‘You can never give up’: La Jolla woman completes her sixth major marathon at 68

La Jolla resident Beverly Silldorf presents medals she won from completing major marathons across the world.
La Jolla resident Beverly Silldorf, wearing her Six Star Medal, presents the other medals she won from completing major marathons across the world.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

This year’s Boston and Tokyo marathons put Beverly Silldorf over the top in her goal of achieving the Six Star Medal after also finishing the Berlin, Chicago, London and New York races since 2016.


Joining an elite group of worldwide runners as she approaches 70, La Jolla resident Beverly Silldorf recently completed the last of six marathons needed to earn a spot as an Abbott World Marathon Majors six-star finisher.

The Six Star Medal was introduced by the Abbott organization in 2016 to honor runners who complete what are considered major marathons: Berlin, Boston, Chicago, London, New York and Tokyo. To date, 12,212 people are considered six-star finishers and just under 4,000 of them are from the United States.

“My dad always told me to finish what I start, so by showing up at the start line I know I’m going to finish no matter what,” said Silldorf, 68. “But for this, you have to want it and I wanted it real bad. It was hard but doable.”

Despite comparing herself to the reptilian half of the Tortoise and the Hare fable, she has completed the feat in less time than most.

She started running in 2012 at the recommendation of a friend and joined a running group. She said she appreciated the socialization and accountability a group provides. “We would suit up and show up,” she said.

After a short time, Silldorf decided to enter the Susan G. Komen 60-mile walk, which raises funds for breast cancer research. In training to walk and/or run 20 miles a day over three days, Silldorf realized a marathon was not out of reach.

After a few local races and half marathons, she ran her first marathon in California in 2014.

“Even though you run as an individual, marathoners and half marathoners are probably the most empathetic sportsmen that I have ever seen,” she said. “If they are in a race and see someone that is injured or in trouble, they will stop and help that person, generally speaking. I really take that to heart.”

After running the Berlin Marathon in 2016 and the Chicago Marathon the following year, she learned that they were qualifying races for the Abbott World Marathon Majors Six Star Medal and she set a new goal.

“Having goals is a great motivator,” she said. “It was something I thought was a possibility, and when I thought about the cities [involved], I thought of it like a run-cation in that you go to these cities and see it in a whole new way. Then you can go out and have fun. There is a carrot in front of you.”

La Jolla resident Beverly Silldorf runs in one of her many marathons in recent years.
(Provided by Beverly Silldorf)

But stumbling blocks almost prevented her from reaching her goal. Silldorf said she is “not a fast runner” and wouldn’t have qualified for many of the marathons based on her previous times alone.

“Some of these races will close off the street and take those that don’t finish in time to the finish line by bus,” she said. “I ran one with a friend who did not finish. To go to another country and go through everything you have to go through — training, arranging for travel and lodging, etc. — and facing the possibility of not finishing is stressful.”

However, slower participants can qualify for races if they are raising thousands of dollars for charity or win a spot in a lottery, among other methods.

Thus, if Silldorf couldn’t get into a race based on running times or a lottery, she raised money for charity.

She ran the New York Marathon in 2019, followed by the London Marathon in 2021. This year, she ran both the Boston Marathon and the Tokyo Marathon to earn her Six Star Medal.

“My dad always told me to finish what I start, so by showing up at the start line I know I’m going to finish no matter what.”

— Beverly Silldorf

When she ran the New York Marathon, it was her favorite “because you run through the five boroughs of New York, which I hadn’t seen,” she said.

Then when she ran the London Marathon, it became her favorite because “it takes you over the Tower Bridge, to the palace, past all the landmarks in London, which kept me going knowing there was so much ahead of me. It’s all [mental] at that point.”

All told, she said, London was her favorite.

The hardest, she said, was Tokyo because of its strict time limit. “They want to get the streets cleared and it starts by gun time not cross time [some races start each runner’s clock when the runner crosses the starting line], so the first person starts the clock. So if I started 30 minutes later, I was 30 minutes behind.

“In that race, people tend to start slower and then go fast at the end; save your energy for when it counts. I did the opposite. I went faster at the beginning and beat the clock. It was big for me.”

With her Six Star Medal in hand — and sometimes around her neck — she said she feels confident.

“When I run a race and post about it to social media, I hear people use the word ‘inspiration,’ so I have to take that,” she said. “I think half marathons are in my future so I can keep going.”

To stay in race shape, she runs four days a week, sometimes with a group and sometimes on her own. On training days she leaves the house in the early morning and returns home for breakfast.

“My husband [Howard] and my children [David and Mark] have been very supportive,” she said.

For would-be marathoners, she advises that “starting is the hard part. Once you go, you can keep going.”

She also recommends that you “find the right shoes right away, find a group or people you can learn from and put your clothes out the night before so all you have to do is jump in your clothes and get going. There can be setbacks, but you can never give up.” ◆