My journey began in November 2016 at the New York City Marathon. When a friend asked if I was interested in joining him for the race, it seemed too good an opportunity to turn down.
I gained a good for age entry and although I didn’t realise it at the time, the challenge had begun. The New York Marathon was every bit as amazing as I thought it would be – the start, running along the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge across the River Hudson, heading towards the iconic New York skyline, must surely be the most spectacular start of any marathon.
We were treated to a course that weaved its way through all five boroughs of the city, from Staten Island to Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx, before finishing in Central Park.
With support from my husband Robin, his brother Pete and Pete’s wife Helen, I thoroughly enjoyed my first overseas marathon and was delighted to finish in 3:47.14.
To compete abroad, we’d had to take out extra insurance for an ‘extreme sport’, and as the policy was for 12 months, my ever-thrifty husband suggested I might as well do another one overseas to get our money’s worth.
Having heard of the World Marathon Majors by then, the Berlin Marathon was the next obvious choice and I was lucky enough to get a ballot entry for September 2017.
Berlin is a fascinating city and we really enjoyed our time there. However, despite the impressive start in the Tiergarten area, passing by the Reichstag then looping through East Berlin and various neighbourhoods of the city to the finish at the Brandenburg Gate – and being a flat, fast course – the marathon was not one of my favourites and turned out to be the slowest.
I crossed the finish line in 3:51.23. The best part was the German beer at the end!
The dream of achieving all the majors started to become a reality when I gained another good for age entry into the Chicago Marathon in October 2018.
This was a very special race as my whole family were there to support me, making this mainly fast and flat course even more enjoyable. I finished in 3:50.54 and made straight for the nearby bar where we’d arranged to meet for a post-race celebration!
With three more marathons to go, the Boston Marathon was next on the list.
Boston is the world’s oldest annual marathon and ranks as one of the best-known road racing events in the world.
Like all competitors, I had to meet certain qualifying standards for this race and felt very privileged to gain a place.
There is incredible support in Boston and the surrounding area for this historic marathon.
In 2013, two terrorist bombs were planted near the finish line, killing three people and injuring hundreds of others.
Boston Strong has become the slogan that was created as part of the reaction to the bombing. The non-profit organisation Marathon Daffodils distributes thousands of daffodils from the start of the race to the finish as well as to sites all over the city as reminders of the strength of Bostonians after the tragic events in 2013.
The marathon starts in the small New England town of Hopkinton and runners follow the point-to-point course back to the finish line on Boylston Street in the middle of the city.
The Boston Marathon has an overall downhill gradient.
Runners, however, face rolling hills and unpredictable New England weather over the varied 26.2 miles.
The hills begin at mile 16, the worst being the infamous Heartbreak Hill at mile 20, after which it is mostly downhill to the finish.
I had a race plan for Boston as I’d studied the course.
However, what I hadn’t factored into the plan was the weather – torrential rain to begin with, very humid next, then, when the clouds dispersed and the sun came out, it became very hot, ending with more torrential rain as I approached the finish.
The crowds lining the course were very supportive.
Locals provided us with ice and firemen set up hoses to cool us all down – the heat was energy sapping. I was very relieved to cross the finish line in 3:47.26.
Less than two weeks after the Boston Marathon, I took part in my 13th London Marathon. I’d had almost two weeks’ rest from running after Boston and I entered London that year with the intention of just enjoying it rather than chasing a time.
The London Marathon remains a great favourite.
It’s local, incredibly well organised and the atmosphere is totally amazing – there is no other marathon like it.
Nowhere else have I witnessed the costumes, charity runners, Guinness World Record attempts and crowds on the scale of the London Marathon. It is simply the best. When I crossed the finish line in 2019, I looked down at my watch to see my time. The display said: “Congratulations, fastest marathon.” I’d finished in 3:33.45 – over and above all expectations.
As I was overcome with emotion, a volunteer came rushing over to check that I was okay and asked if I needed the medical tent – or a hug.
I took the hug, from a complete stranger, who just wanted to congratulate me – and that’s just one example of why London is so special and why I will continue to take part for as long as I can.
Finally, to Tokyo for the last of the World Marathon Majors – and what a journey that turned out to be!
Tokyo is officially recognised as one of the most difficult marathons in the world to get into. Hearing that the odds of a ballot place were extremely low – and wanting to fulfil my target of doing all the majors before I was 60 – I managed to get a charity place for the 2020 marathon, representing Teach For Japan.
The marathon was scheduled to take place in March 2020 and we’d planned the trip of a lifetime, travelling around Japan, New Zealand and Australia, but of course that all came to an end when the marathon was cancelled because of Covid-19.
I took the decision to defer my place to March 2023.
With the continued threat of Covid in Japan, I still had to contend with extremely rigorous entry procedures.
When I finally made it into the start area, with everything checked to the satisfaction of the race organisers, it was a huge relief.
I still had to run 26.2 miles and my goal was to finish in under four hours, even though I’d been injured during training.
However, I really enjoyed the Tokyo Marathon.
The course weaved around the city from the Metropolitan Government Building at the start to the finish near the main Tokyo Station.
The support from the mainly Japanese crowd was very friendly and encouraging and it was well organised with plenty of aid stations, medical assistance and plenty of the all-important loos!
The last few miles were tough, but with support from my family and the crowd, the finish was soon in sight.
When I crossed the line in 3:46.45 the feeling was one of sheer joy and total relief – I’d done it, achieved my sub four-hour goal and completed all six World Marathon Majors.
I was absolutely delighted to collect my Six Stars Medal and felt very proud of my achievement, especially in Tokyo where I had to work so hard just to avoid disappointment!
It’s been quite a journey, from New York in 2016 to Tokyo in 2023. I am grateful to all my friends and fellow runners at Farnham Runners for their support.
I have raised funds for the charities Cancer Research UK, Teach For Japan, the Ruth Strauss Foundation and the Phyllis Tuckwell Hospice and would like to thank everyone who has supported and sponsored me along the way. Thank you to Nick and Penny for suggesting New York in the first place, to Pete and Helen for their support in most of the majors and to Robin for making them all possible and for being there with me.