Senior Alex Hughes Run the Chicago Marathon at age 18


On Nov. 9, 2016 Alex Hughes, a senior at Community, completed a challenge that few other seniors ever attempt. At the young age of 18, Hughes ran the Chicago Marathon, following in his father’s footsteps from ten years before. Among the youngest of the competitors, Hughes took on the challenge with pride.

“I felt very young.” Hughes said “I don’t feel like I saw many people there who were my age. I know I was getting a lot of stares. But hey, their minimum age is 16 so I had a right to be there.”

Hughes, a driven runner, had wanted to run a marathon for a long time.

“I wanted to run [a marathon] very badly throughout high school, but my parents had always told me that it’s unsafe to run one until you’re an adult.” Hughes said. “I figured 18 was kind of that bridge so three days after my 18th birthday, I ran the Chicago Marathon.”

Hughes took inspiration from his father, who ran it with him.

“He ran it in 2006 so I’ve always known about it and wanted to run it for that reason,” Hughes said.

He attributes support to his mom, who encouraged the father and son duo throughout their training, and came along to Chicago to meet them at points along the course. Robbie Stapleton, his health teacher and forum leader, was very supportive as well.

“[Stapleton] was very excited, she always wanted to talk about it, she probably still wants to talk about it.” Hughes said. “I definitely had a lot of support going into it.”

As a sophomore, Stapleton showed Hughes a movie in health class about the health benefits of running a marathon. This movie inspired Hughes to pursue his goal.

“After seeing that [movie] I ran my first half marathon and fell in love with running,” Hughes said.

Hughes runs cross country for Pioneer High School. Finding a balance between cross country workouts and marathon level long run training many seem challenging, but Hughes managed to achieve both.

“We didn’t do many long runs in cross country but all the workouts definitely helped build my cardiovascular strength and endurance.” Hughes said. “It was good, it kept me running every day of the week.”

Hughes describes the experience of competing as “very exciting.”

“I was there alongside 40,000 other runners, so there were runners everywhere but also there were also tens of thousands of spectators lined up the entire way watching and cheering us on.” Hughes said. “They had funny signs.”

However, this excitement did not come without hardship. Hughes ran the first half of the marathon alongside his dad, at a conservative pace, then broke ahead for the second half. Around mile 24 Hughes hit “the wall,” a notorious point in any marathon where runners are suddenly overcome with a peculiar type of exhaustion.

“By the 24th mile my legs just felt numb and painful and it’s a weird feeling because I wasn’t out of breath or anything but it just hurt, it just hurt to go and everything was tightening up.” Hughes said. “Yeah, the wall exists.”

Nevertheless, Hughes finished with a very impressive time of 3:46:04, and he looks forward to doing it again.

“I’m extremely eager to find the next marathon to run.” Hughes said. “I’d like to run one late winter early spring possibly.”

In the meantime, he plans to finish out the cross country season, and take a break from long runs. To anyone out there who aspires to run a marathon, Hughes says “Just do it. Just go for it. If you train properly, by the time it comes, it’s not really that big of a mountain to conquer.”