Beyond the Medals: Rob Dalto's Six Star Marathon Journey

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, by Fabienne Lang

Photography by: Rob Perez

When Rob Dalto and his sister decided to try and finish all six World Marathon Majors in a single year, they achieved so much more than solely crossing the finishing line, as Fabienne Lang discovered.

In 2023, Rob Dalto was the life of the party as he whooped and cheered his way across London's Tower Bridge during the marathon, adding his infectious energy to the city's celebration.

But this marathon journey meant more to Rob than just crossing the finish line. It was a heartfelt tribute to his dad, who lost his battle with cancer in 2019.

“My dad loved watching my sister and me race. He got a huge kick out of it,” he shares. Fueled by his father's joy and facing the cancer diagnosis in 2017, Rob and his sister, Nicole, decided to undertake the ambitious goal of conquering all six Abbott World Marathon Majors – Tokyo, London, Boston, Chicago, Berlin, and New York City – in honor of him.

The Dalto siblings ran their way into the exclusive club of Six Star Finishers, a distinction for completing all six world major marathons, in 2023. In a remarkable year, Rob documented their journey. “I didn’t know what it would look like. I just knew it would be meaningful, doing this to remember our dad. It was vulnerable, sharing that online.”

(L) Rob and his sister Nicole. (R) Rob and his Six Star finishers medal. Photography by: Rob Perez

Unexpectedly, their story resonated far beyond personal grief. “Crazy energy came my way with people sharing their own stories of loss and grief after hearing about our journey,” Rob reflects. Amidst their marathon tour, a community formed around Rob, unveiling the potent force of common purpose. He realized, “The shared meaning in signing up for a big race has been immensely powerful. It transcends the day-to-day stuff.” It's this communal push rooted in larger purposes that drives him forward.

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Yet Rob’s community spirit isn't confined to the virtual world; it comes alive through his connections in running clubs. “You become as invested in other people’s goals as your own,” he enthuses, recalling the camaraderie of friends chasing milestones at the Berlin marathon – a highlight of his community-driven marathon journey. The shared highs and lows amplify the appreciation of the run: “Surrounding myself with people doing their thing brings me so much joy.”

These collective moments during Rob’s Six Star journey have reshaped his outlook on life, fostering connections that extend beyond the finish line. One moment stands out like a supernova: the Tokyo Marathon shakeout run with Tyler Swartz, a friend and the visionary behind the Endorphins Project, boasting over 9,000 followers in just a year. “I remember meeting all these people doing some crazy stuff like 100-mile ultramarathons. Everyone is so inspiring. That outward lens of learning about what other people are doing instantly switched on for me, and I craved more. I wanted to keep meeting these fascinating individuals, each with their own tales of audacious feats, and be fueled by their relentless inspiration.”

(L) Rob and Eliud Kipchoge. (R) Rob at the Chicago Marathon. Photography by: Rob Perez

“There’s no better place to find incredible, inspiring people than at these types of races,” explains Rob.

In the rollercoaster ride of Rob's marathon adventure, triumphs shone like beacons, but not without their fair share of wild challenges. A stint in a walking boot due to a knee injury before the 2023 Tokyo Marathon and a two-month hiatus amid training made for, in his own words, "the weirdest, most anxiety-inducing first half of the year." Desperate for a lifeline, he found it in the form of an "absolute mad scientist genius coach," Jonah Rosner. This serendipitous encounter didn't just mend Rob's spirits; it catapulted him to a lifetime personal best in Chicago, slashing 37% off his mileage from any other sub-three-hour runs. The secret sauce? An arsenal of cutting-edge training approaches, including VO2 training, force plate analysis, and foot pressure mapping – all shared with his online community.

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In Rob's relentless pursuit of community-driven running, his commitment extends into the very fuel that propels his passion – nutrition. With a gleam in his eye, he states, “I’m super passionate on the nutrition side.” He takes it a step further than most, creating his own gels and electrolytes to power his runs, a concoction born out of his dedicated expertise. And he doesn't keep this nutritional wizardry to himself; he generously shares his homemade blends on his social media platforms, turning his running journey into a delectable feast for his online community.

His dedication to community culminates in an extraordinary chapter that shines brighter than the rest. After a lighthearted attempt to connect with fellow runners in Central Park in the summer of 2023 (no mean feat if you have ever tried talking to a stranger on New York’s streets), Rob crossed paths with Shaquille Roberts, a chance encounter that ignited a friendship and the creation of the Bronx Burners RC – a non-profit running group with a heart for positive change in the Bronx community. Their impact speaks volumes; within five short months, they not only dared to dream but turned their vision into reality, launching a scholarship and inclusion fund that has already raised $25,000 for young university athletes from this underrepresented New York City borough.

(L) Rob with Shaquille Roberts. (R) Rob at the Boston Marathon. Photography by: Rob Perez

As Rob sets his sights on joining the Six Star Finishers’ community once again in 2024, as well as running the Sydney Marathon (just in case completing six marathons in 12 months wasn’t enough!), his passion for community-driven running remains unwavering. He envisions bagging another lifetime best in Boston and, just a week later, raising awareness for the deaf community in London alongside his friend Thomas Eller, the first deaf-born runner to complete the World Marathon Majors.

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In the tapestry of Rob’s marathon journey, each race, each stride, is woven with the threads of community, shared purpose, and the relentless pursuit of dreams. As he gears up for his next round of Six Star glory – an achievement few runners have dared to achieve, let alone on consecutive years – Rob's story stands as an anthem to the extraordinary possibilities that unfold when dreams are chased with unbridled passion and shared with a world hungry for inspiration. What started as a personal, family journey blossomed into a worldwide vision. Despite the absence of Rob and Nicole's father at the finish line, his presence resonates in every step of their remarkable journey.