Friday, September 16, 2011

Steve Hughes: 62 Year Old Marathoner, 150 & Counting

I'm very excited about today's post, and I hope you'll take a few minutes to enjoy this amazing story ...

Photo from

As I relaxed my sore legs this past week after completing the Sioux Falls Marathon, I was feeling pretty proud of myself for completing my 13th marathon overall, and my 5th this year.  But then I ran across something that knocked me down a couple of notches.  It's the amazing story of Mr. Steve Hughes from Little Rock, Arkansas.  Mr. Hughes is a 62 year old marathoner.  But that's just the beginning.  This past Sunday at the Sioux Falls Marathon, Mr. Hughes also crossed the finish line ... completing his 150th marathon or ultra marathon overall ... and his 90th since his 60th birthday!  He is also just a few races short of completing a marathon in all 50 States for the 3rd time, something only about 30 other runners in history have done!

Through some Internet research, I discovered that Mr. Hughes ran a couple of marathons in the late 70's & 80's before being diagnosed with osteoarthritis, which sidelined him from running for almost 20 years.  I contacted Mr. Hughes and he graciously agreed to be interviewed for 50 after 40 ... here is my discussion with this incredible runner ...

50After40:  Can you tell us a little about how many marathons you've ran, and the completed 50 States? 
I have 150 finishes as of today, but have an ultra on Saturday and a marathon on Sunday. I was the 59th or 60th runner to ever complete a marathon or longer in all 50 states two times.  I will need 8 states in 2012 to complete my 3rd circuit, something that approximately only 30 other runners have ever done.

50After40:  You were a long jumper on the track team at the University of Arkansas, what got you started running marathons?
It was so long ago that I don’t remember why I switched from 5k and 10k races to a marathon.  This was during the late-1970s running boom, though, so I probably wanted to emulate Bill Rogers. 

50After40:  I recently read that you credit running with "saving your life", can you elaborate on that?
I believe that "running saved my life" was a journalistic liberty; however, like most Arkansans, I ate Southern, fried food buffets.  When I moved to Chicago, my diet became healthier.  However, if I had not started running again, my health would be vastly different than it is today.

50After40:  At 62 years old, I would have to imagine there is quite a bit of pain at times with running marathons, how do you cope with it?
Until earlier this year, I would take an aspirin before the race, aceptamine at 6 miles, an aspirin at 12 miles, aceptamine again at 18 miles, and another aspirin at the finish.  I quit doing that, so now do the best I can.  If the knees and hips lock up early in the race, the time is going to be slower and the pain is going to be longer.  At this point, the goal is worth the pain.  (I don’t always feel that way during the race, though.)

50After40:  How much do you train, or run per week?  Do you cross-train at all? 
Generally, I only run on the weekends.  Running 30+ races a year is tough on my joints.  I need to enter the weekend with as few physical problems as possible.  If I am not working or have no races scheduled for a couple of weeks, I run 5 or 6 miles three times during the week.  During the winter, I swim and do exercise machines to maintain the cardio and avoid the pounding on my knees and hips.

50After40:  Do you try to maintain a healthy diet ... are there any foods that you stay away from?
I try to eat moderate portions and rarely eat anything fried.

50After40:  What's the toughest thing about running so many marathons per year, especially at 62 years old?
Tough at 62 is essentially that you are tired from the travel (getting to the airport 1 ½ hours early, going through TSA, waiting for planes, dealing with flight delays, missed connections, cheap motels, and finding somewhere to eat).  Then it starts again the next weekend.

50After40:   I imagine running so many marathons per year can get a little costly, do you have sponsors, or do you speak publicly to offset some of the costs?
Nobody cares about sponsoring long distance runners.  A couple of weeks ago, Larry Macon (who has the Guinness world record for 106 marathons completed in one year) and I discussed that very fact.  Larry has no sponsors.  There are probably less than a dozen runners who make a living making personal appearances and speaking.

50After40:  I understand that you had a run-ins with a Moose in Alaska, and spent some time in an Ambulance in Hawaii for heat exhaustion before finishing the race ... what are some other crazy or memorable things from all of your races?
The ambulance story in the newspaper wasn’t entirely accurate.  I was put in the shade of the ambulance, not IN the ambulance.   Your readers should create their own memorable experiences, not rely on mine.  Start trail running, especially out west.  They can tell their friends about bears, snakes, coyotes, running through snow on mountains in July, trying to breathe at 13,000 feet altitude, and climbing to summits on all-fours.

50After40:  What would be one piece of advice you would give someone new to running?
Running is like a friend or a family member.  You have a gift that could be taken away at any time.  Enjoy the experience while you can.

50After40:  What are your long term goals for running ... any thoughts on when you might "hang it up"?
My September, 2012 goal is to finish my 3rdth marathon/ultramarathon in my hometown of Little Rock.  My October, 2013 goal is to finish my 150th marathon/ultramarathon after my 60th birthday in Chicago, where I occasionally still live and my wife works.

I want to thank Mr. Hughes again for taking the time to visit with us and share some of his amazing story.  After speaking with Steve for a while on the phone, and interviewing him for the blog, I  can't begin to tell you how much respect I have for this man, and just how much I've learned from him already.  Mr. Hughes has immediately become one of my running heroes.  He is truly an inspiration and it was my honor to share a little about him.  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!
... be great today!

Read more about Steve Hughes and his amazing story at these links...


  1. Thank you Mr. Hughes! Love the advice to get out and do it and make our own memorable experiences and to remember what a gift running is!
    That was a great interview, Jim.

  2. Wow what an awesome interview and an amazing person!

  3. Great interview and a gifted man.

  4. What a truly amazing man! As I think about my very first marathon coming up, I can hardly even imagine doing 3 marathons yet, but 3 marathons in every State!! That's pretty incredible. Thanks to him for taking the time to share this with all of us. He's definitely an inspiration of what you can achieve if you set your mind to it!

  5. What a fabulous interview! Off to read more about him...

  6. Very cool...thank you for posting this for us!

  7. Great interview! Amazing that he has done so many marathons!

    This might seem like a weird statement - but does he feel a lot of pain every marathon? If he cut down the number of marathons he did would he feel less pain? Just seems like if the marathons are hurting him that I don't know that I would want to do that many like he does.

  8. Also, I loved what he said about running being like a friend or family member. Since I've lost it since April, I feel that exact same way that I've lost a friend or family member. I've realized that running/athletics is a privilege and not a right, and we have to take care of ourselves.

  9. I want to run when I'm in my 60's, too, but I'd be happy with a marathon or two every year or so. I can't imagine running an ultra and then a marathon in one weekend at any age - inspiring!

  10. this is fantastic..thank you. what an interesting man.

  11. What an inspiration! He obviously loves what he does.

  12. Very cool. Hope that I can keep running when at his age!

  13. What an inspiration!! I am 54 and just want to be able to still run when I am 62 - much less accomplish so much.

    I received my "Be Great Today" sticker in the mail yesterday.



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