Marathon Couple: Blake and Sandy Briggs
Greenwood couple becomes one of three in the U.S. to complete all major world marathons
Writer / Heather Simpson
When Sandy Briggs crossed the finish line of the London Marathon she collapsed into her husband Blake’s arms, tears running down her face. An accidental journey that started six years earlier on their 25th anniversary had come to an end.
They had finished the Abbott World Marathon Majors together — an astonishing goal reached by an elite group of only 850 people worldwide and just three couples in the United States. The accomplishment earned them bragging rights for the rest of their lives and the Abbott World Marathon Majors Six Star Finisher Medal.
To earn the Abbott World Marathon Majors Six Star Finisher Medal, runners must complete all six major world marathons. The challenging list includes Tokyo, Boston, London, Berlin, Chicago and New York. It was a task made more daunting by the fact that Boston and New York have time standards for entry, and several of the other races are so popular you must enter a lottery and hope to get picked.
Married for 32 years, Sandy didn’t take up running until 15 years into their marriage. One spring, she was picking up her father Blake from the Indianapolis 500 Mini Marathon and got caught up in the moment. It was then she resolved to finish the race the following spring. She joined Indy Runner’s Bricks to Bricks training program and never looked back.
“She was a natural,” Blake said. “It wasn’t long before she was running me into the ground. One time, after a race she asked me, ‘When did you lose sight of me?’”
The couple’s World Marathon Majors journey started accidentally. They started to plan vacations around races and decided to visit Maui for their 25th anniversary. In 2009, they both ran the Maui Marathon, qualifying for the Boston Marathon.
In 2010, the couple tackled Boston and qualified for the New York Marathon. They were enjoying the races and the travel.
“Sometimes it’s hard for couples to find stuff to do together,” Sandy said. “Traveling and racing together brought us closer. The friendly competition helps us both improve.”
It was at the New York Marathon that they saw a sign advertising the Abbott World Marathon Majors. Reading through the list of races, they realized that they had already finished two of them and another one, Chicago, was close to home. A dream was born.
The couple skipped 2012 for Sandy’s 50th birthday to take on the challenging Pike’s Peak Marathon, a grueling 7,815-foot ascent with a turnaround 14,050 feet above sea level. It would be a nice challenge before they started their quest for the World Marathon Majors Six Star Finisher Medal in earnest.
They stayed closer to home in 2013, taking on the Chicago Marathon, at which point they were halfway there.
In 2014, they ran into a snag. Entries for the Berlin Marathon are distributed via a lottery system, and Sandy got in but Blake did not. Seeing their dream fading, they bought a package trip for Blake from Marathon Tours that included a race entry. They were back on track.
Four down, two to go.
They checked off race number five.
In 2016, Blake and Sandy traveled to Europe for the tradition-rich London Marathon. As a warm-up to London, they ran a warm-up race in Paris and broke tradition by running together. They ran side-by-side, enjoying the sites, taking pictures and finishing together.
The final stop was London. Six years of work and one last finish line punctuated by grateful tears for a journey more about traveling and making memories than running.