Ten years ago, to celebrate her 50th birthday, lawyer Paula Rochman of Toronto decided to take on her first full Ironman triathlon. This year, she had to come up with an equally awesome way to celebrate her 60th. So she decided to do all six Abbott World Major Marathons (the Tokyo Marathon, the Boston Marathon, the Virgin Money London Marathon, the BMW Berlin Marathon, the Bank of America Chicago Marathon and the TCS New York City Marathon) in one calendar year. And the icing on the (birthday) cake was that the final race, New York City, fell on Rochman’s actual 60th birthday, November 4. (Rochman joins a group of approximately 34 people who have completed all six marathons in a single calendar year.)

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Rochman in Tokyo. Photo: courtesy of Paula Rochman

As anyone who has tried to get into some of these international marathons knows, it’s not easy. (London, for example, makes only a limited number of race entries available to tour companies. Runners from outside the U.K. may not simply enter the lottery.) Rochman enlisted the help of Tom Gilligan of Marathon Tours and Travel to make sure she got into all six races, even though she was qualified for Boston, Chicago and New York based on her times from previous races. “For sure I could have done it less expensively,” she says, “but I wanted the guarantee, and I wanted to enjoy it.” 

Rochman at the 2018 Boston Marathon. Photo: courtesy of Paula Rochman

Rochman was doubly pleased when her two daughters, who were not runners previously, asked if they could train for New York and run it with her. “I’m very proud to have inspired my own daughters,” says Rochman. Her son also traveled from Pasadena, California to run the 5k with her the day before the marathon.

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Rochman in London. Photo: courtesy of Paula Rochman
 
“I had run New York in 2010. I have always said of New York that if you aren’t a runner but want to say you ran a marathon, run New York. The entertainment, the crowds, the energy is so over the top–so New York.”  
 
 
Rochman after the Berlin Marathon. Photo: courtesy of Paula Rochman
 
But her sentimental favourite is Boston. “I cry during that race… People have overcome incredible odds just to get there. It really is so inspiring and invigorating. It just makes me think, maybe there’s this shred of decency, and ambition, and trying to do your best… I get so emotional. I’ve done it nine times, five of them in a row. To me it’s just–I find it very emotional.” 
 
Rochman in Chicago. Photo: courtesy of Paula Rochman

Where did she run her fastest time? “Berlin, of course–that’s where the world record was set. I think I ran 3:51 and change.” Rochman will be able to use this time to qualify for Boston 2020.

Slowest? New York, because she ran with one of her daughters, who wasn’t a runner previously, and who dealt with some injuries during her training. In fact, both of Rochman’s daughters ran, but she made it clear she could only run with one, and it worked out fine. “I didn’t pressure them,” says Rochman. “I just tried to encourage them. I think it’s amazing that they wanted to be with their mother on her 60th birthday, running a marathon. It’s so cool. And for my son to be there too.”

 
Rochman with Meb Keflezighi after the Parade of Nations, which officially opens the NYC Marathon, and at which Rochman was a flag-bearer. Photo: courtesy of Paula Rochman

Did she ever worry that she might not finish every marathon? “Yes, it crossed my mind,” says Rochman. “Boston and London were only six days apart. Boston had its coldest race, and London had its hottest. I knew it wasn’t possible to race all of them. From the beginning I said I’m racing Boston and Berlin, and at the others the goal was just to finish. London was so hot. I said to myself, ‘just go slow and get through this.’ I would be so upset if I didn’t finish.”

How did she deal with the weather in Boston? “It was in the forecast. It’s not like we didn’t know in advance that it would be cold and that it would rain. You do whatever you need to do to maintain your core temperature, whether it’s multiple layers, or garbage bags, or whatever. And if you train in bad weather occasionally, you’re prepared.”

Rochman was chosen to walk in the Parade of Nations in New York, which opens the marathon festivities. She got to meet Meb Keflezighi. And several of her friends came to New York, either to run the marathon or to watch her wrap up her big 60th birthday quest. Her final comment on the whole experience?

“What a nice way to turn age around a bit.”

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