What is the World Abbott Major Marathon medal all about, you may ask? 

In a nutshell, it is a prized medal first introduced in 2016 that can be attained by those who run in and complete what is regarded as the six major marathons held around the world: London, Tokyo, Boston, Berlin, Chicago, and New York. To date only 8,067 people have done this. 

Last year (EDP April 28, 2022), I wrote about Wymondham AC’s Keith Blake after he had just completed this awesome task when running in the World’s oldest annual marathon in Boston. 

Another long-time running friend Angela Bell, from Poringland, who is a member of the Poringland Runners is herself now just one major marathon away from earning one of these most coveted medals when she takes on the Tokyo marathon next year. 

“It will have taken me nine years to achieve this feat,” she said, but more of her back story first. 

Angela first took to running around 2012 which of course was the year of the London Olympic Games. 

Like so many others she very quickly got the running bug when discovering another world out there during early morning runs through the countryside whilst watching all the wildlife during sunrise. 

When it came to marathons though, her first experience of running 26.2 miles came just three years later in 2015 after having been given a charity place for the London Marathon. 

Then after a holiday in New York which she absolutely loved; this ignited her marathon imagination once again which led to her completing her second marathon in ‘The Big Apple’ in 2016. “It was everything I expected it to be, and I loved every single mile,” she said. 

However, it was while at the NYC marathon exhibition where she first came across the Six Star Medal and despite being so excited by the thought of being able to win one of these super looking awards, she still thought it was a challenge out of her reach so decided to put the idea of it to the back of her mind. 

Now when I say to the back of her mind, only until after being successful in the ballot to run in the 2017 Berlin Marathon. 

At the same time this was also a very significant moment for her husband Ian, who not wanting to be left behind at home decided to take up running after managing to get an entry himself. 

With three majors now ticked off, the dream was becoming more real, despite still needing to complete Chicago, Boston, and Tokyo. 

Fast forwarding to 2019, star number four was ticked off with an entry into the Chicago Marathon and despite running with a chest infection and running all but the last .2 of a mile with a bin bag over her upper body to keep her warm, she completed the run. Further celebration also came about when being presented with her finisher’s medal by Paula Radcliffe. 

Ian by now was also up for the challenge, particularly after an excellent run in the London Marathon where he gained a qualifying time for the 2022 Boston Marathon. “There was no way he was going out there without me,” Angela said especially as this would be the chance for her to gain her fifth star. 

Complete it they both did and with Ian also ticking off his 12th marathon in New York last year where he gained his fifth star. They are both now just 26.2 Tokyo Marathon miles away from being awarded with their very own prized Abbotts World Major Marathon Medal. 

Whereas Ian has a dozen marathons to his running CV (PB 3 hours 5 mins), Angela has completed 18 of them (PB 4:19) plus two ultra marathons and whilst I am sure each one has its own memorable moments, I doubt any will be more special than when she, and of course Ian, both cross the finish line on March 3, 2024. 

“Whilst I may not be regarded as a super quick marathon runner, completing six stars really will be a dream come true proving just what you can achieve with a bit of focus, determination and effort. I would also like to thank Neil and all at Sportlink for all their wealth of knowledge over the years especially when it comes to footwear,” she said. 

Thank you for that Angela as comments such as yours really do touch us at Sportlink. Especially after being part of someone’s awesome marathon journey. 

Whilst staying on the subject of marathon running – a huge well done to CoNAC’s Logan Smith who completed last Sunday’s Valencia Marathon in 2 hours 19 mins and 41 secs. That is what you call a super marathon debut! 

Finally – I must give a mention to a man who has had a big impact on my life. 

On Tuesday of this week, my uncle (and Godfather) John Robert Bell sadly passed away, aged 90. A true giant of a man standing at 6ft 4inches in his prime. 

He was a former Guardsman and lecturer at Lowestoft College. I also think it is fair to say he was the person most responsible for convincing me that I needed to take up running and playing football again when aged 20 after having given it all up four years earlier. 

Eastern Daily Press: John Robert Bell with Brian Gunn after completing The City of Norwich Half Marathon whilst raising

Lots of other people had tried but to no avail. 

However, he talked to me in such a way, you could say he hit the sweet spot for which I will always be so grateful to him for this. 

When it comes to one of my own very stand-out running moments, this was when standing on the start line of the Bungay Half Marathon in 1986 alongside him where he was about to take part in his first half marathon at 53 years of age. To say this gave me extra impetus to win the race is an understatement and win it I did whilst he finished in a very creditable 1 hour, 50 mins and 56 secs. 

Eastern Daily Press: John Robert Bell during one of his many half marathons completed between the age of 53 and 80 years

He carried on running until well into his 80s with a half marathon PB of 1 hour 42 mins, before having a heart issue which led to surgery. It was something he never fully recovered from albeit even on his 90th birthday (April 28th) this year we still discussed getting out there for a short run together. Sadly, this was not to be. He was also a huge Norwich City fan, and nothing gave him more pleasure than when raising money for Brian Gunn’s leukemia appeal fund through his running.  

RIP Uncle John and I will indeed ‘keep on running’.