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The Messenger’s Marathon copy editor

Wednesday, October 6
The observant among you may have noticed that our resident copy editor Fiona Coxshall has been missing for a few weeks. One reason for her absence from Georgia was, together with her husband, Andrew, they would run the Berlin marathon together with more than 34,000 people. With this number of runners, the Berlin marathon is one of the world’s largest marathons and along with London, New York, Chicago and Boston is one of the ‘5 World Marathon Majors’ attracting world class distance runners. This year’s event was no exception with a number of Kenyans and Ethiopians running. Most noticeable however was the absence of Haile Gebrselassie, who has won Berlin four times setting a new world record then breaking it in 2008 in a time of 2:03:59, which still stands – maybe he had a premonition about this year’s weather – there was heavy rain for the duration of the event. Despite the rain, for the first time ever the first three were past the finish line in less than 2:06. The winner Patrick Makau of Kenya finished in 2:05:08 just two seconds in front of his fellow countryman Geoffrey Mutai. Ethiopian Aberu Kebede won the women’s race in 2:23:58 exactly one minute in front of fellow-Ethiopian Bezunesh Bekele (2:24:58) while Japan’s Tomo Morimoto took third (2:26:10).

Just in case you are unaware the marathon distance is 26.2 miles or 42.2 km. While there are many naturally sporty people who run, some people start running to lose weight or get fit, get hooked on the habit and then want a goal so enter a race of 5km or 10 km – not necessarily to win, but to prove they can do it. This is how Fiona started running, about 15 years ago. A few years later while working in the UAE, a colleague, who didn’t run at all, said she would enter the first Dubai marathon, so Fiona went home and persuaded her husband that they should also both enter. Training in the Dubai heat and humidity was tough and slow and while they both finished their first marathon, the time was a slow 4 hours and 52 minutes. Undeterred they both continued to run during 5 years living in Dubai and in 2000 Fiona completed her first big city marathon in London in around 4h30mins.

After few years break, they both entered the Moscow marathon in 2004. Marathons are also big charity events raising millions of dollars for good causes - many people set themselves the challenge of completing the 42.2 km and get their friends, family and colleagues to pledge money to a charitable cause such as a children’s hospital, helping the disabled, etc. In 2004 Fiona and Andrew had been in Almaty for less than 6 months when Alexei, the company driver assigned to them died suddenly from a brain haemorrhage while on business, leaving behind a widow and young son, Oleg. Alexei was a contractor and not covered by the company’s insurance policy. Fiona and Andrew decided to run the Moscow marathon to help support Oleg and raised $16,000. Only a small part of this money has been used so far, but Oleg has just started University and the fees are being met by these funds.

Since then Fiona and Andrew have continued to run marathons around the world and with last week’s Berlin marathon they both completed all the World 5 marathon majors (listed above). Fiona now runs a marathon in around 3? hours (her best time of 3h27 was set in London in 2008), while Andrew runs the 42.2 km in less than 3 hours. They have raised tens of thousands of dollars for various charities including an orphanage in Uganda, a street kids’ drop- in centre and a home for mentally disabled young people in Armenia, Cancer Research UK, Children with Leukaemia, the Tbilisi Internationals Women’s Association and the UK charity EveryChild which is active in Asia, Africa, South America and many countries of the former Soviet Union including Georgia.

Berlin was Fiona’s 12th marathon in 12 years and it was Andrew’s 10th. Andrew, the Managing Partner for KPMG Georgia and Armenia, decided that while he will continue running, this would be his last marathon. Having known two young men recently die premature deaths from pancreatic cancer, he ran his last marathon in their memory raising around US$17,000 for pancreatic cancer research, with many pledges coming in after the race in recognition of his new personal record of 2:54:41 – 691st place out of more than 34,000 finishers.

Despite the heavy rain, several bands were out to entertain runners as well as the brave spectators lining the streets of Berlin. Runners prefer the rain to the heat however, despite the wet clothes, puddles and wet shoes squelching with every step. In a rainy Berlin, Fiona ran her 3rd best marathon time - 3 hours 34 minutes, she says she will continue to run marathons until her legs give up and is already planning her next 42 km race in the spring of 2011 – possibly in Hamburg or Paris.