HEAVY MEDAL: Abbott World Marathon Majors Quest Forges Friendship, Nears Paydirt in Chicago

Of all the sights and sounds that Sophie Raworth and Susie Chan experience Sunday running through 29 neighborhoods in the Chicago Marathon, none may be more glorious than the jangling noise they anticipate hearing sometime after crossing the finish line.

It’s a sound that has made them envious in the past: the metallic clank made by runners draped with enormous Six Star Finisher Medals, awarded for completing all six Abbott World Marathon Majors.

As Raworth tells it, “you can hear them coming from a mile away.”

This time, the two women intend to do some clanking of their own after hanging both the Six Star and Chicago finishers medals around their necks.

“The things we will do for a medal,” Raworth said with a laugh by phone from London. “The medal has driven us all over the world.”

Besides receiving what has been called the most coveted of all marathon medals for non-elite runners, those earning them are awarded a certificate listing their six finishing times and honored in an official online register. Even more deeply rewarding for the two Londoners has been the close friendship they forged along the way.

It began after Raworth, 49, a news anchor for BBC Television, tweeted in April 2014 that she was running Boston a week after London and wondered who else was. Chan responded that she was doing the same, and @Raworthontherun and @Susie__Chan soon became close friends.

When someone mentioned the Abbott World Marathon Majors Six Star Finisher medal during a Boston post-race celebration of eight Brits who had done the London-Boston double, the quest was on. Now the two women are in a group of eight that has traveled the world to run the majors.

“I never imagined I’d be running marathons, let alone going around the globe running them,” says Raworth.

Like her friend, the 42-year-old Chan is a relative latecomer to the sport. After taking up running only in late 2010, she now is an accomplished endurance runner who also does ultramarathons with her husband, Shaun Marsden.

“Having holidays abroad which also involve running is a great way to see the world,” she says.

In between treks around the globe to race together, Chan and Raworth speak most days by phone and connect every two weeks or so for a run. They also have started persuading each other to do different athletic competitions. This year, Chan talked her friend into doing a 50-mile ultra and Raworth talked her into doing a two-mile swim in open water.

After New York, Tokyo and Berlin, the only marathon that stands between the two runners and their medals, as Chan accurately describes them, is Chicago. Both have been slowed by injuries in recent months, as have others in their group of eight that will take the starting line together in Chicago. But both expressed excitement going into the race and said they expect to finish in around 3 hours 45 minutes. (Their personal bests are 3:23 for Chan and 3:29 for Raworth.)

Raworth said she will be especially happy to share the moment with Chan, who has become one of her closest friends: “It means a lot to both of us. When we cross that finish line together, it’ll be a great moment.”

Neither expected to accomplish the medal quest in such a short time.

“They’re such big races, and to pick up all of them in three and a half years is huge,” said Chan.
“I’m so excited. It’s going to be a huge, huge moment when we finish. We’ll find our friends and collect our ginormous Six Star medals and I think we’ll probably have a few celebratory beers afterward.”

Then there will be more competitions ahead for these competitive, fast friends.

“It’s not going to end in Chicago. It’s probably just going to be the beginning,” Chan said. “We’re probably going to spend the rest of our days challenging each other into doing different events, and challenging ourselves.”

But first comes the clanking on Sunday.

- by Dave Carpenter

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