If you look at the All-Colorado Marathon and Half Marathon records, you will notice the Paul Hughes on the list a couple of times. Hailing from the small, outdoor mecca of Pagosa Springs in southern Colorado, this masters runner has taken the Colorado racing scene by storm in the last few years. We were able to catch up with Paul and he was nice enough to answer some questions for us. Read on to learn more about one of the state’s top master’s runners.
Name: Paul Hughes
Hometown & Current: Pagosa Springs, CO (born in Exeter, England)
Professional & Educational background: University of Sussex (UK)
Sports participated in: Past – Soccer, Swimming, Cross-Country; Current – Road Running, Skiing
Years in current sport: 42 years (with occasional lapses when life got in the way)
Racing Team: Boulder Road Runners
Sponsors/Affiliations: USATF, BMAF
Married for 39 years to the same Italian girl from Rome.
The Long Run
What are some of the biggest highlights in your racing career (please explain reasons why and any other pertinent details)?
- 2018 Colorado Marathon – becoming the first man in the State over 60 to run sub-3.00
- 2020 Long View Marathon – Colorado State record 2:55:44 (M60 age group winner as part of the Virgin 2020 Virtual London Marathon)
- 2021 Abbott World Age Group Marathon Championships at the London Marathon 5th place M60
- 2022: World Masters Athletics Championships (WMAC) in Tampere, Finland – M65 Half Marathon Gold Medal (Silver Medal in the team event); M65 Cross Country 8K – Silver Medal (Gold medal in the team event)
- 2022: Abbott World Age Group Marathon Championships at the London Marathon 2nd place M65
What are your long-term goals? What do you want to achieve as an athlete?
At the back end of my running career I have achieved more than I could have imagined but there may be a few goals left including the World Age Group Championships 2023 in Chicago. I have run just one Boston Marathon at the 1996 Centenary Race where I was injured; I’d like to go back once more and run a more respectable time.
Why Colorado? What makes Colorado so special for endurance athletes? What makes Colorado special to YOU?
There’s something in the air and the endless sunshine. Having lived my life in 6 countries and now 14 years in Colorado, in my opinion there is nowhere more beautiful to train than Pagosa Springs; I adjust very well to altitude (7,500’) and it suits me well. I also love to ski.
Take us through a “day in the life,” what type of training regimen do you follow?
I am self-coached so I decide what training I will do and I find it best to train for the marathon year round. I’m a late afternoon type of runner. My volume averages 75 miles per week. I do not raise my mileage approaching a big race, but I prepare a few high intensity sessions. The little amount of fast paced running I do is on a treadmill, at my local rec center, which can be interval based or specific marathon paced efforts. I never miss my planned long runs of 18-22 miles which are key to any marathon training program.
What are one or two things you currently do in your training that are keys to your success?
Above all it’s about consistency; the body likes the rhythm; I train my ‘9 day week’ (9 day cycle) which gives me sufficient time (2 days) to recover from each long run and harder workout. I plan 3 complete rest days each month.
Do you follow any specific nutrition plans? What are your favorite recovery meals, drinks, etc.?
I am very fortunate to have the world’s best cook for a wife who cooks a mostly Mediterranean balanced diet, consisting of fresh ingredients. As I have aged, I have reduced the portion of carbohydrates and increased the portion of proteins. My metabolism remains on overdrive and therefore I can not go long without eating something. It helps that I have never liked chocolate or coffee and I don’t drink sodas. I prefer my daily English Tea as well as Turmeric and Hibiscus. My favorite daily snack is a Bobos oat bar (but only the fruity flavors!).
Do you have any recommended resources to share (books, seminars, websites, coaches)?
As a self Coach I have often learned ‘the hard way’. 10 years ago I found Brad Hudson’s book “Run Faster from the 5K to the Marathon – How to be your own best Coach” which was a great initial base for my training plans. I used to read the ‘Colorado Runner’ magazine and have missed it for so long. Like many, I have my favorite YouTube running channels including SweatElite (serious athletes doing serious training); Colorado’s own Seth James Demoor DGR; and a new channel from Irish OIympic Marathoner Stephen Scullion.
What is your biggest challenge, and what do you do to manage this challenge?
As we age we lose muscle strength dramatically and so it’s very necessary to perform some non-running activities such as core exercises, stretching and strides (not only on race day!) and keep fueling those proteins. I choose not to ride the elevator.
What are your favorite races in Colorado? Why?
In my limited but wide experience, I regard the Bolder Boulder as the best organized race in the world; more a festival of humanity. The Autumn Equinox Half Marathon in Fort Collins is fast and always a great experience. My local Durango Thirsty 13 Half Marathon is a personal favorite and finishes at the Ska brewery (can’t get much better than that).
Where do you like to train in Colorado? Why?
I run only on the roads (asphalt and dirt). I stay off the trails mainly because I have a tendency to fall (it can get messy). Year round I typically spend training weeks in Houston, TX, the UK, southern California and on the equator in Ecuador. Running is a great way to explore any locale for the first time. I always love to return to Pagosa Springs where I train best.
Favorite running shoe:
Hoka Bondi for the long runs; Nike Vaporfly Next% (version 1) for racing.
Favorite post-run/race beverage:
Post long runs it’s a frozen Muscle Milk (never chocolate) and post race I like to reward myself with a Colorado brewed IPA.
Favorite post-run/race meal:
The night after a Marathon I like to treat my wife to an Indian Restaurant where there are no limits.
Growing up in England I was an Olympic Track and Field junkie and so the great British distance runners of the past – Roger Bannister, Ron Hill, Dave Bedford, Brendan Foster, Steve Ovett, Sebastian Coe, Steve Cram, Steve Jones and many more. I went to College with Steve Ovett while he became Olympic 800m Champion, so he’s especially a hero to me. Perhaps every marathoner today looks up to Eliud Kipchoge and I had the great pleasure of meeting him at the awards dinner for the 2022 London Marathon, a very special runner and overall human being.
I am retired from my previous career as an R&D Manager at several multi-national Telecom companies which led me to live and work in such diverse destinations as Brighton, England; Dallas TX; Stockholm, Sweden; Shanghai, China; Vancouver, BC and Fort Collins, CO.
Solo runner, running partner or team/group?
I have always trained alone which makes me very focused but it would be great to have a running partner once in a while.
Have you experienced a breakthrough, and if so, what led to it?
Consistent training leads to improvement and the occasional breakthrough. My biggest satisfaction from racing my main events of 5K, 10K, Half Marathon and the Marathon has been that I have set a new Masters PR in at least one of these distances every year for 11 straight years. In 2022, I ran my fastest Masters Half Marathon at 65.
- 17:59 – Durango 5K (2020)
- 37:53 – Fortitude 10K (2018)
- 1:20:25 – Equinox Half Marathon (2022)
- 2:54:28 – London Marathon (2021)
What was the best advice you were ever given?
Keep things simple
Do you have a saying or motto that you live your life by? That you train by?
Always deliver what you promise.
Keep the easy days very easy and the hard days hard.
What keeps you motivated? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Running is like breathing to me; my body doesn’t feel right without it.
My team mates and contemporaries at the Boulder Road Runners are a huge inspiration to me; how they keep on training decade after decade often against adversity. Colorado has many of the best age group runners in the world and it’s a privilege for me to be a part of that community.
Following my first sub 3:00 at the 1982 London Marathon, I ran my most recent sub 3:00 at the 2022 London Marathon; a span of more than 40 years (I believe the world’s longest sub 3:00 span is 43 years) finishing in 2:57 at age 65, which was one minute faster than at age 24.