Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Prose and Kohn

Runner credits community with helping her finish marathon series

Monika Oberer will receive her final Abbott World Marathon Majors race in Tokyo in March.

Lakewood Ranch Running Club's Lorena Barona, Monika Oberer, Woodford Joseph and Alexis Dwyer pose after a run. Oberer credits her club members for helping motivate her and train for the Tokyo marathon in March.
Lakewood Ranch Running Club's Lorena Barona, Monika Oberer, Woodford Joseph and Alexis Dwyer pose after a run. Oberer credits her club members for helping motivate her and train for the Tokyo marathon in March.
Courtesy image
  • East County
  • Sports
  • Share

As she closes on her sixth and final race in the Abbott World Marathon Majors Six Star series, Lakewood Ranch's Monika Oberer wants people to know: She didn't do this alone. 

"This" being the completion of a prestigious accomplishment for runners. To gain an Abbott Six Star medal, runners must finish six of the world's most renowned races: The Boston Marathon, the Chicago Marathon, the New York Marathon, the London Marathon, the Berlin Marathon and the Tokyo Marathon.

Oberer completed her first race in the series, the Chicago event, in 2014. She didn't want it to take a decade to finish the others, but the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench into her plans. Regardless, she's close to achieving her long-term goal, after a lot of time, money and work. 

Although she will be the one with the medal around her neck when she finishes the 2024 Tokyo Marathon on March 3, she said it took a village to get her to this point. Oberer has been a member of the Lakewood Ranch Running Club for 14 years, and in that time, she's realized the support of the running community is just as important as the running itself.

Monika Oberer finished her first Abbott World Marathon Majors race, the Chicago Marathon, in 2014, and she will finish her last race, the Tokyo Marathon, on March 3.
Courtesy image

Take Oberer's current situation. It took her four attempts to get on the list for the Tokyo race, as the event gives most of its spots to Japanese runners. Weeks after learning she made the 2024 race, Oberer found out one of her hamstrings was torn. She can still run on it, but she cannot extend her leg like she normally does. That results in smaller steps. 

Surgery? Forget about it, at least until after the Tokyo race. She has waited too long for a spot to stop now. 

The injury has made training for Tokyo a frustrating experience. Oberer typically runs 60-75 miles per week. With the injury, that has been cut to 45, and at a slower pace.

But she said the people in the running community have made it manageable. 

Take Oberer's training session on Feb. 3. She ran 21 miles, but "felt crappy" about them, she said, and was generally having a bad morning. Instead of letting Oberer finish in that mood, a friend convinced her to keep going for another two miles, talking about their respective weeks in the process. By the time the pair reached Starbucks for a post-run drink, Oberer said, she had forgotten all her downer thoughts and instead finished on a high note. 

It might seem like a small thing, but moments like those are part of why Oberer believes Lakewood Ranch is special. 

"Everyone has a different use for running," Oberer said. "I don't care how fast you run. What brings people together is the mental push, when your legs say you can't (go on) but your friends say you can. They have all been there before, so you trust them. You suffer together and get through it."

Runners can enter the Abbott marathons in various ways. Some qualify based on their times, while others enter a lottery and wait to hear their name called. Still others get in through making a charitable contribution. For five of the six, including the upcoming Tokyo race, Oberer chose to qualify through charity as she likes to give back. This time, she pledged approximately $10,000 to Ronald McDonald House Charities.The one race she did not go the charity route was the Boston Marathon. For that one, she said, she wanted to qualify as a runner, as she believes that race should only have qualifiers to maintain its prestige. She made the field herself in 2016. 

Even Oberer's commitment to finishing the Abbott series has a communal component. Oberer is close with Grayson Tullio, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and his mother, Jennifer Tullio, who is a member of the Lakewood Ranch Running Club. Jennifer Tullio completed the Abbott series of races herself in 2018, in part to raise awareness of the genetic disorder, which is characterized by progressive muscle degeneration and weakness. When Tullio completed her final race, the 2018 Berlin Marathon, Oberer and other Lakewood Ranch Running Club members were running with her. 

Lakewood Ranch's Grayson Tullio and Monika Oberer have built a friendship on trust, honesty and a passion for helping others.
Photo by Liz Ramos

At the finish line, after Tullio received her Abbott medal, Grayson Tullio asked Oberer when she would be getting hers. Oberer did not want to disappoint. His query was the inspiration Oberer needed to finish the series, she said. 

"I see (Grayson) in my head," Oberer said. "He can't do this, but I can." 

Oberer and her running club friends start their runs at 4 a.m. They are often freezing, Oberer said, but they get to experience Lakewood Ranch when it is quiet. They see deer and wild hogs, coyotes and sandhill cranes. It brings Oberer peace. She used to drink and smoke, she said. She does neither now as that's not what life is to her anymore. Now it is about those quiet moments, the ones she spends with her people.

It's those people who have her on the precipice of accomplishing a major goal.



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

Latest News