Avani Patel’s Abbott WMM Six Star Finisher Profile

  1. How long have you been running and what led you to it?
    I’ve been running for the last 14 years.
    I was a stay-at-home mum after I had my 2nd daughter hence trying to get back into shape i spent hours in the gym aerobics when someone suggested running the Sunday parklands marathons from there I tried 5km and never looked back it was 10 km to 21 km to 42km to ultras. 
  1. What set you on your Six Star Journey and what has been the motivation to pursue all 6 majors?
    I didn’t know much about the majors except that James Wailalua had done them and I respected him for doing those majors at phenomenal speed but never gave much thought to myself to ever peruse them.  As years passed by I had already completed 2 full marathons and felt I needed to run another so I looked into the London Marathon as my family felt that that was the only marathon in the world. So I wrote to 3 different charities as I missed the ballot deadline and was lucky to get an opportunity to run with Action Aid charity.
    After completing the London Marathon I was elated to have enjoyed the crowds the support.  After getting my finishers medal I met a runner who had 2 medals – I was curious why he had 2 medals when I asked him he told me about the majors. the coveted medal was only released in 2016. Before that the majors were run and the runner collected points. I ran London in 2017. This is when I decided I wanted this big bling bling and encourage many other slow runners like myself to pursue full marathons even if not the majors. 
  1. What was your first marathon major and what are some of the tough learnings that helped in you the subsequent 5 majors?
    London Marathon was my 1st Major but 3rd Full Marathon. Something I learnt from experience was to follow a training program and make sure you build up your distance slowly. My 1st Full Marathon I ran in under 8 weeks of training I finished but suffered from an ITB injury and was out for 4 months. Training with consistency was key to running any marathon and following a training program. 
  1. How did you qualify and enter each of the races?
    So I Ran London, Berlin and Tokyo for charity – where you choose a charity and raise the cash they ask you to raise.
    Chicago and New York I got via ballot entry.
    Boston I ran with a tour company
  1. Which was the hardest race to get into? Boston cause you have to qualify with a time according to your age and gender.
  1. What goes into planning for such races? Firstly is the Visas from Home – husband as well as planning my children’s school and all other activities. One has to organise flight accommodations race number pickups check at the start and finish sometimes at different points. A lot of planning and time is involved.
  1. Describe to us what goes into training for these races. Training is almost like a full-time job – Every day for 4 to 6 days for 16 to 18 weeks you run stretches and do physio strength training day after day even on the days you don’t feel motivated. Its consistency is the key to success in finishing your marathon strong. I did all my Majors in 2 calendar years from April 2017 to April 2019 this meant 6 marathons in 2 years. When I ran in 2017 I had London in April and Berlin in September with a gap of 6 months I found it hard to keep training for 4 months before one marathon. The following year 2018 I managed to get into Chicago and New York via ballot they were only 1 month apart from each other so taking on the courage to run them back-to-back – One training and 2 marathons.
  1. Which was the hardest race to run and why? The hardest race for me personally was the Boston Marathon in 2019 -By the time I was to run Boston I had run 3 other majors in the last 7 months, and I was exhausted from training and mentally.  To top it all I had food poisoning the day before the marathon which made my experience very challenging. Knowing that this was the last marathon and going through the entire run feeling nausea and cramps was not fun. I feel that I earned the 6-star MEDAL real honour after battling the body and mind with each step i took.
  1. What impact has this achievement made on your running? The impact it made is that many lives have changed with the charities that I ran for. Many other slow runners dare to go and accomplish the 6-star dream too. I want more runner so that they can get their 6 stars despite their speed. It made me realise anything is possible mind over matter one can achieve what they set out to do.
  1. Africa has so far produced only 90 six-star finishers, the lowest by continent, why do you think this is the case and what, in your opinion can be done to have more generals like you? It is rather unfortunate that the continent that has the best runner has the fewest finishers.  Cost is a big factor in trying to run these majors.  Some fast runners can claim entry if they qualify with certain times but they still have to pay for flights and accommodation which can be costly.  cost is the biggest hindrance to seeing more runners from Africa claiming more finishers.
  1. South Africa has become Africa’s recreational running Powerhouse, what are some of your recommendations on how Kenya can catch up? Kenya can catch up too if we can organise our races better. Maybe have more supporters on route.  Also, have more sponsorship from big companies to have more running events throughout the country. Have packages of climb MT Kenya and run – do safari packages and beach packages all together.

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