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Running the World Marathon Majors

Tim Rogers shares his running experience

Tim Rogers, founder of realbuzz, set out in 2006 with the intention of running all five of the World Marathon Majors – Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, and New York – and took in a Guinness World Record along the way. Here is Tim’s account of his experience as he became one of only a small, select band of runners to have achieved the feat in the same calendar year.

As soon as it was announced that the Majors had joined together to form a series, I wanted to be one of the first to run all five in one year – and by the end of the last marathon in New York, I became one of only three to achieve the feat in 2006.

My intention had been to run with the aim of promoting and showcasing the marathons – and running with cameras shooting footage and taking some shots along the way, in addition to wearing some crazy costumes in some of the events, was part of that plan.

First up in April was Boston. It’s a point-to-point course from Hopkinton Common to the finish line near the Hancock Tower in Boston, and was the first time it had taken place with wave starts going off at 10am and 10.30am.

As always, the event was held on Patriot’s Day, always a Monday, which makes for a brilliant atmosphere – and this date often creates issues for people wanting to run the London Marathon due to the closeness of the dates.

I had to set out early to get out to the start and catch one of the organised buses to the start area, and was thankful for being prepared with a good book to pass the time while others paced nervously around.

The course is undoubtedly the hilliest of all five Majors. It’s primarily uphill for the first half and then downhill for the second half, making it one of the most challenging. And of course don’t forget the famous Heartbreak Hill at around the 21-mile stage, and then the huge pressure on the legs as you come down the hill over the last few miles towards the finish line.

Having successfully completed that race, the very next day I caught a flight, got back to the UK on Wednesday, and then it was straight to the London Marathon Expo for the next four days and then the race on Sunday.

London was a challenge with a difference, since I’d decided on a world record attempt with the largest costume – a huge superhero figure for the Anthony Nolan Bone Marrow Trust. It became even more of a challenge when it started lashing it down with rain and the costume got heavier and heavier, but then that’s all part and parcel of what you take on.

After a few miles I had wanted to give up, but I stuck at it, gritted my teeth and made it to the finish line and successfully entered to record books.

After a few months of training it was then down to the business of tackling Berlin in September. It was one that I knew little about as I’d not done it before, but it was fantastic.

I had only a ten-minute walk to the start since I was staying nearby. There were blue skies and by the end of the race temperatures were up to around 25 degrees.   

Things were a little slow to start with early on, but as things progressed there was a superb atmosphere with around 60 bands lining the course. The finish under the Brandenburg Gate was just superb and I was thrilled by the whole experience.

Chicago in October was very cold and a complete contrast to what I’d experienced before. It was a fantastic place to start and finish in and, like Berlin, it was a really flat and fast course.

Despite the cold and forecast of snow – which thankfully didn’t arrive – there was a great atmosphere and plenty of bands playing around the course. This time I’d decided to run as a knight complete with a sword and shield and two cameras, so it made for an interesting experience juggling that lot.

The final race to achieve all five was New York in November. I’d had a busy week in New York with various meetings, and on race day was up early and caught the official bus at 5.30am from Central Library. As it was a 10.10am start, I had plenty of time to kill and I was once again thankful for taking along a book to fill the time while waiting for the off.

The weather, although a touch chilly, was actually reasonably good for running – although I was grateful for being properly wrapped up.

What contributes to making the New York race fantastic is the massive proportion of overseas runners, which really adds to the raceday experience. There are also some stunning parts along the way – including the spectacular 1st Avenue – and great support, especially in places like the Bronx and Harlem. The finish in Central Park was amazing.

Having achieved running all five World Marathon Majors in a year, I’d encourage others to go for it if they can really commit to it. It’s certainly doable in a year, but you might want to think about doing it over two years like the elite athletes do. To have them split into two in spring (Boston and London) and three in autumn (Berlin, Chicago and New York) is hard, and doing the three at the end over a six-week period is tough, but well worthwhile.’

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