Yesterday, at the conclusion of the 2016 Tokyo Marathon, Abbott World Marathon Majors unveiled the new Six Star Finisher Medal, and, according to Barbara Fleming-Ovens who was the ceremonial first female recipient, the new piece of hardware “is quite heavy!”
Before the medal, those who successfully completed the six World Marathon Major races, which include the Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City Marathons, could register as a Six Star Finisher to receive an official finisher’s certificate and be listed on the website. Now finishers also have an impressive piece of bling to add to their collection.
“A certificate is great because you can frame it, but at the end of it all, it’s really nice to get something else as well,” says Fleming-Ovens, a 3:52 marathoner who also looks at a marathon itself as the reward for all the training. “The medal I can take around and show to people.”
But earning this new holy grail of race medals, which depicts a skyline relief of each host city, is no easy feat. For Fleming-Ovens, who is lives in Cranfield, Ireland and is the first woman from Northern Ireland to become a Six Star Finisher, her journey, beginning at the Virgin Money London Marathon in 2014, took 22 months and thousands of training miles. It’s not cheap either. Including travel, race registration, spending money and gear—the 46-year-old goes through about five pairs of running shoes per year—she estimates completing all six races cost her upwards of 10,000 pounds ($14,000 US) and says it “was worth every penny!”
Fleming-Ovens and her husband run a holiday park at the beach. The seasonal nature of her work means she has more time to train from November to March, but she has to log plenty of early morning miles when the park is open for business. As a mother of three, Fleming-Ovens says her children are proud of her accomplishment and now see first-hand what you can accomplish with hard work. She also credits her very supportive husband.
David Mark, a Vice President of Internal Audit for Abbott and the ceremonial inaugural male Six Star Finisher medal recipient, ran his first marathon, Chicago, in the late 90s. He took a hiatus until he felt like he could earn a Boston qualifier, which is exactly what he did at the 2011 Chicago Marathon. After running Boston in 2013, Mark, 52, set the goal of eventually running all the Majors. Once Abbott became the title sponsor for the Majors, he decided to step up the timeline for his goal.
The father of two says the fact that his kids are older, 20 and 23, means they don’t really care when or if he trains. His challenges come from the demands of his job and a busy travel schedule. Mark, who also participates in triathlons, gets up at 4:30 every morning for his daily run and/or swim.
“I train six days a week and save my longer runs and rides for the weekends,” says the Chicago resident. “You just need to carve out the time. “
Neither Fleming-Ovens nor Mark would name a favorite race, emphasizing that all are remarkable for their own reasons. Although, they both said their “hometown races,” Chicago for Mark and London for Fleming-Ovens, hold special meaning.
They shared that Boston has the history and level of competition. Chicago gives an amazing tour of the city and it’s ethnic diversity. Berlin was where Mark ran his 3:13 PR, plus finishing through the Brandenburg Gate is incredibly memorable. London is fun and festive with a great course through so many parts of the city. The New York City Marathon mirrors the city in that it is big, loud and incredible. Both runners lauded the race organization and well as beauty of the course in Tokyo, saying it was a great way to close out the series.
“More than 200,000 people run the marathon major races every year, yet in the past 10 years only about 600 people have run them all,” Mark says. “It’s a pretty exclusive club and I’m excited there is now a medal to mark the accomplishment.”
After seeing pictures of her medal, Fleming-Ovens, who claims she’s “just an ordinary woman,” says several of her running friends have announced that they want to, “earn one of these babies for themselves!”
When asked what advice she would share with anyone considering the idea of tackling the WMM events, the Irishwoman, who raised almost $20,000 for charity during her quest, said, “Just go and do it! You’ll enjoy every part of the journey.”
Hoka One One athlete Michael Wardian is now eying the Six Star Finisher medal as well. Wardian began his World Marathon Major quest in Tokyo and plans to complete all six races in 2016.
If you’ve finished all six marathons and would like a medal, visit worldmarathonmajors.com/marathon-stars