This week the announcement about Abbott World Marathon Majors partnering with Wanda Group was released.
I am proud to be on a journey to complete my 6 marathon majors and having got half way through (Tokyo, Chicago and London complete) I fully intend to finish the journey and complete New York, Berlin and Boston Marathons.
Wanda Group own the Ironman series and as our followers will be aware we are planning on completing 4 Ironman events. So surely this partnership should be good news for us? Brands we love coming together to work on events?
Then why am I less than thrilled at the development? Well I have geared myself up to run 6 world marathon majors, I know where they are, I’ve researched how to get into them, I know what I need to do to achieve this goal… But then this happened, and depending on the article you read there will be 3 further marathons added to the series.
An article in Chinese press states that the agreement includes 3 Asian marathons being added to the Abbott Series. You can read the article here. Suggestions are that this will take a few years to come to fruition so perhaps 2019 or 2020. What does this mean for runners taking part in the current 6 star journey?
Abbott currently state that:
“The Abbott World Marathon Majors is a series consisting of six of the largest and most renowned marathons in the world. The races take place in Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York City”.
So therefore will Abbott be changing their whole ethos by embarking in this partnership? If they currently consist of the largest and renowned marathons will adding others bring this prestige to a lower level?
There was a lot of speculation on social media following the announcements. Some people were understandably excited at the prospect of the marathon majors expanding and adding new places to visit to their running tourism bucket list. Others however were voicing concerns. What does this mean for people already on their 6 star journey, will the award continue to be celebrated? Will it become a 9 star award? Will the new races become a separate series? Is this purely a money making partnership that hasn’t considered the effect that will be had on the runners themselves?
Abbott had a blanket response when questioned on social media which stated
“Abbott World Marathon Majors is committing to continuing to recognize runners who are Six Star Finishers. If a runner completes the Tokyo, Boston, Virgin Money London, BMW BERLIN, Bank of America Chicago and TCS New York City Marathons, AbbottWMM is thrilled to celebrate his/her accomplishment via our Six Star medal, recognition on our website and other avenues.”
A fair response? Many appeared pacified by this. The 6 star will continue? But will it? Previous evidence perhaps suggests otherwise. In 2013 Abbott expanded their 5 star award to include Tokyo, the 5 marathon majors became 6… You can no longer be recognised for being a 5 star finisher. Therefore can runners reasonably assume that once further races are added to the series that the 6 star award will become obsolete? The press release from Wanda acknowledges that Tokyo is the only marathon to have joined the majors series in the 11 years of operation and adds:
“Wanda will get the exclusive right to hold a WMM race in China in a city jointly selected by Wanda and WMM.”
So that’s at least 7 stars then? The information in the press is conflicting. With some articles saying the deal includes a definite 3 additional races joining the series, but Abbott say that the team will be looking to expand the series only when suitable races are identified:
“We have confirmed we are looking to expand our series. We are beginning the process of considering and evaluating races — and only those events that meet our criteria, or that we can help meet our criteria, will be added to the AbbottWMM family.”
This doesn’t sit well with me, how can they have guaranteed a further 3 races will be added if they aren’t sure that there are 3 races that will meet their criteria. The article I linked earlier from a Chinese source states 3 races in Asia will be added. Abbott state that they are considering races across Asia and Africa?
If a further 3 races are identified and added to the series what then? If Abbott honour their word then apparently runners will be able to still complete a 6 star journey, but will this feel like a lesser achievement, if the goal posts have moved and there are now 9 races in the series is 6 an achievement? Or have you only completed two thirds of the journey? 6 marathons is a fantastic achievement and has been proudly celebrated by many, Abbott currently do a fantastic job of recognising the effort that goes into training, running and not to forget the logistical planning involved to participate in these marathons across the globe.
So if there are 9 races in the series in total and you complete the first 6, do you stop there? Or would it be like having an option to run 20 miles of a marathon race and stop there, you will get a medal, you ran 20 miles, but you didn’t complete the course?
The cost involved in taking part in a further 3 events will be significant, travelling to Asia (and/or Africa depending on the article you read) will not come cheap, and costs will rocket. The journey is already a significant financial commitment, will this take it even further out of reach of many?
Not to mention the difficulty in obtaining the race entries in the first place. The ballot/lottery systems are notoriously difficult to obtain places through with many runners having to use expensive tour operators in order to gain a race entry or needing to raise very high amounts for charities with entry places. Again, I have nothing against entering via charity, I have run London Marathon twice for Action on Hearing Loss and I am fully behind using these events to help to raise awareness and funds for charity. But with the charities aware of the high demand for places and the fundraising targets hiking year on year entering in this manner adds a lot of stress to the already difficult task of training for and running a marathon.
I have contacted Abbott for response and despite a lengthy email exchange, beyond the items stated above I did not find that their responses answered my questions. Will the 6 star become a 9 star? Will the series expand or will the new races become a separate series, what races are being considered? If I complete the 6 star in 10 years time will it still be a recognised award? I can only guess that perhaps the logistics have not yet been fully thought through and perhaps when the press releases were prepared the organisations were not expecting the level of interest and concern from their current audience of runners.
In the meantime until I know otherwise it is back to training and planning on how to complete our 6 star journey… But I for one will be unlikely to expand my challenge to conquer a 9 star journey if this is the eventual outcome, the financial and logistical elements will likely prevent me from considering expanding this challenge.
Have you completed the 6 star award? Are you working towards it? Would you expand your challenge to include further races if added and how would you feel about this?