A record number of runners from around the world travelled to Tokyo to take on the Marathon and earn a very special reward.
Many experienced long-distance runners will be familiar with the World Marathon Majors. It comprises six prestigious marathon races across the globe in Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York City.
And when runners finish all six races, they are honoured with Six Star Medals.
Runners claiming Six Star Medals slowed in recent years due to COVID-19. In particular, the Tokyo Marathon was either postponed or barred overseas runners from competing since 2020.
But it's game on now.
The Tokyo Marathon 2023 was finally able to welcome back runners from all over the world, and according to officials, at least 10,000 of the total 38,000 runners were from overseas.
Many of them were there to finally tick off the last remaining race they needed to claim the elusive Six Star Medal.
While we do not know the exact figures yet, nearly 3,000 medals were given out at the finish line! Thus a Guinness World Record title for most people to earn a Six Star Medal at a single marathon was set.
One of the first runners to collect the Six Star Medal in Tokyo was David Morris from England. David was actually in Tokyo in 2020 to race, only to end up watching just the elites race due to COVID-19 restrictions.
"It was very frustrating," David said. "Obviously, I wanted to race, but I understood why [I couldn't]. I've been waiting for three years to complete the Six Stars. Now I feel absolutely amazing and ecstatic... a big accomplishment I've been trying to do for a long time."
Valeria Suzuki Mello (Brazil) also had to wait three years for the Tokyo Marathon to reopen.
She said: "I was so sad. I think everyone feels bad about the COVID situation but it was a dream to run in Tokyo. So this made me wake up every morning and run and try my best to get fit and be here today."
"I'm so happy and proud because it was not easy to be here today. Brazil is so far away, and it is expensive to get here. And it's not easy to do the training in Brazil, especially if you are a woman. It's not so safe and you have to find a safe place to do 30 km (18.6 mi) runs. But I did it. So I'm proud - for me and for all women who get up in the morning and run." - Valeria Suzuki Mello
Dawna Stone, Chief Executive Officer of the Abbott World Marathon Majors, said she could not hold back the emotion as she saw the runners complete the race.
She said: "It's been such a journey for them. Some people have taken so many years to finish, and I think the culmination of achieving something so amazing that so few have done is incredible."
Six Star journey that brought a family together
Among the thousands of runners was one family came to Tokyo to complete the World Marathon Majors. The six members of the Chilean Lobo family call themselves the Wolfpack Runners.
The family's Six Star journey began in 2016 when they first took on the Berlin Marathon together. According to Tomás Lobo van Wersch, this idea started with the father of the family, Rodrigo Lobo Puccio.
"He decided he wanted to spend more time with his us. So he invited us to do some exercise, and eventually, we ended up running marathons together. Then Santiago came up with the idea of attempting a Guinness World Records title."
Since their Six Star journey began, their lives have changed: Tomás has moved to London, and Santiago has moved to Berlin. This meant that the family had to train separately. "It was tricky, because it's more fun and that way we can exchange ideas. But then we have an active WhatsApp group so we tend to communicate through there," says Tomás.
The family's huge undertaking almost came to a shocking halt when Rodrigo Lobo Puccio, the oldest brother, had a major accident and was told by a doctor that he would never be able to run a marathon again. "But here he is", Tomás grinned.
When asked whether his dad's plan of bringing the family together worked, Tomás said: "It worked really well. It's not unusual for families to have some distance as we get older. We have been close because of his idea."
"It feels amazing. Almost 10 years of hard work, planning, and training had converged to this very moment. We are very proud of what we have achieved. It's been an emotional day and we're also looking forward to other challenges in the near future." - Tomás Lobo van Wersch
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