Pat Somerville shows off his medals after completing the 2023 Tokyo Marathon.

Saskatoon runner joins Six Star finisher world record

Twenty years after running his first Abbott World Marathon Major, Saskatoon runner Pat Somerville picked up his elusive Six Star medal this month after crossing the finish line at the 2023 Tokyo Marathon.

The 54-year-old was one of 3,033 runners to earn a Six Star Medal on March 5 — a number so impressive it set a Guinness World Record for the most people to earn a Six Star medal at a single marathon.

Somerville, who completed the race in a time of 3:32, says it was “neat” to be part of the record and he is thrilled to have run a Boston Marathon qualifying time despite some race-day nerves.

Earning a Six Star medal is no small feat. To get the hardware, runners must complete all six Abbott World Marathon Majors: the Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, New York City and Tokyo marathons. Each race has different entry requirements, but often runners have to hit qualifying time targets, put their names in a lottery or commit to raising significant sums for charity.

Tokyo is among the most difficult races for North American runners to get into and Somerville was lucky to secure his bib through a lottery.

Running the race allowed him to complete a journey he started in the early 2000s, when runners at a Brainsport running clinic he was coaching told him about their experiences travelling to and competing in the Abbott World Marathon Majors. Somerville — who has had incredible luck in marathon lotteries — entered the lottery for the 2003 New York City Marathon and got in. He ran a time that qualified him for the Boston Marathon and ran it the following year.

In the years that followed, he’s run Boston again, toed the line at the Chicago Marathon four times, run the Berlin Marathon twice and the London Marathon once. He’s also run other, smaller marathons and is a four-time Saskatchewan Marathon finisher. Tokyo marked his 25th marathon.

Pat Somerville shows off his hardware after running the 2023 Tokyo Marathon.
Pat Somerville shows off his hardware after running the 2023 Tokyo Marathon.

Somerville is a fan of marathon running generally, but part of what makes the Marathon Majors so special for him is the excitement that surrounds them. Last fall Somerville ran the Berlin Marathon when Eliud Kipchoge set the marathon world record in a blistering 2:01:39.

“There were signs everywhere that the world record had been broken, so it was neat to be a part of history at the finish line,” he said.

Tokyo also offered an opportunity to be part of history as Cam Levins broke his own Canadian marathon record in a time of 2:05:36 to finish fifth, just 14 seconds behind the winner. Somerville got to see Levins running with the lead pack around the 16-kilometre mark on the out-and-back course.

“It was inspirational and also amazing knowing that he had not only finished fifth, but also set a Canadian marathon record,” Somerville said.

With one Six Star medal secured, Somerville is now contemplating chasing a second one.

He’s registered to run the New York City Marathon again in November, which will leave him only two races short of a second Six Star medal. To achieve that feat, he’ll need to find a way into the London and Tokyo marathons again — but by the time he does that, he’ll likely be chasing a new Seven Star medal as the Abbott World Marathon Majors is looking to expand to a seventh marathon by 2025.

Australia’s Sydney Marathon, South Africa’s Sanlam Cape Town Marathon and China’s Chengdu Marathon are among the three candidates.

“I hope Abbott decides to add Sydney or Cape Town, as I would love to travel there,” Somerville says.

Regardless of which race is added, he doesn’t plan to wait another 20 years to cross the remaining Majors off his list; as he says: “ageing is not making running these marathons any easier.”