at the races A Good News, Big Love, Happy True Wonderful Running Story

A Good News, Big Love, Happy True Wonderful Running Story


24 hours after finishing the Boston Marathon and earning a PB, Winnie Lai, 46, reflects back on four years ago when she attempted her first long run with her husband. “We had a course mapped out for 34K, and my husband Derek wanted to have a 45 minute buffer, so he started out first,” says Lai, whose children are 16 and 19-years-old. “2K away from home I caught up with him and I was like, ‘Oh, Derek, were you waiting?’ He says: ‘No, I’m trying to run home!’ So I passed him and called dibs on the first shower.” 

That competitive edge mixed with fun and companionship has been a hallmark of the extraordinary journey of Derek and Winnie Lai, who ran all the World’s Majors together between fall 2022 and fall 2023. What began during COVID as a way to get out of the house has been life-changing for the couple, married twenty years. Derek Lai has lost 55 pounds.  

“I had a huge belly—humongous,” Derek Lai says, adding that he enjoyed Monday’s Boston Marathon—finishing in 3:00:33—but was bothered by the heat. Still, it’s a long cry from when he started. “I was so fat back when I started the marathon seemed out of the question. My face was blown up like a balloon.” 

Little changes and consistency was the answer. The recipe behind the couple’s wild journey—racing Chicago, Tokyo, London, Boston, New York and Berlin in one year (a journey they might embark on again!)—is relatively straightforward: they started running, then ran a bit more, gradually increasing their distances. “4K, 6K, 8K, 14K—like that,” Derek explains.

Winnie also credits her communityWe Run North York and 91 Running Camp—and found running was a healthy hobby that she and her husband could enjoy together.

“I’m not very competitive. I like traveling. Derek doesn’t like traveling, but he likes to compete so doing the World Majors brings his interests and my interests together,” Winnie Lai explains. “I enjoy the trips because you meet a lot of like-minded people. After a race, there are no strangers. It really is one of the best feelings in the world.”

Marathon fever has captured Derek and Winnie to the point where they already have their tickets to the 2024 Paris Olympics and want to watch Cam Levins and Malindi Elmore compete in the marathon.

“Derek and I don’t have that many common hobbies, so running and traveling together after 20 years of marriage has been extra nice,” says Winnie, who shares Derek’s desire to again run all the World Majors, but also wants to race in Paris, across Asia and in Rome. (She ran 3:26 on Monday in Boston yet talks about these races more like vacations than one of the most gruelling sports in the world). “I want to go somewhere interesting,” she says. 

My job is to speak with the world’s most extraordinary runners and, out of all of them—and I’m sure Malindi and Cam would agree—I think Winnie and Derek are amongst the best examples of why any of us bother to run. I asked Winnie her secret.

“We’re happy. We’re grateful,” she said. “It’s a blessing to be able to do this together—we count our blessings every time that we step up to the line.”


Comments are closed.