Full time working mum, runs 8 marathons, 1 ultra-marathon (62 miles) in 52 weeks, including all 6 of the Abbott World Major Marathons in less than a year, I may be the only woman in Great Britain to do so, to get the crown jewels of all medals, the Six Star!
Age is only a state of mind!
In the summer of 2015 I celebrated a big birthday, it was then that I decided to prove that age was just a state of mind and if I set myself challenges, it would either confirm my theory or break me. So, the challenge began to try to prove this theory, I decided to set myself running based challenge to complete every month, after all I had been able to run (albeit slowly) in my younger days. Age is a state of mind, right?
My challenges included some amazing adventures like doing back to back Disney half and full marathon (Goofy challenge) in Florida, coastal trail runs on both the Gower and Dorset coast, reaching the milestone of completing 50 park runs and running a couple of Ultra marathons. These challenges started me thinking about what next. What could I do in 2016 to maintain the momentum, craziness or insanity! I’d heard about the marathon series called “Abbott World Major Marathons” consisting of 6 of the most renowned marathons in the world: London, Berlin, Chicago, New York, Tokyo and Boston. Mostly aimed at the elite athletes, due to the massive prize money awarded for winning the series. It’s open to all, providing you are lucky enough to get an oversubscribed place in those ballots! You also get a massive Six Star medal, after all that why we do it, for the bling and t-shirt! Then imagine the experience of doing all 6, that massive Six Star medal, as less than 1,733 people in the whole world have earned the title of “Six Star Finisher” to date, 59 of them Brits (as provided by Abbott). Only 14 people worldwide have completed them in under a 1 year and I may be the only British woman to do them all in less than a year!
I am a mum, work full time, a Beaver Scout Leader and the Membership Secretary for our local running club Pershore Plum Plodders (PPP). So, my training time for these marathons was limited, squeezed in between sleeps, ironing, homework, cleaning, membership renewals, writing plans, eating and Scout camps!
With my 2015 challenges nearing completion, I had survived (much to my surprise, perhaps age really is a state of mind) and still in one piece I started to think about what 2016 would hold. I entered the London Marathon ballot with a 6% chance of getting in, but for the 5th year running I was rejected. As part of the PPP club we get allocated a single place in the London ballot with better odds of a 7% chance, but would have to wait until December when we did the draw. Whilst waiting I decided to try my luck by entering the Chicago marathon with a 33% chance of getting in and the Berlin marathon with 50% odds. It was my partners big birthday in the November and he wanted to celebrate in New York. So, I also entered the New York marathon with a 5% chance of getting in, well it had to be done and he didn’t mind!
The emails started to arrive, I was successful in the Berlin marathon ballot for September 2016, yes, result! Then another email from Chicago to say I was successful in their ballot for the October 2016 marathon. And then in December our club held its London marathon ballot and guess what, I won that place too! My plans for 2016 had a definite marathon focus, with my dream likely to come true, to run all 6 marathons coming true, with places in 3 out of the 6 World Major Marathons. The suspense to find out if I had been successful in New York was so great in March 16, I called the credit card company to see if the money had been debited, it had, I had a place for the New York marathon too. The probability of getting ballot places for 4 of the Abbott world major marathons were incredible, perhaps I should do the lottery?! I wanted to do all 6, if I was going to train for a marathon, I might just as well do them all, just keep the training going, I might as well be perpetually tired, with blisters but I knew it would be worth it!
They say that fate and luck play a part, I then received a windfall payment, so after much deliberation I decided to go with a sport tour company and conclude the final 2 marathons in Tokyo in February 17 and Boston in April 17, all 6 world major marathon to be completed in 51 weeks.
My journey follows:
London, April 16 (39,167 finishers) – I love London, the organisation, people, so many ordinary people doing such an amazing thing raising millions for charity, it actually holds a Guinness World Record as the largest annual fundraising event in the world! I had palpitations at the start, memories came flooding back from 1988, the last time I ran London, and it was incredible, finishing in The Mall so memorable. I didn’t even mind being overtaken by Big Ben and a Rhino! 5 hours 16 mins, 1st of the 6 done.
Berlin, Sep 16 (41,283 finishers) – A very flat World Record course (well for some), it was a lovely sunny day, clear blue sky, a great day for sightseeing, oh wait I was supposed to be running! Not a Rhino in sight, but lots of history as we wound our way through East and West sides of the crowed lines streets, finishing by running through the Brandenburg Gates. 5 hours 42 mins, it was hot!! 2nd of the 6 done.
Chicago, Oct 16 (40,609 finishers) – Keep an eye out for Batman and all the other great films shot here on this is a notoriously flat course (although the road surface could do with some attention). Another beautiful sunny day with stunning architecture as we weaved through the network of canals. 5 hours 32 mins, 3rd of the 6 done.
New York, Nov 16 (51,264 finishers) – The largest marathon in the world, starting on Staten Island with Sinatra’s “New York, New York” send-off, running through all 5 NY boroughs to Manhattan, with most amazing crowd support ever, it was needed on this hilly, undulating course, with a tough climb as you enter the finish at Central Park (I was even looking for Elf and The Avengers). Another lovely clear sunny day, the view from the bridge was so special, the rainbow over Manhattan being created by the small Fireboat spraying water was breath taking and awe inspiring. 5 hours 32 mins, 4th of the 6 done.
Tokyo, Feb 17 (33,947 finishers) – What a culture shock after a 13-hour flight, so clean, orderly and quiet, so safe with no litter anywhere. I love Tokyo, with its temples, amazing gardens, language, blossom trees and incredible food. The marathon course was being piloted for the 2020 Olympics with the last 20 miles running on the opposite side of the road to the other runners coming towards you, it was like watching a race unfold on TV, took my mind off running. The only run I have ever done where you don’t drop any litter or cups at all, you take them to a litter collector, the aid stations have tomatoes, chocolate rolls and fruit, as normal it was a warm sunny day! 5 hours 25 mins, 5th of the 6 done.
Boston Apr 17 (26,411 finishers) – The world’s oldest (121 years old), iconic and prestigious marathon made more poignant by the bombings in 2013. Due to the “good for age” entry criteria it was an “athlete’s” race, with only 1000 “non-qualifying runners” at the back running for charity or international runners, not a Rhino costume in sight. I felt very humble to be running Boston, steeped in history with so many fine athletes ahead of me and then there was me, but this was my last one, the final marathon of the series, I felt so emotional. With Boston, you get bussed to a small village and run back into Boston through the tree lined roads with beautiful New England style houses, past a crystal blue lake into the city. It’s famous for the “scream tunnel” by the girls from Wellesley College and Heartbreak Hill at mile 20! It was another hot sunny day, average temperate of 27 degree’s, hot baby!
The crowds were amazing handing out ice lollies, ice, and cold tissues, this marathon was all about making it to the finish line to get that amazing medal. With 200 meters to go, I got a lump in my throat, the wave of emotion as I was almost finished and I started to cry, I’d done! I had run all the 6 World Major Marathons in 51 weeks. I crossed the finish line and the wave of both euphoria and emotion was immense, I had done it. I got both medals at the finish line, the iconic Boston marathon medal and my amazing Six Star medal, this was a very special day for me. 5 hours 46 mins (it was hot!)
I am now one of the few people in the whole world (1,733 prior to Boston of which 59 reside in Great Britain) who have achieved running all 6 World Major Marathons, with only 14 people worldwide who done all 6 in under a year, with probably only 1 woman in GB! I am both grateful and humbled to be part of such an exclusive group.
I have learnt so much about myself on this incredible journey, visited some unbelievable cities, met so many inspirational people who are living life to the full, embracing every day, people who are overcoming chronic illnesses that will not be defeated. I am a different person to when I stated this journey, I don’t regard myself as an athlete, I’m just a working mum with an amazing supportive family, friends and Plums support. I believe that age is just a state of mind, and that anything is possible. If you believe you can achieve amazing things, you will, the hardest part is believing in yourself in the first place!
The best marathon, is a tricky question to answer they are all so unique and special in different ways, if I had to choose it would be Boston for the amazing support, defiance, scenery and other inspirational runners…
“There will be days when you don’t think you can run a marathon, let me tell you can and there will be a lifetime of knowing you have”.