With about 200 yards to go, an exhausted Shelley Chanas looked ahead of the runners in front of her.
In the near distance was the finish line for the Tokyo Marathon.
It was then, and only then, that Chanas’ steely focus and determination cracked momentarily.
“I realized what was going to happen,” the Steveston resident told the Richmond News.
“When I crossed the line, I put my hands to my mouth. I had tears in my eyes and I said to myself ‘I did it.’”
Not only did she “do it,” Chanas became a member of a very elite global group, having earned her “sixth star” in recognition of completing the world’s big six marathons – Chicago, New York, London, Boston, Berlin and Tokyo just 11 days ago.
And the former national junior team swimmer bagged the big six all in the space of four years and, wait for it, all while supposed to be recovering from a series of stress fractures.
“It’s such a surreal moment. All those marathons flashed before my eyes,” added Chanas, who turned 50 last fall.
“The crowd support was incredible. I could not stop smiling. People were congratulating me.
“You wear a special bib, saying you are running for your sixth star, so people really get behind you because they know how hard you work for it.”
Chanas’ mom, Helen, was also near the finish line to share the incredible moment with her daughter.
“When I saw her, I held up my medal and shouted ‘I did it,’” said Chanas.
“Having her there was amazing. She has been so supportive of me over those years and she’s been there the whole time. I couldn’t have done it without her as she’s helped me through all my injuries.
Talking of those injuries, Chanas explained that the four stress fractures – all from training for, and running in, the marathons – have pushed her body and mind to the absolute limit.
“I’m literally just getting over my fourth fracture. I actually ran Tokyo still getting over it,” laughed Chanas, who’s a patient care coordinator at Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver.
“I had to break through that mental barrier, blocking out the condition of my body. My body has been through a lot…three (fractures) in my right leg, one on right foot, ankle sprains, back issues, you name it.”
Surgeon told Chanas to "choose another sport"
Chanas has been assessed and treated several times by an orthopedic surgeon and was told that any surgery was being delayed until the third fracture healed properly.
“But it wouldn’t stop me finishing my goal. After my last (fracture), they told me to stop running. They advised taking up another sport.
“But I told them I was determined to finish this six-star journey one way or another, even if I have to crawl across that line.”
Chanas freely admits her passion for marathon running and earning the coveted “sixth star” – of which only 11,000 or so people worldwide have - is bordering on obsession.
“It goes back to my days of competitive swimming,” she said.
“When you’re in sports, you look for those goals. When I started running, this was the goal.
“But not just running marathons, I wanted to accomplish something along the way.”
Chanas is recuperating back home in Steveston now and is giving her body a well-earned break and is finally allowing the fourth stress fracture time to heal.
But having pushed herself to the limit over the last five years or so, she finds herself a little lost in terms of where to train her sights on the next mission impossible.
Steveston runner giving up marathons - maybe
And she claims she has retired from marathon running – well, sort of.
“For all these years, as soon as I’d finished one of the big six, I was then preparing mentally for the next one,” Chanas explained.
“I’ve always been in that mind frame, ‘ok, three more stars, two more stars, then one.’
“Now that it’s finished, I’m looking for another star. But there isn’t any more. They are thinking of adding more in 2025, but that’s a long way away.
“I say I’m retired from marathon running…but I’m not 100 per cent sure I am. I’m just going to take some time to let it sink in and let some injuries heal.
“Maybe I’ll try a new sport altogether and find another passion. I hope my story inspires someone to just go for it.
“If I can do it, anybody can.”