You know you have been quarantined a long time when you start seeing a pink unicorn trotting down the road.
If you live in North Potomac, Rockville and Gaithersburg, that’s exactly what you’ve seen for about a month, if you’re lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the happy little half-horse. The Pink Unicorn — actually, Tammy Massie of Gaithersburg in costume — has made her route through these Montgomery County neighborhoods, along Great Seneca Highway, Md. 28 and Muddy Branch Road.
Now, The Pink Unicorn is making it easier for the public to spot her. She has launched a Facebook page so followers can find out when she might be trotting by. They also can watch her do chores around her house, thank the UPS delivery person, and even donate blood at the Red Cross. (This unicorn’s blood, fittingly, is O negative, the universal donor and a rare blood type).
Increasing the chances for unicorn-spotters is in her nature. Massie, 48, works as a statistician for the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
A few years ago, she was a statistician in the vaccine group for the Food and Drug Administration, working on projects related to the pandemic flu.
“I got burned out doing the FDA work. It is one of those things where you work one too many pandemics and you are a workaholic and it’s fine or you have other things you want to do. I work hard and play hard,” she said.
The Pink Unicorn (that’s her official name in costumer) logs about three miles each time she gallops out of her Gaithersburg home. If it’s not too windy, that happens three or more times a week. The unicorn’s pace is about a 17-minute mile.
By her calculations, she has run tens of thousands of miles along these same routes in North Potomac. That familiarity helps her keep her footing in the 5-pound costume.
“I just thought it would be a fun thing to do,” she said.
Tammy Massie of Gaithersburg (photo by Krista Brick)
Originally, Massie bought the costume hoping to wear it during one of her ultramarathons.
“When I first put it on, I thought I bit off a little more than I could chew,” she said. “It changes your gait a bit.”
She’s happy to stop and kick a soccer ball, chat with children and just spread her rainbow-and-sparkle disposition. It’s a demeanor she learned as a Disney employee.
“When you work at Disney, you have to put anything bothering you aside when you are on the park. It’s the same when I put on the unicorn,” she said.
Massie started running in about fifth grade and was on the track and cross-country teams for Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, now known as Stockton University.
Her first marathon was the Marine Corps Marathon in 2004. She’s run a marathon a month since then, with her last one coming in March.
She said she has completed more than 400 marathons and ultramarathons, including the 135-mile Badwater Ultramarathon in Death Valley, which is called the World’s Toughest Foot Race due to the elevation changes and heat.
She’s working on a goal of completing a marathon in every state. She’s up to 45 states.
This month, she had a marathon and a 12-hour run in Idaho on her calendar. Next month, she was signed up for a marathon in Anchorage, Alaska.
Pre-pandemic, her training included two or three days a week of five- to seven-mile runs. Then, she would do two marathons on the weekends, or 12-hour races, or a 50-kilometer race. Since the lockdown in March, Massie runs at least five days a week for 10 to 15 miles each day.
Massie knows a thing or two about overcoming obstacles. She had to hang up her sneakers in 1995, when she was hit by a car, injuring her ankle knee and hip. Perseverance and determination helped her build back her strength and endurance to tackle that first marathon in 2004.
“Being injured gave me patience and endurance. It gave me the knowledge that sometimes you don’t know when the finish line is,” she said. “That’s much like the pandemic. Like you don’t know: Will we get out of this in three months, six months, two years? Being hit taught me patience and that you can control a certain amount of things for yourself, (then) some of it is the luck of the draw.”