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by Michelle Carnegie
23 May 2019

A 58-year-old ‘granny’ who only started running just over two years ago, crossed the finish line of the recent Virgin Money London Marathon in a speedy time of 3:28, and is now well on her way to achieving the coveted Six Star medal awarded to runners who complete all six World Marathon Majors.
If all goes well, by next year this time Karen Brough, a member of the Murray & Roberts Running Club, will have run all six of the largest and most renowned marathons in the world: The Virgin Money London Marathon, the BMW Berlin Marathon, the TCS New York City Marathon, the Tokyo Marathon, the Boston Marathon and the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. The total of Six Star finishers worldwide is just over 6100 runners. 
Having recently completed the London Marathon, Karen is another step closer to this coveted medal. She loved every single second of the London Marathon and is hoping the other international marathons ahead will bring her just as much joy.
Karen describes the start of the London Marathon asfreezing cold butsublime. “I got up early and went by tube to the start. Runners and helpers filled the tube. I entered Greenwich Park and was a relatively forlorn runner as I was one of the first to arrive. I handed in my clear plastic tog bag, with no locks on, hesitantly as it had my lovely down jacket in. I was afraid I would not see it again. I then went to my start. I was the first runner there. I was so cold that one of the helpers hugged me and kept me warm. For me the weather was not great as it was absolutely freezing. I had trained in shorts and ended up wearing leggings on race day. As time went by runners kept on coming. The kindness and friendliness were overwhelming. A runner gave me a long sleeve top, another gave me a jacket. Runners offered nutrition to me. It was amazing, arbitrary runners helping each other.”
Karen waspart of the first wave of runners to go off. “It was very orderly. The British GFA (Good for Age) runners went off and then it was nearly our turn. Runners discarded clothing, nutrition and drinks. We all hugged each other and waited to start. I gulped and held back my tears. I was inspired by these wonderful human beings,” says Karen.
She describes her run as disappointing but emphasizes only because she had wanted to finish in a sub 3:20 time. “Three weeks before the Two Oceans Ultra I was diagnosed with a massive hip bursar and tendonitis of both my hamstring insertions into my glutes. I was advised to rest,” says Karen. But as runners do, Karen ran Two Oceans and finished in speedy 4:52. “I was very happy with my time, but I hated every second of it as I was in pain.”
She resigned herself to the fact that London was going to be a race for survival. “I was dreadfully upset as I had trained extremely hard for these 2 races. London was 8 days after Oceans. 

Uplifting crowds
Karen describes the crowds at London as overwhelming. “I was overwhelmed by the crowds. I hi-fived spectators and waved when people shouted, ‘Go SA go”. Another wonderful moment was when I saw Eliud Kipchoge and Mo Farah running past me on the other side of the road. They were well past the halfway mark. The crowds went crazy. It was awesome. Kipchoge was running flawlessly like a gazelle. It was fantastic to be in the company of greatness.”
Sadly, at the 28km mark Karen’s hip injury flared up. “From then on, I just wanted to try finish under 3:30. I loved the run, and I think the crowd got me through my pain. It was amazing. It felt like the whole of England was there to support us.”
When times got tough on the run, she persevered knowing that her husband Greg was tracking her at home. “Every time I crossed a timing mat, I knew that he would be cheering me.”
Another motivating factor that kept her going was the fact that she had to finish in under 3:30 to qualify for the Tokyo Marathon. “When I crossed the finish line in 3:28 I was in agony. I was so sore but at the same time elated I had run a sub 3:30. I had a feeling of disbelief. I could not believe that a 58-year-old Granny, who only started running just over 2 years prior to London, was running one of the best races in the world. I kept on thinking how truly blessed I was to be able to run another international marathon. I love London so much, so it was a privilege to be running the streets. It was one of the most well-organized marathons I have ever done.”
Immediately after the race she met up with her charity, Whizz-Kidz, a charity helping children get wheelchairs. “It is wonderful to run for charity, especially when you are helping children who cannot walk, let alone run. I more than met my fundraising goal.”
Afterwards Karen joined friends for a stunning dinner at their home. “When I got back to South Africa I celebrated in style with my family.”
Six Star Journey
Karen now has the Chicago and New York Marathons coming up in October and November this year. “I have qualified for Boston (in March next year) by more than 40 minutes and hopefully after my performance at London I have qualified for Tokyo. “Hopefully I will be doing Boston in March and Tokyo in April. All things being equal in 2020 I will have achieved my dream of a Six Star medal.”
Looking ahead
And that is not where she will be stopping. “When I have finished my Six Star challenge, I would like to run for charity. I would really love to run from JHB to Cape Town. That would be a great achievement. I realize you are never to old to chase your dreams.”

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