When you meet Romadel Delasalas, 53, he’ll be the first to admit that he doesn’t fit the stereotype you’d expect out of one of the world’s most dedicated marathoners.
“Most people envision a runner as someone very tall,” he says. “’I’m a small car with a big engine.”
The 5-foot-2-inch engine has completed 36 marathons and is one of only 1,544 people in the U.S. to be awarded the Abbott World Marathon Majors Six Star Medal, which is given only to those who complete the six Major marathons: New York City, Chicago, Boston, Tokyo, Berlin, and London.
Rome fell in love with running in 5th grade, but his quest to earn the coveted Six Star Medal happened accidentally.
“I’ve always enjoyed running. I have that competitive nature,” he says, though he admits he had no desire to run a marathon until he heard a colleague talking about her boyfriend preparing to run the Los Angeles Marathon in 1996. Then, on a whim, Rome decided to run it, too.
“It took me eight hours with blisters on every toe. My hips, everything hurt for four days.”
He vowed never to do it again.
Fast forward to 2000, when the Triathlon was introduced at the Summer Olympics. Rome was inspired to give it a shot because there weren’t many people doing it at the time.
“To do an Ironman [Triathlon], you have to do a marathon,” he explains. “I needed to get over the fear of running that far.”
Rome would complete four Ironman Triathlons in the next five years and 18 marathons.
He didn’t know it then, but his quest for the Six Star Medal began while stationed in Japan with the Navy. Rome was challenged to run in the Tokyo Marathon,
a notoriously hard race to gain entry because priority goes to locals. It’s also an expensive trip for those traveling internationally.
“I was just running to run. I wasn’t trying to get a fast time. I just ran, and I enjoyed it.”
The next Major he ran was the Boston Marathon, which required participants to either run on behalf of a charity or qualify by running a certified marathon within a specific timeframe.
“I never thought in my wildest dreams that I’d finish the Boston Marathon,” he says. “I was in good health because of that, and I just kept going. I got faster, and I was trying to find more challenges.”
After finishing the New York City Marathon in 2018, Rome realized he was well on his way to achieving the Six Star Medal.
Next, he ran the Chicago Marathon, and everything was going according to plan until he got to Berlin, where he woke up with kidney stones on race day.
“You don’t go halfway around the world to say, ‘I can’t do it,” he says. “One way or another, I was going to finish that race. I decided to finish it by running.”
Last, he had to conquer the London Marathon. He was motivated by supportive spectators, which filled every street, bridge, and alley.
“The exhilaration they generated pushes you onto every mile,” he says, reflecting on the race.
Rome crossed the finish line and accepted his Six Star Medal with honor.
“I got down on one knee as if I was being knighted,” he recalls. “That’s how special it was to me.”
It took Rome 14 years, a little luck, and a lot of persistence to complete each of the Major marathons, becoming a proud member of the small and prestigious club of Six Star Finishers.
“It was worth it. The expense, training, the experience of it all.”
Marathons needed to earn the Abbott World Marathon Majors Six Star Medal:
- Tokyo Marathon
- Boston Marathon
- TSC London Marathon
- BMW Berlin Marathon
- Bank of America Chicago Marathon
- TSC New York City Marathon
By Kelsey J. Lawrence
Photo by Tindall Stephens