How I Broke a World Record

I’m a big believer in writing down your goals and saying them out loud. That way you’re physically putting them into existence and holding yourself accountable at the same time. I spoke a goal of mine into existence over six years ago and have been holding myself accountable ever since.

In March, I broke the world record for the youngest, fastest woman to run all six World Marathon Majors—Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, New York City, and Tokyo. Every year, the best professional runners and wheelchair athletes in the world compete in these races alongside everyday runners, and no matter if you’re a two-hour or a five-hour marathoner, getting all “six stars” (completing all six of these races), is highly coveted and respected in the sport.

I’m neither the youngest person to complete all six of the World Marathon Majors, nor the fastest, but I’m the youngest, fastest woman—meaning I’m the youngest woman to get all six of my stars in the fastest cumulative times. What’s been awesome is that the whole time I’ve been chasing down this goal (literally), I’ve gotten to travel, meet some really incredible runners, and experience some very different cultures. Here’s a breakdown of my journey over the past six years and how I ultimately got the job done.


World Marathon Major #1: The Bank of America Chicago Marathon, October 2016, 3:06:55

Ally with the marathon finisher flag around her body and a bottle of PWR lift

I had just finished my fifth and final year running at the D1 level for Loyola University Chicago, and a few of my former teammates and I signed up for the Chicago Marathon for fun. To be fair, we still had a lot of fitness from our collegiate running career that we could carry over to this race, but since we were doing it for fun, we just cruised through the race, winding our way through the beautiful city of the Chicago, the same city we had run through every day for the past five years, chatting the whole way. Of course, as any marathon does, no matter how hard you’ve trained, it got tough during the last 10K, but we relatively coasted our way through our first 26.2.


World Marathon Major #2: The TCS London Marathon, April 2019, 2:54:49

A picture of Ally in New York with a marathon badge but dressed in denimss

To preface this race, a lot happened between my first marathon and this one. In the fall of 2017, I dropped out of the New York City Marathon around mile 22 due to debilitating stomach problems. Then in 2018, I never made it to the starting line of the Boston Marathon because of a broken tibia, and I barely made it to the finish of another Chicago Marathon because of those same stomach issues that plagued me in NYC.

When I crossed the finish line in St. James Park, just past Buckingham Palace, it felt amazing to overcome all of my struggles in the past three years and put together a race I was proud of. I was at the point in my marathon career where I knew I was fit, but I surprised myself that I was fast enough to be the tenth American woman at the race that day. I just wanted to break three hours to stay on pace to break the world record, but it was after London when I realized that I could be internationally competitive in the sport of marathoning.


World Marathon Major #3: The TCS New York City Marathon, November 2019, 2:57:20

A picture of Ally talking with a friend

I guess that I got a little too confident after my performance in London because I went out faster than I could handle at that point in time. I felt great running through four out of the five boroughs, but when I reached the Bronx, all of the hills and bridges caught up to me and my body started basically shutting down. I knew what the marathon term “hitting the wall” meant, but I thought for some reason that I was above ever experiencing it. False. Assumption.

I was still happy with my time, and I was still on track to break the world record. NYC and Boston are known for being the toughest of the World Major Marathon courses, and I let the roaring crowds carry me through to finish under three hours.


World Marathon Major #4: Boston Marathon, April 2022, 2:55:00

Ally running a marathon

No one could have seen a global pandemic on the horizon, but it’s safe to say that races were put on hold for about two years due to circumstances out of my control. Not to mention, the years were going by, and time was literally running out before I would be too old to break the world record. Then, in the spring and summer of 2021, I pinched my sciatic nerve and followed that injury up with a very painful Morton’s Neuroma flare-up, taking me out of running for eight months total.

In the fall, I slowly crawled out of the injury hole, rehabbing my body one piece at a time. I found my way back to running. I went back to training with my amazing teammates on Central Park Track Club, and started working with our new, world-class coach. I found my marathon groove in the knick of time, and this race was one I was really proud of, especially with a tough course like the legendary Boston Marathon.


World Marathon Major #5: The BMW Berlin Marathon, September 2022, 2:58:54

Ally and a female friend with medals around their neck

I was really fit for this race, maybe in the best marathon shape of my life, so I felt ready to take a risk right from mile one, running the first 20 miles about 10-15 seconds per mile faster than I had trained to run the race at. I felt great through 20 miles, and then I felt absolutely horrible for the last six, hitting the wall much harder even than my 2019 NYC Marathon.

I got to the point where the medical team had to come collect me after the race because I had almost passed out at the finish line, fighting my way just to make it to the Brandenburg Gate. I thought I was going to have a breakthrough race in Berlin, but it turns I just wasn’t ready for that next-level pace quite yet.


World Marathon Major #6: The Tokyo Marathon, March 2023, 2:53:11

Ally celebrating at the Tokyo marathon

This race was a total culmination of every marathon lesson that I’ve learned so far, every obstacle that I’ve overcome, every mile I’ve run, and, really, the goal of breaking the world record itself. My training cycle was the best one I’d put together yet, I paced myself perfectly, I had my race fueling down to a science, and I was able to put it all together for a personal record by nearly two-minutes.

I was the ninth American woman to cross the finish line, and I finally broke the world record that I set out to conquer over six years prior. It never felt sweeter than crossing that finish line in Japan.

Ally running during a marathon

For anyone out there thinking about running a marathon, or going after any other XL athletic goal, I have a couple of takeaways from this world-record-breaking marathon experience that may be helpful to you:

  1. Your goal is serious, but don’t take yourself too seriously. Dream big and work hard, but don’t forget to laugh along the way.
  2. Surround yourself with people who lift you up on your journey—training buddies, coaches, and supportive partners, family, and friends (and in my case, hey, it doesn’t hurt to work for a brand full of like-minded athletes who support my goals and let me write long blogs about them 😉).
  3. No matter how good you get, you’re never an expert. You’re always a student. Sports will continue to humble you, and you should let them. Stay learning.
  4. Most importantly, stick with it. Committing is not the hardest part, but rather, the followthrough. It’s much more mental than physical, because as any athletic or life journey goes, the path is never straight, with many bumps in the road.

You’re going to have a rough days, rough weeks, even rough months or years. You’re going to have bad workouts.

You’re going to want to throw in the towel when it gets tough, but staying the course is SO WORTH IT. Nothing beats the feeling of accomplishment, when you dream big and then you make your own dream come true, through hard work and pure grit.

When you cross that finish line, when you reach that goal, knowing it was yourself who got you there, that’s really special, and nothing and no one can ever take that moment, that time in your life, away from you.

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