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The untold story of a record-breaking day in Tokyo


How Boston is helping its community to get active


Marcel Hug’s incredible Majors career in numbers


Meet the man inspiring deaf runners around the world

- JUN 2023 | ISSUE 2




You can also take part in a host of virtual challenges in the AbbottWMM Global Run Club.


Could you be an Age Group World Champion?

The best age group athletes aged 40 and over can compete for invites to the AbbottWMM Wanda Age Group World Championships in over 350 events worldwide.

08 Evans Chebet MAJORS



Abbott creates life-changing technologies that help you live a healthier, fuller life. We keep your heart healthy, nourish your body at every stage of life, help you feel and move better, and bring you information and breakthroughs to manage your health.

With good health, you’ll stay on course, no matter what your marathon is in life.


Chief Executive Officer

Abbott World Marathon Majors

We set a Guinness World Record in Tokyo for the most Six Star Finishers in a single day, and also sailed past the 10,000 mark for total members of the Six Star Hall of Fame.

Standing at any of our medal presentation areas always offers a reminder of the power of these six races, and what it means to the runners when they complete their journey.

In Tokyo, with the wait for overseas runners to return stretching back four years, it was an especially poignant day, and a further reinforcement of just how special it is for each runner to achieve the Six Star medal.


We now look ahead to the rest of the year with a renewed sense of pride and passion for what we do. The runners’ journeys and stories we heard before and after Tokyo showed us once again that this is a truly special movement.

So whether you are on the first step of your Majors mission or you know how it feels to have one of those medals hung around your neck, what I’d like to say is thank you, from me and our entire team, for making what we do matter.

I look forward to seeing many more medals handed out as we move through the year, and hearing lots more about the striving it took to get there.


Dawna Stone CEO

Lorna Campbell Head of Communications

Scott Cassin Head of Global Partnerships

Ryan Conrad Head of Sponsorship

Danny Coyle Head of Digital & Social Media

Matt Dungate Head of Creative

Stewart Haynes Results & Rankings Manager

Judee Kakos Director of Customer Service

Dave Macnamara Social Media Manager

Jackie Sablich Director of Accounting and Finance

Nicole Sparrow Director of Special Programs

Lisa Thompson Operations Lead

Michelle Weltman Elite Wheelchair coordinator

To advertise in MAJORS or discuss other sponsorship opportunities, please contact

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If you would like to submit information to us to consider for publication, email


For guest suggestions or story submissions to the Marathon Talk podcast powered by Abbott World Marathon Majors, email

Thomas Eller from Germany became the world’s first deaf-born

Six Star Finisher at the Tokyo Marathon 2023

Photograph by Hideyuki Imai

04 Evans Chebet
The AbbottWMM Team
ISSUE 2 APR - JUN 2023
the cover
AN INSIDE LOOK AT THE ABBOTT WORLD MARATHON MAJORS helping its community to get active Marcel Hug’s incredible Majors career in numbers inspiring deaf runners around the world SUPER SUNDAY The inside story of a record-breaking day in Tokyo
The first race of the year for 2023 saw a landmark day in the history of the Abbott World Marathon Majors.
©2023 Marriott International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Westin and its logos are the trademarks of Marriott International, Inc., or its affiliates. Travel Light. Stay Motivated. As a partner of the Abbott World Marathon Majors and a leader in wellness travel, Westin® knows how important it is to keep up your workout and recovery routines while away from home. Westin hotels offer on-demand, state-of-the-art fitness gear, delivered straight to your guestroom. Try one of our WestinWORKOUT® Gear Lending Kits on your next stay: • Sculpt & Flow Kit by Bala • Recover & Recharge Kit by Hyperice Learn more at .

The Image

The sound and color of a full field came back to the Tokyo Marathon on March 5 for the first time since 2019. That included the streets lined with spectators - both two- and fourlegged! Someone needs to let these dogs know they are facing the wrong way.

Tokyo Marathon 2023 Race-Day Highlights March 3, 2024 (provisional) October 15, 2023 (provisional)



Three-time Abbott World Marathon Majors series champion Irina Mikitenko joins the Six Star Hall of Fame this spring with the completion of the 2023 Boston Marathon.

The German star won consecutive Majors series’ from 2008 to 2010, winning in London, Berlin and Chicago during a stellar elite career. In 2013 she completed Tokyo and laced up her shoes once

again in 2019 to tick New York City off the list.

“After six years of not competing, it was actually the Six Star Medal that made me enter New York,” she said. “I think to all runners chasing that medal, it has its magic. Having finished five out of six just does not feel complete. It is a dream for me to own this medal as I know how challenging it was to come that far.”



The 2023 BMW BERLINMARATHON will mark 20 years since Paul Tergat (left) set the first ratified world record in the German capital when he ran 2:04:55. The Kenyan’s time in 2003 was the first marathon world record to be ratified by World Athletics (named the IAAF at the time). In London in 2004, Khalid Khannouchi set what was labelled as the first ‘world best’ when he ran 2:05:38.



2024 will herald the start of a new era for the Boston Marathon with the departure of John Hancock as principal sponsor and the arrival of Bank of America as presenting partner.

The financial institution inked a 10-year deal with the world’s oldest continuously held marathon.

“We’ll work together to enhance one of the world’s great participatory sporting events. Bank of America will partner with us at every stage to grow, broaden and innovate new pathways in running,” said Jack Fleming, President and CEO of the Boston Athletic Association. Hear more from Jack Fleming in The Big Interview on p14

2023 TCS London Marathon runners were given the choice this year to opt out of receiving an official finisher’s T-shirt and have a tree planted instead. Working with Trees Not Tees, the scheme will see a sapling planted in its sustainable reforestation project in the UK for everyone who takes up this option. In return, participants will receive a personalized digital certificate, including a photo of their tree – and a what3words geolocation so they can visit their tree if they’d like to.

12 The Warmup MAJORS


The results of the drawing for the 2023 TCS New York City Marathon were released in March, with more than 128,000 submissions received during the two-week application window.

“New York Road Runners is seeing unprecedented demand for our races coming out of the pandemic, and people around the world are more interested in running the TCS New York City Marathon

than ever before,” said Rob Simmelkjaer, CEO, NYRR. “The Marathon is one of the world’s most iconic events, and this year’s race is expected to be one of the biggest and most exciting yet.”



Nicolas Kiefer, the former men’s world No. 4 tennis player, ran his fourth AbbottWMM race in Tokyo, taking him another step closer to the Six Star Medal. The retired German star finished in 3:59:53 to keep up his record of sub-four finishes in all his Majors to date. The 45-year-old is planning to run Chicago in October for star No. 5.

The Bank of America Chicago Marathon will be the stage for the third AbbottWMM Wanda Age Group World Championships. More than 2,000 athletes from around the world have qualified for the race that will take place within the main marathon.

13 The Warmup ISSUE 2
14 Jack Fleming MAJORS


On the wall behind Jack Fleming, as he settles into his chair for a chat with MAJORS, is a framed artist’s depiction of Boylston Street.

It’s possibly the most famous stretch of asphalt in all of marathon running. It’s certainly got the longest history.

When more than 30,000 runners stream down that road each Patriots’ Day, the eyes of the running world are focused on them. After 127 years, if the tarmac could talk, it would have enough stories to fill the pages

of a dozen weighty tomes.

But the home straight of the world’s oldest continuously held marathon is, as the new CEO of the Boston Athletic Association is mindful to communicate, just the very tip of a gigantic blue and yellow iceberg.

Beneath the surface is an organization whose goal is to spread the aura and inspiration generated by the scenes we see on the middle Monday of April to deliver a real impact on the communities that surround the 26.2-mile route.

“We’re a club,” says Fleming. “I realize we are thought of

as an event organization that produces the Boston Marathon. But I started here as a B.A.A club member, and at the heart of it, still, we are a club, full stop. I’ll never forget the first assignment I had. I had to come up with the next iteration of the Unicorn newsletter for the running club.”

Were he to sit down and fill that same newsletter today, it would be with the message that the B.A.A is on a mission not just to retain and enhance the marathon’s status as one of the greatest races on the planet, but to inspire a healthy lifestyle through activity in the dozens of

MAJORS 15 Jack Fleming
The Boston Marathon is about more than just race day. MAJORS meets the B.A.A.’s new CEO to find out more.
WORDS Dawna Stone

towns and cities within Boston’s wider orbit.

“That’s a strong aspect for us,” he says. “You have a real sense at all our events how enthusiastic the volunteers, businesses, neighbors and communities are. We must acknowledge this enthusiasm and desire to participate with us and create open doors for that to continue.

“We have to further strengthen these access points for people to keep going in terms of their participation with us.”

It feels as though this will be the central tenet to Fleming’s tenure in the CEO’s chair, a position he assumed following the departure of the great Tom Grilk at the end of 2022.

It’s an ethos shared in different guises and manifested through different outcomes at all six Abbott World Marathon Majors.

See London’s incredible charity fundraising power or New York Road Runners’ numerous tentacles spreading out into its community.

16 Jack Fleming

These are movements that can have real-world impact beyond the annual accomplishment of tens of thousands of runners crossing those finish lines.

Fleming wants to ensure that the magnetism of the B.A.A.’s signature event attracts not just the highly-valued runners who spend years chasing the marathon time they need to qualify for a place, but also pulls in people for whom a 26.2-mile run may as well be as far away as the moon. When he talks about participation, he’s not just talking about everyone running a full marathon.

“We have a premier event, one of the world’s greatest marathons. That draws you in. A lot of people want to have some of that aura, but can’t do

running community, focusing on improving health and wellness and expanding access to running and walking in Boston in communities of color.

The B.A.A.’s Neighborhood Fitness Series was also launched in October 2022 to offer one and two-mile run/walks and introductory sessions to other athletic disciplines.

In 2023 there will be five new community events in areas of Great Boston where the B.A.A. has never set foot.

“If we are to broaden, we need to be in these neighborhoods,” says Fleming. “When that’s successful we’ll then decide whether we want to replicate in other areas around Boston or want to explore the idea of replicating similarly in other towns in Massachusetts.

“When kids earn their first unicorn (medal), we like to think that’s on their bed post, or nightstand or even in a shoebox, forever.

a marathon, and that’s OK. You can participate by volunteering, or supporting someone else, or maybe doing the half marathon or 10K or 5K or volunteering at one of those.

“We are involved in more local, neighborhood community events on the introductory side to the sport. We realize that the idea of the marathon can be a bit too far out of reach for some.”

To this end, the Boston Running Collaborative was launched in 2021 to bring together organizations and individuals committed to increasing diversity in the city’s

“We like to think that has done something to empower them to do the next thing. That’s the whole ethos of this idea of the pursuit of the unicorn - start somewhere and continue to pursue that.

“It’s about health, a newer position for us in wellness, wellbeing, and community. There aren’t hundreds of organizations such as ours. We are the one in our area and we have to realize that we have a responsibility to use that position for good. I think that captures how we think of ourselves as an organisation.” M

Above: Greeting participants at the first Neighborhood Series event in 2022.
17 Jack Fleming
Left: Congratulating 2013 bombing survivor Adrianne Haslet at the B.A.A. 10K.
Left: The famous Boylston Street finish bathed in sun for the 2022 edition.


18 Thomas Eller MAJORS

Thomas Eller made a huge noise for the deaf community in Tokyo. He tells MAJORS about his special day

WORDS Danny Coyle

little after midday, just yards away from the manicured lawns of the Imperial Palace Gardens, a runner took his final step over the timing mats of the Tokyo Marathon.

It was a step that signaled the end of his Six Star journey, just as it did for more than 3,000 others that day. But this journey had a wider significance for him and the community he was running for.

Thomas Eller didn’t take many more steps before he folded into his friend’s arms and the tears began to flow.

The 43-year-old from Essen in Germany had just become the first deaf-born runner to achieve the feat. The emotion of the moment as he crossed the line had finally caught up with him.

Thomas had first reached out to the AbbottWMM team way back in January 2020, explaining how his job as a teacher in a deaf school and his passion for the marathon put him in a position to inspire the children he taught.

He wanted to show them that any barriers they perceived as standing in the way between them and a fulfilling life could be overcome. If he could bring them back a Six Star Medal, he knew how powerful it could be as a way to show them what can be accomplished despite their disability.

“So many parents come to me and say that I am a big inspiration for them and their kids. Running a marathon gives you the feeling to be equal with others - no matter which disability, race or sex you have,” he wrote.

It had been a fast road to the brink of his Six Star Medal up to that point. Having run his first marathon in Petra in 2018, Thomas made light work of four of the Majors in 2019, completing Berlin, London, Chicago and New York City all in that year.

He was due to become a Six Star Finisher in the spring of 2020, aiming to complete Tokyo for his fifth star that March and then earn his medal at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Those plans were ripped apart by the pandemic, and the order of his Majors was shuffled.

In 2021 he made it to Boston on a national athlete exemption to earn star number five, but the wait for Tokyo went on.

Finally, with travel restrictions lifted, 2023 would be the year; the chance to finish his journey, and bring that medal back to the classroom.

As the country continued to be watchful over the risks of the COVID-19 virus, there were several extra measures runners were asked to take as part of their trip for the marathon, including regular temperature checks in the week before the race and additional tests for the virus that would have to be shown before entering their start corrals.

19 Thomas Eller ISSUE 2

“It took me three years to participate in this marathon and I was so afraid my test would become positive and the organizers would refuse me!” says Thomas.

If the anxiety around the additional measures was something everyone had to deal with, for a deaf person, there are many more hurdles to overcome that are simply invisible to the hearing community.

“The most challenging thing for me was the transportation system in Tokyo to get around the city or to the Expo,” he says.

“Most signs were in Japanese. I often got lost when I had to change trains because I couldn’t find the correct connection. As a deaf person it was challenging for me not to hear the loudspeaker announcements in some buildings or when walking around Tokyo.

“I often had to ask people what the message of the loudspeaker announcements were.

“Face masks were pretty challenging for me, too, because I read from the lips and I had to remind people to remove their face masks because I’m deaf. All of them were so kind to do that so I could communicate with them.”

Spend any time with Thomas during a Majors race week, though, and you soon realize there are runners at every turn who know him, know his story and are willing to help if he needs it.

As he moved around the Tokyo Marathon Expo halls, countless well-wishers stopped for hugs and selfies. Elite athletes have garnered less attention than the man known on Instagram as @deafworldrunnertom

Travelling with his good friend Kevin was a huge help. “We met each other at the Berlin Marathon in 2019 for the first time and I travel to all the races with him,” he says. “He gives me the feeling I am such a normal person. He doesn’t care about my disability.”

“I was more impressed by his ability as an athlete, than anything else,” says Kevin. “For someone who ran his first marathon close to four hours, to then improve by almost an hour, I thought, ‘this is an exceptional athlete’. Not only does he have a disability, he is determined to go one better.”

Once race day arrived and the final start corral checks were negotiated, all that stood between Thomas and his ambition were 26.2 miles.

“When I arrived at the gate I was very surprised how efficient and precise the staff and volunteers

20 Thomas Eller MAJORS

were and I couldn’t see any lines. It went very smoothly,” he says.

“Everyone there was in a very good mood and this helped to calm my nerves. The atmosphere was fantastic! So many runners and people recognized me from social media, and I stopped several times for a picture with them. It was such a big pleasure meeting them and sharing the excitement together.”

As Thomas and Kevin got under way, they were carried along on the feel-good factor surrounding them. Runners they passed or who passed them would pause for a fist-bump or just to yell a message of support.

“The crowds were amazing! Everyone was waving to us, I loved the drummers on the course and I could feel their beats with my body.

“I was starting near the back so I met so many friends on the course when I was running. I hugged them, smiled to them and shared my laughter and joy with them. For me it was important to motivate them and share the experience together.

“We are all a running family and it was great seeing my friends on the course. The sights of Tokyo were breathtaking and I had goosebumps all the time. It was like fireworks for my deaf eyes. Such a beautiful course with amazing crowds and so many turns so you are able to see your friends

on the other side of the course.”

As the finish approached, the moment had finally arrived for Thomas.

“It was one of the best finish line moments of my life,” he says. “I finished hand in hand with Kevin, who also got his Six Star Medal.”

He arrived at the Six Star tent to be greeted by AbbottWMM team members Judee Kakos and Lorna Campbell. It was Lorna who had received his first email more than three years earlier. Now she was hanging the medal around his neck at long last.

“I know how much that meant to him, finally finishing all six, and I’ve got to know him really well over the last few years, so it was a real privilege for me to get to do that for him,” she says.

The medal has already made an appearance back at school and the next target is now locked in.

Thomas plans to run all six Majors this year. There will be fewer runners more popular wherever he goes, perhaps notwithstanding a certain Eliud Kipchoge. The great man’s mantra is certainly one that resonates with him.

“I want to say a huge ‘Thank you” from the bottom of my heart to all the volunteers, staff and organizers of Tokyo Marathon and AbbottWMM who made my day very special! No human is limited - even those with a disability!” M




The inside story of a world record-setting day in Tokyo

WORDS: Danny Coyle

22 Inside Tokyo race day MAJORS

On March 5, 2023, Judee Kakos woke in her room at four in the morning with a knot in her stomach.

Downstairs, the cavernous lobby of the Keio Plaza hotel would soon be humming with anticipation.

Runners from all over the world began amassing in the foyer, making last-minute preparations and checking the rules about what they could and couldn’t take into their start corrals one more time.

The day of the Tokyo Marathon had dawned. It was a day more than 3,000 people had been anticipating for the best part of four years. Almost 10 per cent of the entire field were due to become Six Star Finishers.

The Six Star program had always seen high numbers in Tokyo. In 2019, 732 runners were awarded their Six Star Medal in the Japanese capital.

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic and a hiatus for travel to Japan lasting from the onset of the virus in early 2020 until restrictions eased in late 2022.

Effectively, three Tokyo Marathon cycles had been missed. There was an elite only race in 2020, no race at all in 2021 and a race for elite athletes and domestic residents only in 2022.

While travel to the other Majors cities had recommenced and small numbers of Six Star Medals were given out in Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York in 2021 and 2022, the Tokyo backlog began to swell. And swell.

All that pent up demand for a Six Star Medal in Tokyo had been concertinaed into one edition.

It meant the Six Star Medal handout operation was going to be like nothing Judee and the Majors team had seen. She’d been working as AbbottWMM’s director of customer service for several years, but nothing like this had ever happened before.

“I was terrified,” she says. “I knew we had a huge day ahead of us and I wanted it all to be perfect. This is round eight of working at the races for me and this one by far exceeded any feelings of terror, nervousness and anxiety I’d had in the past.”


Good teams operate best with a balance in approaches when it comes to solving problems. Equalizing Judee’s concerns at the sheer scale of what lay in store was the team’s supercomputer in human form.

Stewart Haynes crunches numbers like an escapologist exiting a straight-jacket in a tank of water. Panic is not a factor.

He’s the team’s Head of Results and Rankings, which means he sees more than 300 sets of race results come across his desk in a single year. You can’t do Stew’s job and not love numbers.

In 2021 he oversaw a project to build a console for Six Star Hopefuls to register with AbbottWMM in order for the team to more easily tally up how many runners were due to receive their medal at each Major. As Tokyo drew closer, that tool was put thoroughly through its paces.

He and Judee watched from summer 2022 as the number of Tokyo Hopefuls climbed ever higher. Each week on team meeting calls, figures were

23 Inside Tokyo race day ISSUE 2

tossed around as to where the total might end. No one predicted 3,000. At least not until early 2023.

Options for how the team would cope with these unforeseen numbers began to be discussed. At every race since the Six Star program began, medals had been awarded close to the finish line, exhausted runners already bedecked in their race medal trudging down the finish chute to the Six Star tent to receive their coveted piece of hardware.

As March 5 drew closer, it was debatable whether that was even going to be practical given the numbers piling up.

“We considered an off-site location but the logistics of having everyone come to one place – that would have to be much further away – were going to be problematic,” says Stewart.

“We decided the finish line would be a better experience for runners. We have had two tents – one either side of the finish – in recent years in Tokyo, and we knew this would be an option again, but the sheer volume needed further work

to understand how we’d get through them without causing a major backlog.

“We employed Marcel Altenburg, a crowd science expert, to consider flows of runners and how many would need to be processed every five minutes to avoid substantial queues. This then lead us to the number of photographers and backdrops required to get runners their special medal photos without taking too long.

“Based on a runner’s predicted finish time and historical start data, we were also able to determine the number of runners arriving at our tents in five-minute intervals.

“This made us aware of the peak 35-minute window when we knew we would be under the most pressure.”

Eventually, it was settled. Two tents, four photographers and backdrops at each location and roughly an even split of 1,500 runners to arrive at each one.

Judee and Stewart would run one medal tent each with the help of AbbottWMM team members Lorna Campbell and Scott Cassin, plus a small army

of volunteers provided by series title sponsor Abbott.

As the team’s communications guru, Lorna had been hearing stories for months from around the world of people who had been waiting for this moment.

“There were firsts for Six Star Finishers from Egypt and Pakistan, our first deaf-born runner Thomas, those going round the series again, couples, families, Bill Bucklew who’s run all six as a Parkinson’s sufferer. I’d known him for years and would finally get to meet him in person at the finish line! There were simply too many wonderful tales to tell and to fully appreciate.”

What Lorna also had up her sleeve was a wealth of experienced local contacts, having run the media operations for the tennis center in Tokyo during the Olympic Games.

“I was able to recruit my friend Asuka, who worked as my deputy venue media manager for tennis at the Games. I knew she was reliable, able to assist in a range of tasks and her English skills are beyond impressive. Asuka then roped in her friend

24 Inside Tokyo race day MAJORS

All the stars come out: The Six Star Medal operation in full swing in Tokyo

Bottom: The Majors team prepares for race day at the finish line

25 Inside Tokyo race day ISSUE 2

Ryoko who also worked at the Olympics. She was wonderful.”

The team assembled in the packed lobby and boarded their transport to the finish. There was a cool, stiff breeze in the morning air and the home straight was undergoing its final preparations as they arrived.

Men in hard hats were buzzing around to the soundtrack of clanging crowd barriers being moved into their final positions and a PA system blaring out sweeping, celebratory anthems.

After an obligatory team photo in front of the finish, Judee and Lorna headed off to one side of the street, Stew and Scott –AbbottWMM’s Head of Global Partnerships – to the other, and they began the lengthy job of unboxing the 3,000 medals they would be handing out.

Scott had rolled up his sleeves earlier in the week serving

thousands of Six Star Hopefuls at the race expo as they came to collect their Guinness World Record Medals. The race would set an official world record for Six Star Finishers at a single marathon, and Scott had just about met them all in the three days before the race. Now he was busy getting their Six Star medals ready for them.

“Unpacking 1,500 individually wrapped medals was a killer! My knuckles have still not recovered from the repetitive motion for three hours. We set up the photo backdrops, the medals, and then briefed the volunteers.”

All that was left to do was wait. The elite races would be done by just after 11am and the arrival of the fastest Six Star Finishers would begin around 10 to 20 minutes later.

“We typically have a slow trickle of runners and then the

masses, but in this case the masses came much earlier than usual and our peak traffic time lasted for almost two hours,” says Judee.

“At that time, it was all hands on deck to get runners identified and get their medals and photos as quickly as possible. There was a moment of panic when the race officials came to me and indicated our line was too long –what could we do?”

Further help was at hand from TCS New York City Race Director Ted Metellus and his counterpart from the BMW BERLINMARATHON Mark Milde, along with his colleague Oliver Bach.

“Ted got two lines formed quickly and Mark and Oliver got to work speeding up the photo process,” says Judee. “We had to limit time available for the runners to take selfies as that was slowing down our lines.

26 Inside Tokyo race day MAJORS

“Our volunteer leads made sure their teams were directing runners to the appropriate photo line and managed their personal items for them to reduce the time they had to spend in our tent.

“Ted’s expertise in operations came in more than handy as he kept an eye on what was happening and made adjustments as needed. He went to Stew’s tent when they needed assistance, too.”

With Nick Bitel, the CEO of the London Marathon, Chicago’s chief operating officer Mike Nishi and Mary Kate Shea, the director of professional athletes for the Boston Athletic Association, also busy unboxing more medals and organising runners, the whole operation turned into one big Majors family mission.

As the runners cascaded

through the finish, the Six Star count began to tick up with increasing speed.

With the Guinness World Records team in attendance to oversee the number, it quickly became clear to them that the record had been well and truly smashed, and the certificate of achievement was presented by Majors CEO Dawna Stone to Tokyo’s race officials.

One runner, however, was struggling to add to that number. Becky McMorries, a teacher from Nacogdoches, Texas in the USA, knew something was wrong in her left leg before she had even started.

By managing her mileage in the build-up – and with an iron will to get Tokyo completed having waited since earning a place through the lottery in 2019 to run it – she got herself to the start line.

27 Inside Tokyo race day ISSUE 2
Medal moments: Runners come thick and fast to receive their Six Star medals from the AbbottWMM team.

X-Rays had shown nothing, and she was satisfied that the pain which had been moving around from hip to groin to knee was simply a muscle strain.

“I knew that it would hurt and knew I would walk a bit,” she says. “I had even spaced out our trains booked after the race because I knew I’d be moving slowly, but I would have finished, and could take time to recover.”

With pain from the very first step, Becky made it to 13 miles at a decent pace.

“I didn’t want to get swept and I knew the cut-off times were strict. Someone ran by me at mile nine and offered me Ibuprofen. I didn’t realize I looked that bad.”

After 13 miles she decided to run/walk. “I put my music on and ran one song, walked one song. Then at 18 miles, I realized walking hurt more than running, so I started running again, but even the other walkers were passing me. I was doing something funky with my right leg to get my left leg moving.”

At mile 23, the game was up. Becky stopped.

“When I tried to go again,

that’s when it broke, finally.”

What she’s referring to is her left femoral neck – the part of the thigh bone that connects into the hip socket. Later on, it would come to light that she must have started with a stress fracture the X-Ray didn’t catch.

“It (the X-Ray) was too early, it had only been a week since the pain had started. I ran it to a completely displaced fracture and that’s why I couldn’t walk. I could feel a pop.”


After a minute contemplating the premature end of her race, Becky met her new best friends.

“Patrick from Belgium had already befriended me at mile 21,” she says. “He’d said I looked like I needed a friend, saw my

Six Star back bib and just walked beside me, no chat.”

Moments later, the Irish arrived. Chris Gibbons, Fiona McGinley and Corrina Gorman, all from Dublin, were all aiming for their Six Star medals too. This would be Chris’s second full set of Majors.

“I could see something was wrong and decided to help,” says Chris. “But Patrick was almost twice my height, so between us it just wasn’t going to work. That’s when Fiona and Corrina turned up.”

“I told them I was done, says Becky. “They said, ‘No, you’re coming with us’. So they took my arms and acted as my crutches. Patrick stayed too and said he would fight off the race officials if they got too close.”

28 Inside Tokyo race day MAJORS

Two more runners joined the team, Dennis from the USA and a Japanese runner who Becky has yet to track down, and they started a shift pattern.

“It was like a joke,” says Chris, “three Irish people, a Belgian, an American and a Japanese chap.”

“They created an efficient system where they would swap in, get my water, count my steps, getting me to 50 or 100,” explains Becky.

“At one point I said ‘I can’t do this, I quit,’ and they said, ‘Fine. If you quit, we’ll quit, then it’s all your fault.’ They carried me for three miles. It’s incredible to think these strangers would help a random runner who couldn’t go any further get her Six Star Medal. I still have trouble understanding that much kindness was given to me.”

“We decided we were going to do this,” says Chris, “We all made the call. If she wasn’t getting it, neither were we.”

Eventually, with the runners around them also joining in the step-counting, they got Becky to the line, and to a wheelchair.

One of the group collected her Tokyo medal for her, but getting

to the Six Star tent was going to be a struggle now that she was in the care of the medics.

“I suddenly saw someone running over to me saying that the finish line medical team would not let this lady come to the Six Star tent in a wheelchair,” says Scott.

“I went to see if I could help the cause, but they still would not let her come over.

“So, I told them to wait there for just a bit longer and ran to the Six Star tent so I could grab Stew, a medal, a backdrop and a photographer and we all ran back over to her so that she could have her medal presented and pictures taken with the backdrop, just like any other Six Star Finisher.”

“I can’t move for eight weeks, my muscle is gone, I’m going to have to learn to walk again,” says Becky. “If I had to do all that and I still hadn’t finished Tokyo, it would be a totally different feeling to be going through this, but I did it. If I don’t run for a long time it’s OK, I don’t have this nagging thing in the back of my head.”

On a day loaded with logistical

challenges, one last hurdle had been overcome by a team who had pulled off the most significant moment in the history of the Six Star program.

“We had delivered the biggest single day in Six Star history, and in a very successful manner,” says Stew. “Within hours though, I had the familiar post-marathon ‘comedown’, similar to when I’ve run a marathon where you no longer have that big occasion on the horizon.”

“I felt like a 1000lb weight had been lifted,” says Judee. “So much work is required, but it is beyond rewarding to know I’ve played a part in so many Six Star journeys. The rest of the races are going to be a piece of cake!”

For Lorna, it would be her final race as part of the team before moving on to a new role with the Boston Athletic Association.

“It was a race finish like I’ve never experienced before, or will again,” she says. “I cried happy tears most of the day and was so touched that people took the time to recognize the team.

“They were kind and grateful to our volunteers and so happy to be part of the family.” M

29 Inside Tokyo race day ISSUE 2
Pain and glory: Becky and her multi-national support crew were dtermined to get her across the line


30 Marcel Hug MAJORS

Marcel Hug has been at the top of wheelchair marathon racing for over a decade. MAJORS takes a look at his astonishing record

If winning is a habit, then Marcel Hug has found it hard to shake off. The Swiss 37-year-old has swept the last two Abbott World Marathon Majors series titles in dominant style, taking his tally to four in total, continuing a glittering career that has spanned 19 years and counting at the pinnacle of marathon racing.


In his first Paralympic Games, an 18-year-old Hug takes home two bronze medals from Athens for the 800 and 1500m T54 events.

31 Marcel Hug ISSUE 2


Hug takes World Championship gold in the 10,000m in Assen, Netherlands. He earns silvers in the 5,000 and 800m.


Hug cannot get on the podium at the Beijing Paralympics with fourth place in the 5,000m his best finish.


On his home track in Nottwil, Switzerland, he smashes four world records in one summer meeting.


After another 10,000m world gold in Christchurch, Hug wins his first Major at the the BMW BERLIN-MARATHON, beating his mentor Heinz Frei by just a single second.


The London Paralympics bring 800m and marathon silvers, finishing one second behind David Weir in the marathon. Hug wins Berlin again.


At the Lyon World Championships, Hug hits the jackpot, winning five gold medals from the 400m all the way up to the marathon, with his only silver coming in the 800m. He also clinches his first New York City Marathon title.


Just one week after winning the Paris Marathon, Hug beats Weir in London for the first time after three second place finishes behind the Briton.


Boston is the next Major to fall to the Swiss, as he defeats 10-time winner Ernst van Dyk by more than six minutes.

32 Marcel Hug


Hug goes back-to-back in Boston and London in the space of six days. His next objective is the Rio Paralympics, where he wins two silvers in the 1,500 and 5,000m and claims his first Games golds in the 800m and the marathon. He takes his form into the autumn Majors season, beating Kurt Fearnley in two photo finishes to win Chicago and New York City.


Hug wins Boston, Berlin, Chicago and New York, with a second place in London. In the first season of the Abbott World Marathon Majors wheelchair series, he is crowned Series X champion. The World Para Athletics Championships are held in London that summer and Hug wins 800m, 1,500m and 5,000m gold.


Series XI also falls to Hug after he wins Boston in terrible conditions and comes second in London less than a week later.

In the autumn races where Series XII begins, he can only manage third place in Berlin while in Chicago and New York he is beaten by the American sensation Daniel Romanchuk.


Hug starts his Majors season with a win in Tokyo but is then defeated in Boston and London by Romanchuk, which means he loses his series crown. As the new series begins in the autumn, he wins in Berlin but cannot get the better of Romanchuk, who is victorious in Chicago and New York again.


With all Majors barring Tokyo delayed until the autumn due to the pandemic, the Paralympics takes center stage this summer. Hug, armed with a new hightech chair and uninterrupted preparations, wins a careerdefining four golds, including his second marathon title at the Games. Not long after that he takes on all five Majors in a truncated season and wins

Berlin, London, Boston and New York City, only losing Chicago narrowly to Romanchuk, but doing enough to take back the series title.


Hug opens his Majors campaign with a crushing win in Tokyo but falls ill before Boston and cannot compete. His powers of recovery get him to the start line a week later in London and he emerges from a titanic struggle with Romanchuk to sprint for the win. The autumn brings three straight triumphs, with his seventh Berlin win plus course record victories in Chicago and New York City. Of the five wheelchair series’ that have taken place in the Majors, Hug has now won four of them. M

33 Marcel Hug ISSUE 2
THIS SECTION We survey some marathons where you can manage the summer heat p36 The Age Grouper aiming for top spot in Chicago 38 CAROL’S CALLING Your essential guide to earning a place in 2024 40 HOW TO QUALIFY



There can be no better feeling after 26.2 grueling miles than crossing the finish line in an Olympic stadium. The conclusion of the Stockholm Marathon takes place in one of Northern Europe’s most historic sporting sites, home to the 1912 Olympics and the place where 83 world records were set. The race itself takes you through the streets of this beautiful Scandanavian capital, built on 14 islands and offering you spectacular views of the famous medieval city. With over 12,000 athletes taking part and enthusiastic crowds cheering you along the way, you won’t find a better race to continue your marathon journey.

36 Races in Focus MAJORS
WORDS Dave Macnamara
As summer arrives in the Northern Hemisphere, there are still some cooler spots to earn your age group world ranking



Going under the banner

#TheWorldComesToCork, the Cork City Marathon welcomes athletes from around the world to a festival of running on the first weekend of June. Expect music and entertainment around the course as the city comes out in force to cheer on the 12,000 participants on this fast, flat route around Ireland’s second city. With a city center start and finish, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to celebrate your medal in one of the many bars and pubs that can be found within a stone’s throw of the finish line.


The Norwegian city of Tromso is situated 350km from the Arctic Circle. During the summer months, the sun never sets below the horizon, making the Midnight Sun Marathon a true bucket list event. Setting off at 20:30, 6,000 runners will aim to cross the finish line before the clock strikes midnight. The route takes runners through some of the most picturesque areas of the region, going from island to island, all the while

in the shadow of majestic mountains and fjords. It truly is one of the most unique running experiences.


For North America-based athletes, there is no shortage of races taking place this summer where you can enjoy cooler weather and brighter evenings. One of our favorites is the Manitoba Marathon, which takes place along the banks of the Assiniboine and Red Rivers. The race starts and ends at the University of Manitoba and laps around the city of Winnipeg, giving visitors a grand tour of this welcoming Canadian city. With just 700 participants, it’s a smaller field compared to others but what they lack in numbers they make up for in enthusiasm and hospitality.



When the Vikings landed in Waterford in the ninth century, we are pretty sure they didn’t expect to be the inspiration for one of Ireland’s most beloved marathons. Having celebrated its 10th birthday last year, this race continues to go from strength to strength, boasting

a field of over 2,000, with many more taking part in other running-related events around the city over the weekend.

This is an out-and-back course, turning at the ominously-titled Ballymountain, and it will test the stamina of anyone taking part, with 267m of elevation at the highest point meaning the trek home is a lot easier than the trot out!


If there is a more fascinating country than Iceland, we’d love to hear about it. From the volcanic plains to the geothermal pools, the whole island is a natural wonder. So it should come as no surprise to learn that its biggest running event, the Islandsbanki Reykjavik Marathon is one of our favorites on the calendar.

The race coincides with Menningarnótt, or “Culture Night” a national event that brings up to a third of the entire population of Iceland onto the streets of the capital to celebrate Reykjavik’s birthday.

The race offers an atmosphere that is both relaxed and welcoming, with around 1,000 runners taking part. If you’re looking for a running experience like no other, then this is the marathon for you. M

37 Races in Focus ISSUE 2


A late starter in the marathon, Carol Sexton has now run more than 40 of them, and claimed second place in last year’s Age Group World Championship

38 Age Grouper Profile MAJORS
WORDS Lorna Campbell

Carol Sexton knows plenty about comebacks. In January 2022, the 65-year-old from Woodinville, Washington, suffered a serious injury when she was hit from behind during a race.

She broke her arm in three places, and thought her days of running – and certainly racing – were over. After months of recovery, she regained her fitness and was ready to stand on the start line in London last October to take her shot at the

anything was possible, and I could keep pushing on.”

Making the podium also meant she got to receive her trophy from Eliud Kipchoge.

“That was one of the biggest moments of my running career! Finishing that race was very emotional for me.”

She only began running in 2010 when her daughter Katie suggested they train for a 5km.

Eighteen months later, aged 54, she ran 3:57:52 in her first marathon and achieved the magic Boston qualifying time. “I had heard of the Boston Marathon but didn’t know what the Majors were.”

guidance from her new mentor John Goldthorp, Carol ran a personal best of 3:27:53. Her current PB is 3:19:32.

Forty-one in-person marathons and three virtual races during the pandemic are a testament to her longevity after such a late start in the sport, with the TCS New York City Marathon, which she ran with daughter Emma, holding the most special place in her heart.

“Being a role model for my children is very important to me. Running gives me strength, calmness and happiness.

“It gives me peace and a chance to ponder life and what’s happening in the world. All of that helps make me the best mom and person I can be.”

Carol is now aiming to improve on her second place in London when she competes in the championship at the 2023 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.

She has good advice for others trying to follow in her footsteps.

“Be honest with yourself and have realistic expectations about what it will take to get you the results you want. Stay out of your head. No excuses. Things don’t happen overnight. And, of course, have fun.”

AbbottWMM Wanda Age Group World Championship title. It was a great day for fast running.

Carol ran fast. Her time of 3:30:07 earned her second place in the 65-69 category.

“My age group had a lot of fast ladies, and with that being my first real race back, I was really shocked to take second,” she says. “But it told me that

In 2018 after a DNF in Boston – “I was very underdressed for a monsoon!”

– Carol flew to London to run again six days later, and it was there that she achieved her Six Star Medal.

“That was such an exciting day! After achieving that goal, I decided it was time to go up a gear and get myself a coach.”

It was a game-changing decision. After a few months of

And the secret to championship-level running in her 60s? “Stay healthy. This concept is all-encompassingnutrition, rest, exercise. Bone health is also key for women.

“Strength has been an important addition too. I had never lifted weights until I began working with a coach. It has made a huge difference.

“I’m so happy that AbbottWMM now provides an opportunity for age groupers. I will be in Chicago, and I am doing all I can to be ready for that start line.” M

39 Age Grouper Profile ISSUE 2



The 2023 edition of the Age Group World Rankings has undergone a revamp to the format for athletes to qualify for a place in the 2024 Age Group World Championships.

The system is now based on an athlete’s single fastest performance achieved at any one of more than 350 qualifying marathons around the world.

Furthermore, runners can now instantly earn an invitation (place must be paid for) if they


run the Automatic Qualifying Time for their age group.

For athletes who do not meet that time, they can still earn a place through their ranking position in their age group.

The AbbottWMM Global Run Club will also continue to offer 200 places in its spring and autumn editions of the virtual Global Marathon.

There are 36 races in April, 37 races in May and 20 in June. View the full race directory here


Any athlete achieving the Automatic Qualifying Times listed below will receive an instant invitation to the 2024 world championships. Please note you must be registered on to receive an invite.


Athletes in the rankings who have not achieved automatic time qualification may receive an invitation based on the number of athletes who meet the Automatic Qualifying Times and the number of runners who do not take up their place. The number of athletes who receive invitations through this pathway will be determined during the rankings season.


The first Global Marathon of 2023 takes place between March 5 and April 23 and will offer up to 200 runners the chance to qualify runners for the 2024 World Championship. The second Global Marathon will take place in the autumn with dates to be confirmed.

40 Age Group World Rankings MAJORS
revamped Age Group World Rankings are in full swing for 2023 and athletes all over the world are hitting the new qualifying times every week. Here is how the new system
Male  Qualifiers so far  Female  Qualifiers so far  40-44  02:35 104  03:05 99  45-49  02:42 126  03:11 104  50-54  02:48 136  03:21 125  55-59  02:57 147  03:30 115  60-64  03:10 116  03:48 90  65-69  03:26 61  04:06 43  70-74  03:40 15  04:35 27  75-79  04:06 7  05:05 11  80+  04:40 2  05:25 1

Plus there's still a chance to take part in 2023 –enter the virtual 2023 TCS London Marathon and join us from wherever you are in the world...

Enter the ballot for
you could be on The Mall in 2024.
opens Saturday 22 April at
BE HERE IN 2024?


Double celebrations for the Six Star family

Chilean father Rodrigo Hernán Lobo Puccio, 64, and his five sons, Rodrigo, Tomas, Santiago, Agustin and Raimundo, made history at the 2023 Tokyo Marathon.

The men claimed a new Guinness World Record when they became the largest family to ever complete all six Abbott World Marathon Majors together.

It was a journey over a decade in the making for the group known as the Wolfpack (the family’s name, Lobo, is Spanish for ‘wolf’), who were supported all the way by our title sponsor, Abbott.

“The Wolfpack family is a true inspiration for people around the world,” says Juan Carlos Sola, Abbott’s general manager of Nutrition in Chile.

“They are living proof that it is possible to fulfill your dreams and be healthy while spending quality time with your family.

For Abbott, it was a perfect

match – supporting a family that represents the essence of who we are and what we do: helping people live their best possible life through the power of health.”

The idea of running as a father and sons collective first came to life at the Amsterdam Marathon in 2012. They did it again in Vienna a year later, and their first Major as a family unit was Berlin in 2014.

“It was at this point that we decided to take things further and see if we could make history as the largest family to complete the six Abbott World Marathon Majors,” says Tomas, 34.

“We reached out to the the people at Guinness World Records and received confirmation that there was no record for the largest family to complete the six Majors. This fueled our motivation, and we decided to set our sights on achieving it.”

The next four Majors were soon

crossed off the list, but then the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the Tokyo race. Japan eventually opened its doors for the March 2023 race, and the Wolfpack, along with a 3,000-strong contingent of Six Star Hopefuls, successfully reached their journey’s climax in the final major Marathon.

Together they had accomplished something that no other family had done before, something they will carry with them forever.

“We trained for months, even years, to prepare our bodies and minds to complete these marathons, working hard and giving it our best,” says Rodrigo.

“That is one of the reasons why our family is enormously proud to be sponsored by Abbott - a company that believes that at our healthiest, we can do amazing things. We have done an amazing thing, and it feels wonderful!” M

WORDS Danny Coyle


A new half marathon series this year offers a double chance in our draws for a place in a Major.

There are four opportunities left this year to compete in the Global Run Club Road to the Majors series.

This new program of virtual half marathons gives you the chance earn an extra place in one of our draws to win an entry for a Major you need to advance along your Six Star Journey.

Everyone who completes one of these races can choose the draw they would like to allocate their extra place to. In the March and April Road to the Majors races, over 3,000 runners completed their half marathon and will now have double the chance in the ballot for a race place.

and New York City Marathons are open to all individuals registered with who have completed three, four or five AbbottWMM races prior to the draw taking place, but are yet to complete their fourth, fifth or sixth Major.

The prize draw for places in the 2024 Tokyo and Boston Marathons is open to all individuals registered with who have completed four or five Majors prior to the draw taking place, but are yet to complete their fifth or sixth race (respectively). To be eligible for the London 2024 draw, you’ll need three, four or five stars already.

If you have the required number of stars and would like to double your chances of success, the remaining race dates for the Road to the Majors series are May 7-14, August 20-17, September 3-10 and October 15-22.

Visit to see all the current

44 MAJORS Global Run Club
Sign up today!


The South African wheelchair racer Ernst van Dyk wins the 105th edition of the Boston Marathon in 1:25:11.

Pre-race predictions focused on two great Swiss athletes, Heinz Frei, the course and world record-holder, and defending champion Franz Nietlispach, with five Boston titles to his name.

The two men, both now 43, went into the race with a total of seven wins in Boston between them. In fact, no one from outside Switzerland had won the men’s wheelchair race since 1993.

The 28-year-old from the Western Cape had other ideas. Van Dyk took the race away from the rest of the field straight from the gun, and

eventually won the race by more than six minutes.

It was the beginning of a one-man dynasty in Boston. Van Dyk, who began his sporting career as a teenage swimmer at the 1992 Barcelona Paralympics, would go on to amass a total of 10 titles in Boston. He set a world record there in 2004 when he became the first man to break the one hour, 20-minute barrier.

He went undefeated for the next five editions before finishing third in 2007, only to regain his crown the following year and keep hold of it util 2011. He was back on top for victory No. 10 in 2014 at the age of 41, becoming the most decorated Boston Marathon champion of all time. M

Major Moment
BOSTON, 2001






Join hosts DEENA KASTOR and MARTIN YELLING every other Friday for a deep dive into the world of marathon running, all the latest news from the Majors and special guest interviews.


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