View my basket

A ‘Stellar’ Achievement – completing the six-star medal

When he’s not in the office our CEO, Rob Smith, can generally be found putting in the miles on his racing wheelchair. Whether that’s down at the track with his training group, the GoDivas, on a rolling road in his garage or out along country roads… Rob rarely allows himself a break from training! A fairly relentless pursuit, when coupled with busy work and family demands! But Rob has been working towards a very special achievement for a long time now and in March of this year, he was all set to complete the final section of the Six-Star challenge. 

Rob mid-race in his racing wheelchair overtaking two other wheelchair racers

Starting Out

Rob first got the racing ‘bug’ back in 2003 when he completed his first wheelchair marathon in London. He explains, “I bought a second-hand racing wheelchair to compete in. I did most of the training on my own, on local roads. I just wanted to complete one marathon as a bucket-list type achievement – a once in a lifetime event.” 

But that first marathon sparked something in Rob. He quickly became focused on training more intensely and realised the huge benefits of being part of disability sport. As well as the obvious physical benefits to regularly training, Rob has met a supportive community through his training group. Many of these training partners have become very close friends. “I love the friendly rivalry with the other guys I train with. We motivate each other to keep going with some friendly competition at training and for each event we do together.” 

Rob with some of his racing friends

Staying Motivated

However, maintaining the motivation to train for over 20 years has been difficult at times. Rob explains that he finds it much easier to persevere and remain focused with a set goal in mind. And so, it wasn’t long before the 6-star challenge became a long-term goal. The Abbott Six Star Finisher medal, introduced in 2016, is awarded to those who successfully complete all six of the World Marathon Majors. This means completing the marathons in Berlin, London, New York, Boston, Chicago and Tokyo.  

For anyone who runs marathons, this represents an incredible challenge, requiring enormous perseverance, commitment and passion. But for Rob, it would also mean becoming the first T52 wheelchair racer to ever achieve it.  

His campaign for the medal began in 2018 when he registered success in both London and Berlin marathons. In 2019 and 2021 he ticked off Chicago and Boston marathons. And in 2023 he travelled to New York to achieve his fifth ‘star’ marathon. This left just Tokyo to complete. 

Rob on the winners podium at the London Marathon

The Final Star

In March of this year, Rob travelled to Tokyo with his two training partners. Full of nerves and excitement, he hoped to achieve the final piece in his 6 year challenge. By now, his routines and rituals around preparing for a marathon are well rehearsed:

The day before a race I’ll try to get an early night – most marathons mean an early start, around 4 or 5am. I study the course in detail to identify any areas I need to be aware of. I need to build a good picture of the course in my mind and any tricky turns or difficult hills, as it’s hard to spot hazards from such a low seating position and at speed. 

The pressure for Tokyo felt more tangible than previous races, with the potential of completing his six-star medal. But, always calm under pressure, Rob went on to complete his marathon in 2 hours 16 minutes and was duly awarded his medal at the finish line.  

Rob's finish times on the six star award chart

“Completing the six-star challenge is a goal I’ve been working towards for so many years. It feels incredible to have accomplished it. The goal allowed me to travel a lot and has kept me motivated through some tough winter training over many years! There are only around 30 wheelchair racers to have ever achieved this medal – and I’m the first and only quad racer (T51/52), which I’m really proud of. I hope more wheelchair racers will take on this challenge too and enjoy the experience as much as i have.” 

Rob with his Tokyo marathon medal and his six star marathon medal

Improving More Than Race Times…

Rob’s quest for the six star challenge has not just led to personal goals but also inspired Rob to create wheelchair racing gloves that work for other racers. Our racing gloves are 3D printed and bespoke-made for your hand measurements. Rob has been developing these gloves while training and has put them through their paces in the later marathons! He has been testing out different rubbers for the gloves and we have worked with manufacturers to create the best rubber compounds for wheelchair racing. These are available in the materials section of our shop, along with self-adhesive foam for added comfort. We also have glove liners available for under your hard racing gloves.

Johanna Smith