This week I make no apologies for once again writing about the marathon and particularly so after my good friend Tommy Hughes from Northern Ireland set another world best when finishing last Sunday’s Belfast marathon in 2:36:37 at 64 years of age.  

He already holds the world best for his age group 60 to 64 with a 2:30:02 clocking set in the Lisburn (N. Ireland) marathon in 2020. On this latest occasion though, not only is he four years older, but he has also suffered with some injury issues during the last few months. As it happens, he nearly didn’t start last week due to having a heavy cold as well. He really is phenomenal. 

However, my feature this week is much nearer to home and on the back of what was the return of a marathon here in Norfolk two weekends ago. 

Back in my racing days, one particular name which would regularly feature high up in most race fields was that of Tony Hudson who was a member of the Duke Street Running Club. Tony had a marathon PB of 2:44 and in the 1989 Norfolk marathon, which I won, he crossed the finish line in 12th place in a time of 2:57:25 after we had battled against a headwind all the way. 

For some reason the Norfolk marathon back in the 1980s always seemed to be on a day where windy conditions were the order of the day.  

So, it was no real surprise when this latest Norfolk marathon saw runners not only battling against high winds, but heavy rain too with the winner being Norwich Road Runners John Hudson who crossed the finish line in an excellent time of 2:42:55. 

John, of course, is and has been for some time now a leading runner within the world of Norfolk road running but I was never sure if he was related to Tony or not.  

However, after hearing him interviewed on BBC Radio Norfolk following his win, it just left me thinking how humble he was for which I pinged him a message congratulating him. 

Lo and behold a few messages back and forth later, it was confirmed that John is the son of Tony and indeed Elaine who has also been a very prominent runner on the local scene and still is. Therefore, no surprise really why he is such a good runner himself. 

“As a kid I would copy my dad when he was doing his sit-ups, which led to a hernia, whilst also trying to keep up with him on his 5-mile jogs,” he said. 

Eastern Daily Press: John Hudson at the start of the Norfolk Marathon

However, and despite travelling to races with his mum and dad as a youngster and taking part in the fun runs which were usually attached to a main race, like a lot of other young people, football became more his thing resulting in running being something he only did when he had a ball at his feet. 

That is until he decided ‘on a whim’ to enter the Reykjavik marathon in 2007 with his friend Daniel Middleton (another top Norfolk runner) finishing in around three and a half hours. 

“I didn’t instantly catch the bug but every few years I would have a go at another marathon such as Edinburgh, Frankfurt and Dublin. Then in 2016 what with regularly attending parkruns, something just clicked and running was back in my life and my focus was now on a sub 18-minute 5k and sub three-hour marathon,” he said. 

With regards to breaking the three-hour marathon barrier, he didn’t have to wait too long when finishing the 2017 Manchester Marathon in 2:53, which was a full 10 years after his first. 

This led to much more belief that if he put the work in even greater improvements could be had. 

“There are a few things in life that reveal so evidently the maxim that you get out what you put in,” he said. 

Improve he most certainly did with a 2:48 in Liverpool, 2:39 in London and 2:38 in Manchester. 

“I started to believe I could run a sub 2:30 and that became my driving motivation,” he added. 

Most Sunday mornings would see John pounding out the miles with his dad Tony on the bike handing out drinks and encouragement along with further runs incorporated into his weekly training schedule with the Norwich Road Runners and a group known as the ‘Casio Club’. 

John was most certainly on a roll and even at the age of 42, further improvements were still to come with a 2:33:04 in the Chester marathon last year and then a 2:32:52 in this year’s London marathon which of course was just seven days before the EPIC Norfolk Marathon.  

“Although I ran the Norfolk marathon on tired legs, they held out. It was almost 35 years to the day when my dad had run it and when the heavens opened up around the 16-mile mark, I had a big grin on my face thinking – this is what I do!” 

Whilst John points to the likes of experienced runners such as Michael Eccles, Kevin Holland and Neil Adams who help keep him motivated, he said that his real deep down running inspiration comes from that of his dad and indeed mum who is still scoring 80+ percent in age graded runs for the Norfolk Gazelles whilst also mentioning his sister Louise who is a member of Dereham Runners and wife Dom who runs too. 

“Even my one-year-old Henry comes along for an occasional buggy run and who knows, maybe it will be me cycling beside him on a Sunday morning in a few years’ time,” he said. 

John really is such a modest guy and is certainly proud of his Norfolk roots. 

Leaving John to have the final words to end my column this week sums him up perfectly. 

“Despite the fact that the original Norfolk marathon took place all those years ago, it is very much responsible for my family of runners,” he said. “Just think how many hundreds of other families it must have enhanced and touched too. My quest for a sub 2:30 marathon continues, but whether I achieve it or not, running has already enriched my life in countless ways for which I am very proud to call myself a runner.”