The Six Stars refer to the 6 Abbott World Marathon major marathons. They are, in no particular order: London, Berlin, New York, Boston, Tokyo and Chicago.
Abbott run a series for the world’s elite runners to test each other across the year in these events, with a points based system in place. However, Abbott are also keen to aid in the advancement and participation of marathon running at all levels. To this end they have decided to offer a prize for the rest of us mere mortals on completion of the six major marathons…the elusive 6-Star medal.
To me, the medal is less important, although it will look good in a nice frame on the wall for a month or two. The pursuit of the medal is where my interest lies. Each of these marathons can be uniquely difficult to gain entry to, either through over-subscribed lottery systems or difficult qualifying times, getting into ONE of them in a lifetime is an admirable achievement!
I was lucky to knock off two fairly quickly, with London 2016 coming by charity place and Berlin 2017 being drawn in the lottery (I’ve only since realised how lucky I was to be accepted first time in Berlin, I know people on their 4th or 5th attempt!)
Besides this, the sheer logistics of these events for an amateur runner are quite staggering. When I tell people I dropped £600 on my race entry and flights for New York this year, I get the look, maybe even the head shake. It’s the same look I get when I leave the pub early as I have a twenty miler the next day. For a moment I do question myself, but I made my peace with it a long time ago. Marathon running around the world is big business now, and the people in charge know that those doing it are likely to have time and/or disposable income, from which they are all too happy to be separated. Anyway, for me these big city marathons won’t last forever, so make hay!
The time aspect is also important. Today I have been planning my route towards the 2020 Boston Marathon: which race could I run to qualify? How fast should I aim for? What am I and other people in my life going to be doing next April? Will anyone come to watch? It seems crazy but early preparation is vital, as qualifying times often need to be run well in advance of the race and on a legitimate/registered course, no blasting out a treadmill marathon and sending in a screenshot of your time I’m afraid.
To me, each of the medals represents so much more than just one race on one day, the months of single minded preparation and purpose bring me real joy and meaning. Consistently stacking workout upon workout, until what began as a lung bursting sprint, becomes your marathon cruising pace. Alternatively, you don’t quite achieve that consistency and go down in flames on race day! I’ve done both plenty of times and they can both be beautiful in their own ways. More on that later.
By the end of 2019 I will have completed 4 of the 6 races, with Boston and Tokyo still to come. For me, these two represent the biggest logistical challenge (Tokyo), and the pinnacle of world marathon running (Boston). Hold onto your wallets and watches, full steam ahead.