As six of our top marathon-running countries celebrate their National Days this month, we hear from some of the highest ranked runners in the Abbott World Marathon Majors Wanda Age Group World Rankings about how they'll be celebrating, and what running means to them…
Tell us about your passion for running and why you do it?
Tom Van Onvegal (Belgium M45-49)
“As a school kid I found I had a talent for endurance sports, especially for running. Despite choosing cycling in the Belgian tradition as my preferred sport, I occasionally ran a marathon as a university student with some success (2:47:00). “For me running has always felt so natural and relaxing. However, it would take another twenty years before I found my way back
Allison Blackmore (Canada F50-54)
“In the past 10 years my running has gone from an activity I would plan to do to a sport that my day is planned around. I believe you reach a stage
Frank Denelle (France M60-64)
“I love running because running is life. And I love life. Like life, running
Mary Dunbar (United States F75-79)
“It started quite innocently: when I retired at the end of 2007, I had a
Georges Khawam Chekar (Venzuela M55-59)
“I started running thanks to my great friend Andres Rodriguez (a Six Star Finisher), who invited me to run the New York City Marathon in 2014. It was there I discovered that running marathons is like life: it is not easy, you’re challenged by every kilometer, and you take on the personal challenge and push yourself until you reach the finish line. Every day can be a struggle
Mariela Steiervalt (Argentina F40-44)
“I started to run 10 years ago because a dear friend, who was a good runner, didn’t want to run alone and wanted some company. In the beginning it was hard and really hard to catch up with her! She was fast
How do you and others from your country celebrate your national day?
Tom (Belgian National Day 21 July)
“Last year I went out for a long run on the national day looking at all the houses with their colorful national flags; this year we will be on holiday abroad. Traditionally people watch the military parade in Brussels and the fireworks in the evening. As Belgians we are always looking for an occasion to enjoy a good meal and some special beer!”
Frank (Bastille Day, 14 July)
“The anniversary of the “Prise de la Bastille” on 14 July 1789, is symbol of French freedom, and of the “Fête de la Fédération”, which celebrated the French unity on 14 July 1790. Celebrations are held in Paris and other French cities in the morning, followed by balls and fireworks in the evening. The largest celebration is the military parade on the Champs-Élysées in front of the President de la Republique accompanied by French officials, foreign Ambassadors and other foreign guests. Although I have lived most of my life as expatriate working throughout the world, 14 July has always been a very special day for me. Wherever I was in the world, I have always tried to watch the Champs-Élysées military parade and the Paris fireworks … My intention is to do exactly the same this year, in deep communion with all the French people around the world.”
Allison (Canada, 1 July)
"Our Canada Day is a celebration of our country's birthday and the Constitution Act. It is a day that I like to reflect on how fortunate I am to be Canadian and to live in this amazing, diverse country. It is a day I like to get together with family and friends and join in with local community events. These typically include a fun run, a pancake breakfast, local parade, fun and games, a barbecue and then fireworks to finish the day."
Georges Khawam Chekar (Venezuela, 5 July)
"On 5 July we celebrate the Signature of the Act of Independence, a date that is celebrated with great joy at the National level with parades and many events. It is also a holiday day which we take advantage of to run and relax with friends."
Mary (United States, 4 July)
“On the Fourth of July, I'll be enjoying a barbecue with friends and going to watch fireworks. It's a special day to remember how fortunate we are in the USA for our system of government and for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - and the last of these includes marathon running!”
Mariela (Argentina, 9 July)
“July is really important in Argentina because it is the month of our independence. People from my country have a big bond of community and friendship. This is what I like the most about Argentinians, and of course, our meat! Our running community is big and we usually have huge running teams that makes running extra fun! We meet early in the morning with our running mates for long and easy runs. After that, we go home, and enjoy family time with typical Argentinian food.”
What would it mean to you to take part in the inaugural AbbottWMM Wanda Age Group World Championships next year and represent your nation in London?
“I started running again on our national day ten years ago, and my goal was to break my personal record set as a university student 20 years earlier. Starting from a couch potato it took me three marathons to match my record before finally breaking it in the TCS New York City Marathon in 2017. With this goal achieved I read about the inaugural Age Group World Championships in London in 2020 and knew that was my next target. Contesting the first world championships seemed like something you would want to tell to your grandchildren, so I worked hard and earned my ranking points. With only a few more events in the qualifying period it looks like I will be at the start line next year and of course I will be honored to represent Belgium in London.”
“I would be so honored to compete for Canada on the international stage, and to have this event taking place in my birth country makes it even more special for me. What a tremendous opportunity to be able to share this experience with not only my family and friends here in Canada, but my extended family in the UK as well! To be a part of the best age group runners from around the world, competing in the inaugural AbbottWMM Wanda Age Group World Championships, would really be an incredible experience, and one I would never forget.”
“How would it feel? It would be fantastic! Magic! Like a wonderful dream coming true. Although sport has always been part of me, my work and family always came first. Over my life, I have watched many high-level sports events with excitement and enthusiasm, feeling much respect and admiration for all participants, but I never thought that I could, one day, be selected for one of those events and represent my country, France. Such a selection would be a most beautiful gift and the highest honor of my sporting life!”
“I would be astounded to earn a place to take part in the inaugural AbbottWMM Wanda Age Group World Championships next year and represent the United States. Talk about being a late bloomer! I am 77, and being a female marathon runner at my age is unusual, to say the least. Since taking up this unusual retirement hobby, I've learned a lot about how to run marathons, and I've persisted. I would be hugely honored to represent the United States in the World Championships.”
"To take part in the inaugural AbbottWMM Wanda Age Group World Championships, whose prestige is the best in the world and to represent Venezuela, I would be extremely proud. To tell our country that in spite of all the difficult circumstances that we live, we are able to succeed. A magic moment without any doubt.”
“It would be a huge honor to represent Argentina at the World Championships. It would be a dream come true if me, an amateur runner, a divorced mother, a fighter in life to whom nothing came easy, made it to the start line. Everything is a big effort for me, but I never stop dreamin, following those dreams, and being happy.”