Local women complete coveted Abbott World Marathon Majors, receive Six Star Medal

May 9, 2023 | 12:10 am

Updated May 8, 2023 | 6:27 pm

One the most coveted awards in running is the Six Star Medal, which signifies the completion of the six major marathons across the world. The Abbott World Marathon Majors were introduced in 2016, and approximately 11,00 runners have accomplished the feat. Two Owensboro women are now on that list.

Jennifer Falloway and Vicky Payne recently earned the Six Star Medal after completing the London Marathon in April. They had already run the marathons in Boston, New York, Chicago, Berlin, and Tokyo.

To qualify to apply for the Abbott World Marathon Majors, runners must achieve qualifying times in the events within a specified time frame, running a marathon faster than 2:32:00 for men and 3:19:00 for women.

What started as a quest to qualify for the Boston Marathon 4 years ago sent the friends on a journey of disappointments, delays, and cancellations — all of which ultimately led to them to this accomplishment. 

“I ran a marathon years ago and got the urge to do another one. I’d done four or five when I reached out to Jennifer and said she should do one with me,” Payne said. 

Their first attempts to qualify for the Boston Marathon were so close they knew they could not give up. In fact, they had qualifying times twice before actually getting into the race. If the number of applicants who qualify exceed the marathon’s field size, meeting the time standard does not guarantee entry.

“They take the fastest runners first, and I missed the cutoff. That year, you had to be four and a half minutes faster (than the BQ) and I was three and a half minutes faster. We didn’t make the cut and I was devastated,” Payne said.

Then in 2020, despite qualifying again and knocking several minutes off their marathon time, COVID-19 hit. 

“It was the 124th race that year. It’s the first time in the history of the race that the Boston Marathon was cancelled. We were so disappointed,” Payne said.

When given the option to run the race virtually, the two runners completed the virtual marathon by running 26.2 miles around Owensboro in the midst of the shutdowns. 

“We started trying to qualify in 2018 but didn’t officially run Boston until 2021. That’s when I heard about the Abott World Marathon Majors. I remember thinking I was in great shape, so I might as well do it,” Payne said. 

As for what fuels her passion, Falloway says she is always up for a challenge. Throughout the course of their running career, the running duo has certainly encountered their share of challenges. 

“I feel like any race we ran, we had to face adversity. When we ran Houston, we had heat warnings out. When we ran Idaho, it was on fire. There was always some kind of disaster. With Boston we had a world pandemic. And one race, there was even an earthquake,” Falloway said. 

When the runners reflect back on this experience, they have reached a consensus that it was definitely worth it. 

“When I think back on all of it, I am pretty proud,” Falloway said. “In London, there were 45,000 runners, and the spectators were amazing. We wore all-out USA. Everyone saw us and knew where we were from. It was my favorite race.”

May 9, 2023 | 12:10 am

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