Ryston Runners member completes sixth major World Marathon

A Ryston Runners member who has competed in six of the World Marathon Majors hopes her story can inspire others to take up running.

Gill Hart completed the Chicago Marathon earlier this month – making it six in all after taking her place at London, New York, Paris, Boston and Tokyo equivalent over the course of the last 28 years.

Hart’s first-ever running race was the London Marathon back in 1995, and it wasn’t exactly by choice after taking up the sport to escape the stress of living and working in the capital.

Ryston Runners member Gill Hart who has completed six of the major World Marathons
Ryston Runners member Gill Hart who has completed six of the major World Marathons

Reflecting on her exploits, Hart said: “I ran the London Marathon in 1995. Later that same year, my friend in New York invited me over to run the New York Marathon with her.

“The weather was atrocious and freezing but the whole event was amazing. The finish in Central Park was unbelievable.”

Living in Blackheath at the time, she completed the London race for a second time before crossing the channel to participate in the Paris Marathon where she achieved her goal of a sub-four-hour run, with a time of 3:56:42.

Thirteen years later it was the turn of the Boston Marathon – although that challenge had to be put on hold for 12 months.

“Unfortunately, on the way to Heathrow, a certain volcano erupted and all flights were cancelled for days,” explained Hart.

“Luckily, the Boston authorities invited us back in 2011, and I was pleased to finish the tough, hilly course.

“Ironically, I was offered a ballot place for the London Marathon in 2011, but, as it was the day before Boston, I deferred to 2012.”

Hart added: “Unfortunately, 10 days before the London race, I ruptured a disc in my back. After months of scans, hospital visits and medication, the doctor said they could do no more for me. I would have to learn to live with the pain, and I would never run again.

“Luckily, a good physio recommended gentle movement/exercise, explaining that I couldn’t do any more damage, but it might help. “So, after two years, I started running again, albeit slowly and carefully. I was determined to keep doing what I loved.”

Six years later, with the support of Ryston, she took on the London Marathon once again and, after it at the age of 65, she contemplated retirement.

But Hart’s friend persuaded her to enter the Tokyo Marathon in 2022 and the Chicago race a few months later.

“I entered the ballot for the Chicago Marathon in 2022, and won a place,” she explained.

“But then everything changed. In December 2021, I fell awkwardly at the end of a cross-country race and injured my hip and leg. I tore my hamstring and damaged all the ligaments at the back of my thigh.

“The black bruise went all the way down my leg. It took weeks for the bruising to disappear, but the leg never probably healed. I could not run any more, as my leg would keep giving way.

“Luckily, however, I found out about “jeffing”, a recognised method of run/walking, (Jeff Galloway). So now I run a bit, walk a lot, run a bit more, and keep going.”

Perhaps a blessing in disguise, the Tokyo Marathon was cancelled because of Covid and postponed to March 2023 before the illness hit Hart hard.

“Covid finally hit me and made my asthma much worse, so running became even more difficult,” she admitted.

“Luckily my asthma nurse gave me another inhaler, which helped. Unfortunately, however, lack of training forced me, reluctantly, to cancel my place for Chicago in October 2022.

“But somehow, I was still not quite ready to give up, even though I celebrated my 70th birthday in 2022. I still had my place for Tokyo in March 2023, so I trained as much as I could and decided to give it a go.

“I’d always wanted to visit Japan, and it didn’t disappoint. The country was amazing, but the race was my toughest yet. Although I was slow, I kept run/walking and finished within the official time.”

Five marathons ticked off her bucket list, Chicago was established as her next goal.

“Training was going well until a month ago after completing the Wissey half-Marathon in a very pleasing time.

“However, after my 20-mile run, the following week, my foot became really painful. Two Hospital visits and several X-rays later, I was told I had a stress fracture.

“The consultant suggested I rest it for the next four weeks, and, if I was determined to take part in the race, which I was, then I could.”

The Ryston stalwart knew she had to complete it under six-and-a-half hours to qualify for an official time – which she did by clocking 5:53:58.

“I forgot about the backache, the pain in my leg and my foot, took my inhaler and just kept going,” she said.

Her Chicago time was quick enough to qualify her for a Good-for-age place in the London Marathon next year – but sensibly after 15 marathons she won’t be taking it.

“I’d like to thank all the people who have helped me, my family and friends for all their support; Ryston Runners AC, my physio, my asthma nurse, acupuncture and sports massage people,” she said.