Yes, I know you can get them all over Maryland – but we were so close to Smith Island! I still need to make a trip there some time.)
Week 8 of training begins tomorrow – I’m so close to taper I can taste it. I can’t wait to run the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 9 and hopefully finish around 3 hours and 20 minutes. And then I’m running the Philly Marathon on Nov. 20. Still haven’t decided exactly how I am going to approach training for that. Chicago is definitely my “A” race, so I’ll probably just work on maintaining my fitness after that’s over. It would be nice to run a BQ time at both and I feel pretty confident I can do that. Really, I just want a PR in Chicago!
Have you ever run marathons close together like that – and if so, how did you approach them? Let me know!
If you’re a regular reader of this blog, or you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that 5Ks are my running kryptonite. I think they are, hands down, the hardest distance. If you truly push yourself to your limit, nothing hurts more, in my opinion. Not even the marathon.
At least they’re over quickly?
And every time I run a 5K, I say to myself – that’s it. I am DONE with this distance. And yet. I keep registering for them, mainly because other people ask me to do them and I have a hard time saying no!
But this time, I might REALLY be done with 5Ks until 2023, because I just ran three 5Ks in three weeks. Surely, I have met my quota for the year!
Here’s a look back at my personal 5K series!
Father’s Day 5K Farm Festival: 23:38
My friend Josh, who is also a Rip It Events ambassador, told me about this one and encouraged me to sign up. (He actually loves 5Ks and says it’s his favorite distance. Wild!) I agreed to run and true to form, did zero research about the course or anything. So imagine my surprise when the race organizer sent an email to participants the day before and casually mentioned that it would be 99% on grass. The hell? I never ran cross country or anything in high school, and I barely do any trail running (too prone to falling!) This should be interesting! I thought. I already knew I wasn’t in 5K PR shape, but I really had no idea what to expect. My main goal was not to trip and fall, or twist my ankle on the grass.
The race, held at the Baltimore County Ag Center, actually reminded me of the hellish Red, White and Blue Mountain 5K that Staci and I have run twice together, and she ran for the third time this year. And it was definitely one of the slowest 5Ks I’ve run in recent years. Not only was the course almost all on the grass, but it was HILLY and I went out way, way too fast. Once I finished the first mile, I felt like I was already bonking, and the next two miles were torture. I had to stop and walk a few times, which always sucks in a 5K. At least the weather was good – high 60s at the start (almost unheard of for June in Maryland!), though it was pretty windy.
Overall, I actually did pretty well. I came in third place female with a 23:38 (7:37 pace) – the second place female passed me just before we hit mile 3 – and won my age group, and I received a $25 gift card that’s good for some Baltimore restaurants. And we got pizza and beer after the race, always a plus! I can’t say I was disappointed in my time since I had no real expectations, and I got to try something new, so that’s a win in my book!
Dewey Beach Patrol 5K: 20:33
OK, so this 5K I signed up for without any peer pressure, so I have no one to blame but myself. 🙂 When I found out my family vacation to Rehoboth was happening on June 25, I immediately started looking for a local race and found this annual 5K. (Four years ago, I ran the 10K version of the race – the 10K appears to have been discontinued.) When I woke up this morning of the race, I told my husband, “I wish this was a 10 miler!” It’s true! But I got ready and ran into Dewey for the race. It started at the northbeach bar, about two miles from the beach house my family rented, so that was a nice warmup. Dewey and Rehoboth are flat as can be, so I knew it would be a fast course.
And it went well! The course went from northbeach into the residential neighborhoods of Dewey and then back to northbeach. Not a hill to be seen. I focused on pushing hard and trying not to look at my watch too much. I had seen ahead of time that the first place Masters female would win a $25 gift card, so I was hoping I could maybe win that.
And I did! At the turnaround around mile 1.5, some other runners started calling out to me that I was in second place. (The first place female was a 16-year-old girl who finished in a blistering 18:08. Her 15-year-old brother came in first place male with a 16:40! Fast family!) I felt the way I always do halfway through a 5K – like death. I just kept telling myself it would be over soon. I ended up finishing in 20:33 (6:37 pace) – four seconds off my PR! – and was thrilled with that.
I won a wine glass that I sadly left at the beach house – it’s OK because I have a bunch of them from previous beach races – and a $25 gift card that was good for several of the bars in Dewey. Of course, I almost missed the awards ceremony altogether because I was drinking a beer at the after party. Typical.
Race4TheWorld 5K: 17:35
OK, don’t get too excited! I did not run a 17:35 5K. The course was a half mile short!
This race happened on Fourth of July, and Race4TheWorld reached out to me on Instagram to ask me if I would be interested in running it. The race benefitted Luminus, a Howard County-based nonprofit that helps immigrants. Full disclosure, they offered me a free race entry as well as some extra comp codes! The race took place at Merriweather Post Pavilion and at the start of the race, the company that was handling the timing said they had had to unexpectedly shorten the course. No idea why. I wasn’t too bummed about it, though. I’d just run a really strong 5K a week before, and I wasn’t going for a PR. Also, as I just said, I always feel like death when I’m halfway through a 5K. Cut the race a little short? No problem!
The race was in and around Merriweather, and it was quite hilly, as all races in Columbia are. We started right there in front of the concert stage, and immediately went up a short but steep hill, then circled the area and ran on the tree-lined paths around the venue. I was behind one other woman for about the first half mile, then was able to pass her and held onto the first place spot (among females) until the end. My average pace was 6:48, and I think I could have held onto that had it been a true 5K. I still felt completely gassed at the end. I won a $25 gift certificate to The Common Kitchen, a food emporium in Clarksville, so I am looking forward to checking that out.
Thanks again to Race4TheWorld for inviting me to run the race! You can learn more about all the great work Luminis does here.
I actually don’t have any more races planned until Aug. 28, when I run the Annapolis Ten Mile Run – my very favorite race! It was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID, and I am so happy it’s back! That kicks off a BUSY few months of racing. I think I am racing something like every weekend in September.
And then I run the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 9 and the Philly Marathon on Nov. 20! I start training in earnest on July 18, but I’ve been running upwards of 40 miles a week the last few weeks so I’m already kind of in training mode. The plan I am about to start following is intense and I want to make sure I have a good base in place before I really start hammering it hard.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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!
And suddenly, the 2022 Boston Marathon is a little more than a week away and I’m in taper mode. How did that happen?
I think my training has gone pretty close to perfectly and the weeks have flown by. I really like the 12-week plan from Advanced Marathoning that I followed last fall and then again this winter. First, I think 12 weeks is my sweet spot for marathon training – it’s long enough to get me in shape, yet short enough that I don’t get bored with it. Second, the plan is easily the most effective one I’ve ever followed. I’m running times I never thought would be possible for me, and I think I have that plan to thank for it.
I ran three races in March – two 10 milers and a 5K. All of them went really well! Here’s a recap of each of them.
The Tim Kennard River Run 10 Miler
My training plan advised that I race either an 8K or a 15K the weekend of March 20-21, so I was excited to see the Tim Kennard River Run 10 Miler was happening in Salisbury on March 20. (15K = 9.3 miles, so that’s close enough.) The race is named after Tim Kennard, a local runner who passed away in 2004 of renal cancer, and the proceeds fund organizations that help children and animals. I love 10 milers – I think that’s my favorite distance. I had also read good things about it from Vanessa with She Runs By the Seashore. Salisbury is about two hours from where I live in Anne Arundel County, so my husband and I decided to make a weekend out of it and stay in an Airbnb on the Eastern Shore, in a small town called Snow Hill about 20 minutes away from the race’s start/finish line. The race was on a Sunday, so I did my 17-mile long run on Saturday and then we hit the road. I wasn’t too worried about running a long run and then racing 10 miles the next day – I did that when I ran Cherry Blossom last fall and had a great race. We stopped in Berlin, which has tons of antique shops and bills itself as America’s coolest small town. We ate dinner at an excellent restaurant called Blacksmith and then relaxed in the adorable Airbnb, which was a two-story apartment that was part of an old house. It was so charming that I wish we could have stayed for longer – I’d love to go back sometime.
Easy logistics are the best thing about a small town race! The race began and ended at a local church in Salisbury, and packet pickup and a full on breakfast spread was set up inside. There was plenty of parking and we had time to hang out inside the church hall while we waited for the start of the race. Thank you to all the church members who came out to help! Everyone was so nice.
I really didn’t know what to expect as far as my time here. I ran a 1:11 last fall in the rescheduled Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run, which was a two-minute PR, and I thought that was pretty solid. But I also knew I was in good shape, maybe better shape, and the weather was good and the course was flat. So I thought maybe 1:10ish was possible. I also thought I could possibly win the Masters female race and come home with an extra $50 in my pocket.
I ended up finishing in 1:09:12 (6:55 average pace) and was third overall female (which came with a $100 check!) I was pretty shocked – and thrilled – that I broke 1:10 by that much. I saw that I was averaging a sub-7 pace in the first three miles, and thought I was maybe going too fast, but I felt good so I just went with it. I really liked running around Salisbury, a town I had never been to before. We ran through some very pretty neighborhoods along the river! My only real complaint, which obviously no one can control, was the aggressive wind. OMG. During the part of the race where we ran through downtown Salisbury, the headwind was insane. (Why is it never a tailwind?) There weren’t a ton of people out on the course spectating, but the ones that were there were enthusiastic and encouraging. Around mile 7, I caught up to the woman who ended up finishing second, Maria. Pretty much everyone we passed yelled out “Go Maria!” I told her she obviously has lots of fans in the area and she said she lives in Salisbury and runs a lot of local races. She and I were neck and neck with each other until about mile 9, when she passed me for good and I was never able to catch her (though I was close behind.) As we were nearing the finish, I saw the vehicle that was leading the front runners was right in front of us and so I knew we were among the top female finishers. But I had no idea what place I was in – and when I crossed the finish line, stopped my Garmin, and saw my time, I didn’t really care! 1:09:12! It wasn’t that long ago when I had a hard time running a sub-7 minute place in a 5K, so that was extremely exciting.
I initially was told that I finished in fourth place, and was first Masters female, but then learned that the woman who they thought was second place accidentally took a wrong turn and was disqualified. That really sucks! So Maria came in second and I came in third. Again, that was great, and so was the $100 in prize money, but I was happiest about my finish time.
Overall, I loved this flat, fast race and would like to do it again some day – and the Eastern Shore is such a pretty part of my wonderful state. Very glad I did it.
Barlowe Bolt 5K
I love to hate 5Ks!
Seriously, when you really push yourself, there is nothing more painful than a 5K! I signed up to run the Barlowe Bolt with my 5 Peaks kickboxing friends the week after the Tim Kennard 10 Miler. I’ve run this race three times before, in 2018, 2019, and 2020. I won the race in 2020 and set my 5K PR of 20:29 then. I did not run in 2021 because the race happened the same day as the Tidewater Striders BQ Marathon. This year, I thought maybe I could win again and even beat my PR. Maybe I could even break 20 minutes? It didn’t seem out of the question with my recent 10 mile time!
Well, I did win the race – first female and first finisher, period! – but I did not break 20 minutes or even PR. My time was 20:39, so 10 seconds off my 20:29 PR. I wasn’t disappointed by it – as I said, 5Ks are not my thing.
The whole thing was kind of a blur, as 5Ks are. It was about 48 degrees on race morning and I was wearing a singlet, shorts, and arm warmers, which everyone thought was hilarious. “Where are your clothes?” multiple people asked me. I get really warm when I run and what I was wearing ended up being ideal! I lined up at the front and took off with two men, a younger kid and an older man who ended up coming in first place male. They were a few feet ahead of me for the first mile, and when I saw my friend Cindy on one of the turnarounds, she yelled out to me, “They’re the only two in front of you! You can catch them!” I ended up passing the younger guy about halfway through the race and the other guy some time in mile two. It hurt. I think that’s my problem with 5Ks– I have a hard time really making myself HURT for 3.1 miles. I prefer the slow burn of a longer distance race. The Barlowe Bolt is also pretty hilly. I don’t know if I’ll ever break 20 minutes, or even if I really care that much about it, but I probably need a flatter course to do so.
All in all, it was a fun morning with friends. And I won $40 in gift cards to Giant! Groceries are awfully expensive these days, so I was pretty happy with that.
Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run
Once again, my plan recommended a race this weekend – either a 10K or a 15K, and the Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run was once again being held in the spring with things inching back to normal as COVID starts to fade into the background a little bit. I am honestly surprised at how well this race went. I thought I’d set a really strong PR at Tim Kennard and wasn’t expecting to beat that so soon. I figured I’d finish in the 1:10-1:12 range and be totally happy with that. Just like last fall, I also had a 16-mile run to do that weekend, so I did that the day before the race.
I ended up PRing again, this time running a 1:08:03, a 6:49/mile pace – WOW! (My Garmin actually clocked just over 10 miles, 10.07 miles to be exact, which was a 6:46 pace. It doesn’t really matter either way.) Given how competitive this race is – a lot of pros and elite athletes come out for it – I did not get any kind of award, but I didn’t expect to. I came in 13th in my age group. Interestingly, last fall my 1:11 also got me 13th, but I know that the rescheduled race was much less popular with runners (I mean, the whole point is the cherry blossoms, which are not there in the fall!)
I admit that I cursed myself a little bit for signing up for this on race morning. As logistically easy as Tim Kennard was, Cherry Blossom – and really, any race or event in DC – was pretty much the opposite. Back in the fall, the Metro opened early and I was able to take the orange line right to the start at the National Mall. But this time, the Metro didn’t open early enough. So I had to drive. With no traffic early in the morning, it only took me about a half hour, and I had booked a parking spot ahead of time through a parking app. But of course Google Maps got confused, because DC is confusing, and took me to the wrong garage. Luckily, I figured it out. The garage was about a mile from the start, so I was glad I allowed myself plenty of time to get there. Then I decided to check a bag with a jacket to wear after the race. I never do this and I may not make a habit of it. UPS was handling the baggage check and the trucks were late – they didn’t start accepting the bags until around 7, and I still had to pee and make it to my corral in time for the 7:30 start! It was so stressful, because I hate rushing around, but I did make it with time to spare. I decided to line up with the 7 minute/mile group and see how I felt.
I ended up staying with the pacer for the first two miles, then pulled ahead. As in Tim Kennard, I was feeling good and just decided to see how long I could roll with the pace. And it paid off. This race is also fast and flat, and I do think 10 milers are where I shine. It’s kind of funny to think I can run a 10 miler at a 6:49/pace, yet my current 5K pace isn’t much faster than that. When my Garmin beeped at every mile marker, I would look down and see a pace in the high 6:30s or 6:40s and think, “Really? OK!” I felt like I was working hard, but that the pace was sustainable. The weather was absolutely perfect – high 40s, no wind, not too sunny, no precip – and there were tons of spectators cheering us on. And yes, it sure was nice to see cherry blossoms this time!
I didn’t start to really feel the pain until probably mile 8. At that point, I heard some other runners talking about Boston and I told them I was running, too. The one guy said how nice it would be to see the marathon happening in April again. Due to COVID, the Boston Marathon hasn’t happened on Patriots Day for three years, since the last and only other time I ran the race! We hit mile 9 and he said, “OK, one mile to go until the taper!” I told him I was ready!
I actually had no idea I was PRing until I stopped my Garmin after crossing the finish, as I didn’t have it set to elapsed time. When I saw 1:08, I was pretty shocked. More than a minute faster than Tim Kennard!
I even ordered one of the official race photos, which I never do because they are always so expensive, with my time overlaid on it. I can’t wait to get it!
Is This My Peak?
I’m really excited about my recent string of PRs, both last fall and this spring, and it definitely has me wondering how much longer I’ll be able to run like this. I turn 42 in July, and it’s inevitable that I’ll slow down eventually. I also know that running “success” ebbs and flows. I was on fire in the fall of 2017, PRing in several distances and running my first BQ. In 2018, I was running slower than I had in years – probably due to a combination of training mistakes and life stressors. Then over the next few years, I started to get faster again, and then in the fall of 2021 I had some major breakthroughs. I don’t know what’s around the corner for me, running-wise, but I’m determined to keep having fun with it. Bring on Boston 2022!