Marathon man Tommy chases more records after Dutch glory
Tommy Hughes is no stranger to making marathon headlines and he doesn't intend to give up yet.
The Maghera runner has been to the 1992 Olympic Games, won the Dublin marathon, the Belfast marathon twice and was even first over the line at the Walled City marathon in 2013, aged 53.
But rather than winding down as he approaches 60, Tommy's going to be ramping up his efforts after getting a taste for records.
Hughes completed the Rotterdam marathon in a time of 2.30.15 on Sunday.
While ticking another city off his marathon-running list, this was more than a tourist trip to mainland Europe, rather it was a calculated attempt to claim another Irish record that ended in an even bigger achievement.
Having already bagged the best ever Irish over 50s marathon time of 2.29.15, the goal was to get the over-55s record under his belt. With that mark at 2:37.42, it was obvious fairly soon into the race that it would be objective met.
But then on Sunday night, welcome news arrived that Yoshihisa Hosaka's world record time for a 59-year-old, 2:34:23 as recognised by the Association of Road Racing Statisticians, had also been well and truly thrashed.
"I actually didn't know about it," said Hughes of his new-found status as a world record holder. "I knew there was an over-55s record but I had never looked at each particular age.
"I just saw somebody had put it up that I had broken the world record and had to text him to find out how he knew about it. It was just an absolute bonus.
"The Irish record was the whole reason for going to Rotterdam. I had missed out by 51 seconds in Malaga in December so I thought about doing either London or Rotterdam. This one's a bit of a bucket list for marathon runners because a lot of world records were being broken here in the 80s.
"I thought I was going to obliterate the Irish record to be honest because I saw I had reached the halfway point in 74 minutes. I knew then if I didn't come apart I was on for the record and to be honest, I was hoping I could finish in under two hours 30 minutes.
"I think I have a good chance of breaking the over 60s record if I can keep going the way I'm going now."
Hoshaka will be the man in Hughes' sights once again next year as he looks to steal the second of the Japanese runner's three world records. With the current top time by a runner over 60 sitting at 2:36:30, Hughes' confidence is easily understood.
"I really think I can do it with a bit more training because this time was off the back of only about six months training after a recovery from a medical problem in October," he said, speaking from a train to Amsterdam for some well-earned sight-seeing. "My time at 50 was 2.29.15 so in eight years since then, I've only got a minute slower."
That 2:36:30 time might be the threshold for his next world crown but Hughes says he'll be aiming much higher - to his own personally-set ambition that would sum up a long and impressive marathon career.
"Another big goal of mine is to get under two hours 30 when I'm 60 and to have done it in five different decades," he said.
"That could be a first for anybody. I'll probably go to Berlin next year and look to do it there because it's the fastest course in the world, although I'll hopefully have a rattle at it before then as well."
His world record time is the latest piece of evidence that the Termoneeny Running Club man is a true Northern Ireland sporting hero. And there is plenty more still to come.