In 2006 a new competition was started, called the "World Marathon Majors (WMM) series", sponsored, since 2015, by the health care company Abbott. It was originally a points system for elites, but since 2006 a certificate was introduced for non-elites who completed the six city marathons (Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City). Then, in 2016, a new six-star finisher medal was introduced in addition to the certificate, fuelling the desire of many to complete all six "marathon stars".
We spoke to Full Potential runner Anne Davies, who successfully completed the six World Marathon Major races and earned this new holy grail of race medals!
'I had already done three of the majors before becoming aware of the WMM series but the attainability of such fabulous bling was the deciding factor - "I want one"! Here I’ll share some of my experiences from the road to achieving my six-star medal and give some background to the series.
The Tokyo marathon was the most recent addition to the series in 2013, and the last of my six majors. It turned out that other members of my club, Windmilers, were running as well and we duly met up in Tokyo before the race. Staying at the same hotel as the elites, we got to watch Wilson Kipsang eat his vast breakfast on the morning of his course record and almost world record breaking win. The race start involved plumes of petals floating down over us and the course weaved throughout the city with supporting crowds all the way. At the end, there was a lot of walking to be done to receive refreshments, race blanket and finally the medal. The 6-star finisher medal required yet more walking and even a bit of queuing whilst each proud recipient was photographed.
After the 2017 Tokyo marathon, 1,740 runners are listed as having earned their six-star status. The Abbot officials told me that I was one of 400 new six-star finishers at the Tokyo marathon. Presumably there were similar numbers completing Boston and London this year, making the new total around 2,500.
The top three questions I get asked are:
Which was your favourite? Impossible to answer because I loved them all for different reasons, but I'll have a go.
(1) London because it's London, because I've run it 7 times so far, and because I ran my PB here;
(2) New York for the awesome only-in-America full-on loudest experience;
(3) Tokyo for the politest & most delightfully complicated organisational arrangements;
(4) Chicago for PB potential and excellent race organisation on a very hot day;
(5) Boston to experience the famous heartbreak hill in a downpour that lasted all race long;
(6) Berlin ranks last because in 2010 the race organisation was (in my opinion) poor, yet finishing at the Brandenburg gate, where world records have been set before and since, was spine-tinglingly exciting.
Do you have to run a qualifying time to get the 6-star medal, or run them all within a certain period? The Abbott WMM series itself does not require a qualifying time for the six-star finisher certificate & medal, though the individual races each specify their own qualifying times to gain a place in the race. If you don't have a qualifying time you may get lucky in the ballot for places, or you may be able to get a place by raising a certain amount for a charity, or by paying a sports touring company for a place. With increasing demand for places, it is getting harder for those without qualifying times. There is no specified period during which you have to complete all six races.
What were your times?
Chicago (2008) 3:37
London (2010) 3:23
Berlin (2010) 3:35
Boston (2015) 3:39
New York (2016) 3:58
Tokyo (2017) 4:17
My average time over all six was 03:45
It’s been an amazing journey, and one that I’d recommend because each country and each city has its own way of doing marathons. I’m thankful to all my Windmiler running buddies since joining the Windmilers in 2005. I'd also like to acknowledge the two coaches who have helped me enormously along the way. Keith Anderson and many will remember Richard Pickering who coached for the Windmilers for many years and still keeps in touch. If anyone has any suggestions on what should be the next challenge after the 6 majors please do let me know!'
Some key facts about the Abbott WMM series
The series comprises six marathons in the cities of Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City, plus the IAAF World Championships marathon (biennial), and the Olympic Games marathon (quadrennial).
From the 2017 London marathon onwards the points system will award the top three male and female athletes in each race category with points for finishing in any of the top five places (1st 25; 2nd 16; 3rd 9; 4th 4 and 5th 1).
The two highest ranks during the scoring period are counted, with only the best two if more than that number. A total prize pot of $1.1 million is split amongst the winners and selected charities.