From Non-Runner to Six-Star Finisher: Why I ran the Abbott World Marathon Majors
Updated: Jan 18, 2020
Guest Author: Karen Lyons, @kshortill
I didn’t know anything was wrong when I was pregnant. I had just given birth to my second baby, a little boy, and was in the hospital room recovering.
“I think your baby may have a syndrome,” the on-call pediatrician said. I was holding what I thought was my perfectly healthy baby boy, and I froze. “I don’t want you to Google it or anything right now, because I’m not a hundred percent certain, but he has many of the characteristics of a genetic disorder called Cornelia de Lange Syndrome.”
You know that part in a movie where the main character’s life changes in a single scene? There’s an epiphany, or some wise words shared? This is usually followed by a montage of some kind of makeover, or the character getting their life together, or doing all the right things to be better? Well, my journey to run the Abbott World Marathon Majors starts right at this scene in the hospital, but rather than being a 60-second montage of good film editing, it’s ten years of hard work.
In 2008, I wasn’t a runner, or even all that athletic. I was in my mid-30s and a little overweight. I was now home with my baby boy and toddler, trying to settle into this new life—adjusting to a daily routine with not just two children, but one that required doctor’s appointments and intense therapy. I felt thrown into this new world of “special needs” and struggled with the confusion that comes when nothing feels normal. I was struggling between deep denial and depression. Not postpartum depression exactly, but the kind that you feel when something painfully sad happens. I knew my son was not a tragedy, but he would always have significant cognitive and physical disabilities, and we didn’t know what kind of health issues might arise as he grew.
We learned that Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS) affects about 1 in 10,000 births, and can have a wide range of characteristics. Generally, people with CdLS are very small in stature, have darker eyebrows that sometimes meet in the middle, a small, upturned nose, and significant behavioral and communications issues. Many kids with CdLS have Autism, or visual and hearing impairments. It was a lot to accept.
One day when my son was about 10 weeks old, I put on some old sneakers from TJMaxx and a baggy sweatshirt and went to run around my block. It was a cold January day and the air was sharp. I lasted about 10 minutes, and when I stumbled back up my front porch steps, my lungs were burning, my nose was running, and my face was bright red. I still don’t know what motivated me to do that. Perhaps I just wanted a break, or a moment to be alone. But afterwards something felt a little better. So, like the beginning of all good running stories: I decided to just put one foot in front of the other and keep going. I ran a little more each day, and to my own amazement, finished a local 10K that Spring.
Shortly thereafter, I found out I was pregnant with my 3rd child, and after he was born in 2009, our family felt complete. I was ready to start running again, but it was hard to find the time with three kids under the age of five! I took advantage of nap times, my basement treadmill, the daycare at the gym. Anything. I began to notice that this time, running felt less like a means to disassociate with my struggles and more like it had a purpose. Rather than feeling like I was running away, I felt a sense that it was time to more forward, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what to do next. So for the next few years I ran local races and built my way up to finishing a Half Marathon.
The answer to my unspoken question came in the form of a simple, life-changing email. The Cornelia de Lange Syndrome Foundation, which helps families of those with CdLS, sent out a request asking if there were any runners out there that might like a bib number for the 2013 New York City Marathon, and to fundraise on behalf of Team CdLS. I remember my heart beating faster and I had this unfamiliar sense of fear and excitement.
What kind of maniac runs 26 miles ON PURPOSE? It seemed beyond insane, so I politely responded, “Good morning, I’ve never run a marathon before, but my son has CdLS. I’d love to be on the team if you still have spots.” I mean, why not, after all? At this point, I had never heard of the Abbott World Marathon Majors. Tokyo had just been added as a Major in 2012, and Abbott would not become the title sponsor until the following year . For now, it was just one race, one purpose.
NEW YORK CITY MARATHON - 2013
As it turns out, I have very generous friends and family, and fundraising went smoothly with everyone’s support. By race day, I had raised well over my goal. I had completed one 20-mile training run, didn’t die from it like I thought I might, and felt ready to run. But I was a rookie, and made plenty of rookie mistakes. I still had this false belief that I wasn’t a “real runner” and felt like I was some kind of fraud.
My husband and I arrived in NYC on Saturday and checked into our rental apartment, which was 12 blocks away from the Finish line (rookie mistake; stay as close to the Finish as you can find!) We went to the Expo on Saturday afternoon (another rookie mistake; the merchandise was mostly cleaned out by then, and I couldn’t find my size.) But it was still my first marathon Expo and I loved shopping around and absorbing all the energy!
On race morning, my mind was calm and collected. I had a cup of coffee, a banana, and a bowl of Cheerios at 6am (huge rookie mistake; that’s not nearly enough food for a marathon, especially one that starts at 11am! I was starving before I even started!) I took a cab to the Staten Island Ferry and allowed myself to absorb into the sea of other runners boarding the ferry.
Miraculously, I managed to get a seat by a window. As I sat watching the Statue of Liberty in the distance, I noticed the fully armed Coast Guard boat next to us with a mounted machine gun. I live just an hour north of Boston, and the bombings that year were still fresh in everyone’s mind. I tried to focus on the other runners and said a quick prayer that there’d be no copycat bombers.
After another bus ride and a quick bag check, I found myself meandering around in the Blue Start Village. The NYC Marathon Start Village contained more people that my entire hometown in New Hampshire! I found a spot under a tree and sat down. I had worn warm clothes at the advice of other runners, so I felt ok. I noticed I was starving, and was thrilled to remember that I had put a Clif bar in my bag. Essentially, I ran the whole marathon on that one, precious Clif bar!
I was in Wave 4, and it was time to line up. I’m normally friendly and chatty, but I was so nervous, I didn’t talk to a single person all morning. Eventually, I joined in on a conversation a few women were having. One of them looked at least 10 years younger than me, and told me that this was her 11th marathon. Well, my jaw just dropped—it had never really occurred to me that regular people would run a marathon more than once! (Years later, before the start of my 11th marathon, I remembered this story with a smile.) As Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” blasted through the air, I asked a stranger to take a picture, and I did the same for him.
At last the BOOM of the cannons fired, as is tradition, and I found myself running in a sea of humanity across the Verrazzano-Narrows bridge. I looked to my right and my eyes widened as an NYPD helicopter flew right at my eye level! I ran down the other side of the bridge into Brooklyn, and settled into a nice, but way too fast, pace. I had never seen anything like this in my life. I normally run with music, but decided to leave my earbuds at home. I had written my name on my shirt and strangers called out my name with encouraging words through each incredible neighborhood.
Now, being the marathon rookie I was, I had never properly trained with fuel, so for the entire length of the race, I ate a total of four GU gummies. So by mile 20, I was toast. I started walking, and everything began to hurt. At one point, I was so uncomfortable and confused, I had the bizarre thought that I could just walk off the course and be done with this insanity.
But I didn’t quit. This race was the hardest thing I’d ever done, and it was forcing me to face the kind of adversity I had always run from. I realized I was stronger than I thought. When I saw the Finish line, I instinctually raised my arms in exhausted victory, felt a wave of gratitude, and swore I’d never do that again.
CHICAGO MARATHON - 2014
On the bus ride home from NYC, and after a good night’s sleep, I had this crazy idea that if I could do it once, maybe I could do it again. I could barely walk, but I felt like a runner, and I suddenly had the confidence to say it. There was something cathartic in pushing myself that hard and breaking it all down. I had a sense of “newness” (that now, years later, is the thing that I think makes us all a little addicted to this sport.) I knew the CdLS Foundation had a big charity team for the Chicago Marathon, and so I let them know right away that I wanted to run the Chicago Marathon for Team CdLS.
This time, however, I became plagued with the dreaded IT Band Syndrome in my right knee all though training. My fundraising was going well, but training was hard and painful and didn’t have the excitement of training for my first. I was feeling a little discouraged by race weekend.
We decided to bring all three of our kids to the race and make a family vacation out of our trip to Chicago. And we wanted to introduce our son with CdLS to the team so we could thank them personally for all their fundraising to help people like him. Meeting all these other runners who were choosing to use their athleticism to help improve the lives of other people filled me inspiration, and any discouragement I had felt earlier just melted away. This was an honor, to do this, and I was ready to accept the challenge.
During our team dinner and throughout the weekend, I had heard various murmurings about this thing called the “World Majors” among other runners. I was immediately intrigued. Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago, and NYC. Hold on, I thought… after this race, I’ll have already run two of them. Why not run them all?
And so when I lined up in my coral on race day, with a painful right knee and a renewed sense of purpose, I ran and didn’t stop, thinking of the future. I had trained with fuel this time and the huge crowds kept me moving. Plus, I knew that if I stopped, my knee would just buckle out from underneath me, so I focused on a steady mantra to move slow and steady. I managed to finish in 4:37, which was a nice improvement of my NYC time of 4:53.
Team CdLS had gotten us all tickets to the Balbo Hospitality Tent, which was amazing and for which I felt incredibly thankful after crossing the Finish. The pain in my knee was so bad, I could barely limp. I managed to get my free beer (priorities!) and hobbled into the hospitality tent. Most of the team had finished, and I was greeted with heartfelt cheers and hugs when I walked in. It was the greatest feeling. I sat down and someone got me an ice pack for my knee. My kids ran around and played with other kids. I drank several beers and enjoyed the company, ate the free food, and felt that I would be forever spoiled by the Chicago Marathon.
After a nice few days of sightseeing, we boarded the plane home, and I pulled out my phone to look for information about the Berlin Marathon. My mind was made up: I was going to run ALL of these World Marathons Majors. When I got home, I saw the news that Abbott Global had just became the first title sponsor to the World Majors, and the popularity of the race series was about to skyrocket.
BERLIN MARATHON - 2015
After a lot of thought, I decided that I didn’t want to burn out all the generous donors that had helped me get to where I was. I decided to take a break from fundraising and put my name in the lottery for the Berlin Marathon. I just about fell over when I got the email that my name had been selected and I had a spot! I was full of determination when I began training; and up until this point, I didn’t pay too much attention to my pace or race time, but I was beginning to feel like maybe I could run faster.
I started incorporating some speedwork and hills into my training and things were going great until my first 15-mile run. Halfway through, I felt a sharp pain in my left hip, and was forced to limp-walk my way home. I had to take a full three weeks off from running, and I felt crushed. But as race week approached, I refused to give up. I eased back into running slowly and changed my goal to just finish. I was determined to follow through with what I started.
We decided to leave the kids at home with their grandparents, who generously offered to stay at our house. I would not have been able to run any of the Majors without their support and help with the kids. We took an overnight flight from Boston on a Thursday night and arrived in Berlin on Friday morning. After checking in to our hotel and a few shots of espresso, we hit the Expo, which was held in a wonderfully cool old airport originally built in the 20’s and 30’s, the former Flughafen Tempelhof.
The next day we ate soft pretzels and walked around the Start/Finish area so I could plan out how long it would take me to walk there on race morning. We took countless selfies in front of the Brandenburg Gate and met up with friends from home who were also running. The atmosphere of the city felt new and young. But after an early dinner, I was ready to sleep!
Race day was a blast from start to finish—I loved every minute. I walked easily to the Start area, met up with my friend Annie, found a place to sit, and we cracked jokes and laughed as we ate snacks and took pictures. It’s an early race, and the sun began to rise, turning the sky beautiful shades of orange and red.
Standing in the corrals, we all clapped our hands over our heads in unison, a cloud of yellow balloons filled the air, and off I went! The crowded course forced me to slow down, which ultimately helped me in the later miles. The spectators yelled, “Lauf! Lauf!” (Run! Run!). We ran through at least a dozen fascinating neighborhoods, and I realized through it all that my hip was not hurting a bit—the forced rest had paid off. So I picked up the pace and realized I had plenty of gas in the tank. I *almost* ran a perfect negative split.
I finally saw the giant columns of the Brandenburg Gate ahead of me—the Finish line (“Zeil!”) was close! Running through the Gate, I took a moment to reflect on what a resilient city Berlin was, with it’s long and complicated history. This was a city that would never give up, and neither would I. I crossed the Finish line with a huge smile, and a new personal best of 4:28.
I met my husband at the family reunion area and he helped me hobble over to a nearby Biergarten, where we met some friends and celebrated with massive mugs of beer and sausages. A musician wearing traditional lederhosen played an accordion for all the guests and the sun came out, making for a beautiful afternoon of relaxing and celebrating. I didn’t want it to end, but exhaustion eventually won, and I was fast asleep by 6pm. When I woke up, I could only think of one thing: the Boston Marathon.
BOSTON MARATHON - 2016
I knew I wanted to run the Boston Marathon for charity, so I chose to apply to two charities that had personal meaning for me: Boston Children’s Hospital, where most of my son’s specialists are and where he’s had several surgeries, and Camp Shriver, a free day camp for children with disabilities that focuses on inclusion with non-disabled peers. I knew that competition for charity spots was fierce, and I had to prove myself on my application.
I listed not just my prior fundraising, but also the percentage of goal that I had met. I put a lot of thought into how I would advocate for each charity and help spread their message. A lot of runners out there think that those who run Boston for charity somehow just write one massive check and “buy their way in.” But Boston charities usually don’t want that kind of person on their team. They want team members who will help them grow their donor list, who believe in their purpose, and who want to run to help improve the lives of others.
I was honored that both charities called me for a phone interview, where I presented my detailed fundraising plan and talked about how my son was the real reason I became a runner. A few weeks later, I was offered a spot on both teams. I felt incredibly honored, but ultimately, I choose to run on behalf of Camp Shriver—they had a much smaller team and often trained together in Newton, MA on the weekends, which I could drive to in just over an hour. I wanted to make friends and really connect with the team; and Camp Shrivers’s cause inspired me.
Boston would be my one-and-only local marathon. I only live an hour north. So this wasn’t a big travel adventure for me or family vacation. Instead, my memories of the Boston Marathon revolve around the months of training with my team, making new friends, shamelessly fundraising, and feeling… well, love. To run Boston on a charity team is unlike any other running I had done. We ran not just because we wanted to run Boston, but because we truly wanted to make a difference.
Wave 4 of the Boston Marathon is filled with inspiring and heartbreaking stories, and will make you appreciate every step of the race course. Just as the Qualifiers are the best of the best in terms of grit, strength, and speed, the charity runners for Boston are the best of the best in dedication, heart, and fundraising. I truly felt like it was an honor to be there.
During this time, Abbott had sent out a mass email, looking for dedicated runners to be Ambassadors for the Abbott World Marathon Majors. I filled out the form, hit send, and assumed I’d never hear from them again. But a few weeks later, I received the good news that I was one of the lucky few recreational runners who were chosen to represent the Abbott World Marathon Majors! I believe there were initially about 40 of us from around the world, and we all introduced ourselves via a dedicated Facebook page. I have since met many of my fellow Ambassadors, who are a wonderful community of inspired, dedicated runners. Shortly thereafter, Abbott introduced its now-legendary Six-Star medal. If there’s one thing runners love, it’s bling. The popularity of the World Majors was about to take off.
Race day itself could be several more pages of writing, so I’ll say this instead: it was hot and sunny at the start, I hugged my teammates, and set off too fast. I saw so many local friends along the course—I must have stopped a dozen times to hug everyone.
My most vivid memory was seeing my big brother Mike, cheering me on from the sidelines. He was recovering from a years-long addiction to heroin, and as I gave him a hug, I felt so happy that he was out enjoying the day and looking happy. Sadly, that was the last time he would see me run. Several months later, he died of an accidental overdose. It’s difficult to write about this, but I’m glad I remember him there, smiling and cheering on the runners on that beautiful Boston day.
As I reached the final mile, I couldn’t even think straight. My stomach was in knots. My feet felt like cement blocks. I said a silent prayer as I passed the site of the 2013 bombings. I finished, in immense pain but full of gratitude, in 4:24.
I met up with my husband and kids in a nearby hotel, where my teammates and other charities were having a post-party for all the runners. But I felt so tired, so unbelievably tired, that for the first time after a race I just wanted to sleep. The Boston Marathon course does quite a number on your legs, and quite a number on your emotions. So I was happy to just limp to our car, stop for pizza on Route 1 North, and sleep soundly in my own bed that night, knowing that the day was a job well done, and my heart was full.
LONDON MARATHON - 2017
London has a special place in my heart because I spent a semester abroad there during my senior year of college, in the mid-90s, right in the heart of the city. I couldn’t wait to go back, more than 20 years later. But it wasn’t going to be easy. All six of the Abbott World Marathon Majors were huge races before the series existed, and now they were becoming massively popular and very hard to get into. Fundraising for Boston had been a full-time job, and I was worried again that my very generous friends and family might tire of me asking them for donations. I had also heard that winning a spot into London via lottery was nearly impossible.
So, with some pre-planning, I discovered that a travel company called Marathon Tours and Travel offered bib numbers with their travel package, but that that Majors were so popular, it offered spots first to their VIP members (also called Seven Continents Club). I dutifully joined the club, and awaited the early email offering entry. While we generally prefer to travel on our own, I was looking forward to enjoying the amenities of going with a tour company: private parties, a private bus to the Start, a hotel near the Finish.
For training, I continued my efforts to get faster. I don’t actually remember much about training, other than running every week with my (much faster) friend Kirsten, who helped motivate me out of the house on snowy winter mornings. My body felt strong, and I started to have the confidence of a more experienced runner. I learned how to “speak track” and had running friends who helped me with 800’s and other speedwork. It felt weird not to be fundraising and to be focused on myself and my own goals. But maybe it was having this extra emotional freedom that helped me get faster.
The grandparents arrived to watch the kids, and again my husband and I took an overnight flight on Thursday, arriving in London Friday morning. The Expo felt like it was on the outskirts of the city, but it was well run and fun to shop. Afterwards, we met several of my fellow Abbott World Marathon Majors Ambassadors for beers a pub—Amy, who was local, was a fantastic help and hostess. Without her and her husband, I may have never discovered Jelly Belly's (a gummy bear candy that’s perfect for runners in those late miles)!
Race morning was a breeze, thanks to the tour company. I sipped on a cup of coffee on the comfortable bus to the Start area, well outside the city. I chatted with my fellow Ambassador, Denise, and other runners from all over the world. The Start area of the London marathon is in a large, beautiful field, and had a festival-like atmosphere. I never had to wait more than a minute or two for a toilet. Of all the Majors, only the NYC Marathon could rival the number of Port-a-Potties!
I lined up with the 4:15 pacers and tried desperately to catch a glimpse of “the Royals” as I crossed the Start (no such luck!) The weather was perfect, but the narrow roads in the first 10 miles were astronomically crowded. I felt shoulder-to-shoulder for most of the race. The London Marathon is, in my opinion, the most crowded of the Majors (Berlin is a close second.) I never could quite settle into a pace. But I made the best of it and smiled for the cameras, gave high-fives to the little kids, and enjoyed the scenery.
In the last 3 miles, the 4:15 pacers suddenly blew by me…I haven’t even realized that I had gotten ahead of them! That lit a fire in me, and I began to fly, doing my best to get ahead of them. I turned the corner at Buckingham Palace and saw the Finish Line. I sprinted toward it and raised my arms in victory—finishing with a new personal best of 4:13.
I was flying high with adrenaline. I met my husband, the greatest race support guy of all time (in part because he’s a human compass and always knows exactly how to get back to our hotel.) But on our walk back we decided to stop in a small, adorable pub in a side alley, filled with other sweaty and tired runners. We ended up spending hours there, making new friends and enjoying our post-race drinks. I really didn’t want the day to end; it was perfect.
We stayed a few more days to sight-see, and when we flew home, I made a promise to myself not to wait another 20 years to visit this incredible city that had given me so much.
TOKYO MARATHON - 2018
At long last, I was about to run my final Abbott World Marathon Major and receive that coveted Six Star medal! To get into the race, we decided to go again with Marathon Tours and Travel, as they had taken such good care of us in the London Marathon. It wasn’t the cheapest option, but the amenities they offered for the price were worth it to me: a hotel just a block from the Start, a private bus back to the hotel from the Finish, private tours with an English-speaking guide, and a pre and post-race party. I secured my spot, and began training.
This time, I started daydreaming about running a Sub-4 marathon. Could I do it? I trained hard and incorporated a lot of speedwork and weekly yoga. I trained on tired legs often, not really understanding the physiology of it all. Still, I was feel strong and ready to run.
Again, the grandparents came up to watch the kids. We flew out this time on a Wednesday, to allow an extra day to acclimate to the time difference (that never actually happened though, but I just went with it.) The direct flight from Boston was 14 hours. Luckily, I love traveling, and enjoyed the free time to watch movies, have some champagne, and sleep.
We arrived at Narita airport, exhausted but with eyes wide with excitement.
After checking into our hotel and meeting the staff of the tour company, we set out on our own nighttime adventure… we walked thought the streets of the Shinjuku neighborhood, ablaze with lights and neon on all the buildings. We found a small restaurant and ordered yakisoba (fried noodles with an egg in the middle) and light, fizzy beers. I was almost as excited about eating my way through Tokyo as I was about running through it! My itinerary for our time in Tokyo revolved almost entirely around food. I was going to eat everything: ramen, yakitori, shabu-shabu, tempura, udon, takoyaki… I wanted to try everything!
We spent Friday touring around the city, visiting Senso-ji, Meiji-jingu, witnessing a traditional drum presentation, and at last, hitting the Exop. Because we were with a tour bus, I didn’t get a lot of time to shop and meander around the Expo, but it was well organized and I was in and out pretty quickly.
The next day, we woke up early and met with other runners in the hotel lobby to go the wonderful Friendship Run—a 4 kilometer shakeout run with runners all over the world. You have to sign up for this as a separate race beforehand. It was a beautiful, blue sky day, In 2018, the Friendship Run was held at Tokyo Big Sight, a massive convention center right on Tokyo Bay. It was chilly, but it felt great to move my legs after such a long flight and so much sightseeing. My husband, who had become a marathon runner in his own right in the past year, ran with me.
After a delicious lunch of Raman noodles, we relaxed for the rest of the day and enjoyed the company of other runners my fellow Ambassador, Kelly, who was earning her 5th Star. I went to bed early and tried to stay calm.
Race morning was as easy as it gets: the Start line was just a short walk down the road. I didn’t bring any kind of bag, as I planned to toss my old fleece jacket, and I knew my husband would meet me at the Finish. At the Tokyo Marathon, there are no hand-held water bottles allowed, or any plastic bottles of any kind (like those in a hydration belt). You can bring in you fuel (GU packs, etc.) and only unopened bottles of water or Pocari Sweat (Japan’s version of Gatorade). Although I had trained with a hand-held water bottle, this didn’t bother me. The aide stations were plentiful, and even though I wanted a PR, it’s not like I was an Elite runner who couldn’t afford to stop for a second for a drink.
As I stood in my corral, I was quite surprised to see that I was almost entirely surrounded by men. I saw only a few other women. In the United States, women make up at least half of every race you go to, so I had to remember that it’s not like that everywhere. As I write this, there are considerably more men to have finished the Abbott World Marathon Majors than women. So at that moment in the corral, I suddenly felt incredibly badass. It was empowering, and that feeling put a huge smile on my face as I crossed the Start. I would run for all the women out there, and I would do it well!
The race itself was fast and flat, with several hair-pin turns. If you try and hug those turns, you could very well slow to a full stop because of the crowded field size. I swung around to the outside of the turns. This also happens to be where many of the race photographers are, so it’s a good time to ham it up for the cameras, and to take a moment to reflect on how far you’ve come.
All I remember of the final few miles was that I found myself racing alongside a barefoot runner, and I had this thought: after all that hard training, and all these years, I am NOT going to have a permanent finisher photo of me getting beat by a guy with no shoes! So I went into full-on race mode, increasing my speed by at least 30 seconds per mile. I looked up at all the tall buildings around me, I tried to remember the faces of the spectators, the sounds, everything.
As I raced down the final 200 meters, I threw my fist in the air with strength; I wasn’t even that tired, and felt like I could have run further. I crossed the finish line with a new personal best of 4:08… and promptly burst into tears. I’m not a big crier, so this surprised me. They were tears of joy, of gratitude, and of sadness that this journey coming to an end.
The finish line was oddly quiet. There was no music playing loudly, or anyone on a loudspeaker. You could hear the tired breathing of hundreds of runners as we all shuffled up towards the medals. There wasn’t someone right there for me to hug and jump up and down with or high five… it was just me, for a few minutes. Alone in my accomplishment that had taken years and that had changed me as a person.
I remembered a quote I had heard once from Amby Burfoot, “As we run, so we become.” As I walked toward the Abbott World Marathon Majors team handing out the Six Star medals with hugs and cheers, I enjoyed this short moment of quiet solitude in a sea of thousands of runners. I had become someone unafraid to take on hard challenges, someone who no longer doubted herself, someone who no longer ran to get away from the hard things in life.
I was a mother of three from a small town in New Hampshire, standing in the biggest city in the world, and I was about to become the first woman in my state to become an Abbott World Marathon Major Six Star Fin