Hugh Williams proved he was ready to begin competing on the world stage, coming 30th in the recent Chicago Marathon, which had approximately 44,000 competitors this year.
Williams, formally of Inverell, ran with many elite competitors, including British Olympian and race winner Mo Farah, who set a new European record with a time of 2:05:11. The Chicago Marathon is the fourth largest race in the world, and one of the six World Marathon Majors.
“It was phenomenal,” Williams said.
“The Chicago Marathon compared to other marathons in Australia, it’s on another level. The spectators are lining the entire 42 kilometres, there was not a single patch or a row where there wasn’t a spectator cheering you on.
“You have that, you’ve got all these big names competing, and you’re in America, there’s so much talent there on its own, and you’re in very good hands and you’ve got a good chance to run fast as well.”
It was a good choice for Williams’ first full marathon, and a big step up from the half marathons he’d completed throughout the year. He felt lucky to be given race support from one of the elite athlete organisers, which included time indoors before the race and drink bottles provided throughout.
While his finish time of 2:20:29 was nothing to scoff at, Williams was a little disappointed, having set a personal goal of 2:16.
“I had pretty high hopes going in. I was probably a little bit naive, I was thinking I would achieve the time I wanted to achieve off limited marathon training,” he said.
Halfway through, he was still on pace for 2:16, but fatigue set in at the 35 kilometre mark.
“All of a sudden the world collapsed around me. I really struggled home,” he said.
Although the crowds had given him some much needed adrenaline early on, Williams found himself focused on internal monitoring, constantly making calculations in his head to check his pace and watching his breathing.
“Your quads are screaming, your legs are absolutely knackered and you’re trying to just keep them going one foot in front of the other,” he explained. A strong headwind and rain didn’t make the race any easier.
He admitted he’d set his own bar very high.
“I thought that was a realistic goal, and this is probably the first time where I’ve crossed a finish line knowing exactly what I need to work on in the future. I don’t think it’s ever been so clear before, that there needs to be more miles in the legs and a lot more strength work to be done to run that 2:16,” he said.
Born and bred in Inverell, Williams spent plenty of time on the local racing scene. He joined the local Park Run during a visit earlier this year.
“It’s always good to come back,” he said.
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