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Father and son break world record in half-marathon at Houston

First it was Olympian Tommy Hughes and his son breaking the world marathon record for father-son combined times, now Andrew and Matthew Leach have broken the half-marathon world record–and the two fathers have raced each other

In October 2019, Tommy and Eoin Hughes broke the world record for the fastest combined time by a father and son in at the Frankfurt Marathon, and last Sunday in Houston, despite very windy conditions on the course, Matt and Andrew Leach ran a combined 2:14:06 for the fastest half-marathon by a father and son. (Matt ran 1:02:56 and Andrew, who is 56, ran 1:11:10.) The time they had to beat was 2:20:33. (Results unofficial.)

Matt (left) and Andrew Leach at Houston Half-Marathon, 2020. Photo: Dena Evans

The Leaches were successful where the Hugheses, who had tried for the half-marathon record back in September, weren’t. (They missed the record by 20 seconds. So they went for the full, the following month.) As it turns out, the Leaches are well acquainted with the previous record-holders, Paul and Josh Lunn, who live not far from Andrew, just north of London in the U.K..

Running background

Matt lives in the U.S., having studied at the University of San Francisco and competed in the NCAA, finishing 10th in cross-country in the West Coast conference. “It was a great experience,” he says, even though he only had one year of eligibility and feels he could have achieved more with more time. Matt now lives in the San Francisco area and works for Google. He has competed for Britain twice in the 10,000m at the European Cup.

RELATED: 1992 Olympic marathoner and son break world record at Frankfurt Marathon (unofficial)

Andrew was a strong competitive collegiate and club runner in his youth, winning the 1994 Reading Half-Marathon and recording sub-30 10K finishes, but frequent injuries led him to hang up his racing flats around age 30, though he stayed active through cycling and hiking and raising a family. Inspired partly by his son’s growing success, he took up running again around age 50, competing at cross-country, road and track races.

In 2019 Andrew represented England masters in the British and Irish International Cross-Country, beating Tommy Hughes in the M55 race. He also won the M55 10,000m title and was second in the 5,000m at the European masters track and field championships in Italy last year.

Matt Leach. Photo: Gameface Media

RELATED: Houston Marathon: Canadian results

With Andrew in the U.K. and Matt in California, their Guinness record attempt required some planning. Houston was Matt’s choice, since it has a strong reputation for good organization and a good course, and he was looking for a strong performance after his track season. The pair report that once their race entries were confirmed, they just needed to organize their travel and accommodation to Houston. The family, including Andrew’s wife Christine and Matt’s younger brother Nick, spent the holidays in the Bay Area with Matt, and Matt and Andrew were able to get in some training runs together (but only the easier ones, Andrew says, since he “cannot keep up in either pace or distance with Matt’s main workouts these days!”).

Andrew Leach running with his club, North Herts Road Runners. Photo: James Walsh

The race in Houston

The pair expressed gratitude to the race organizers, who gave them both elite status for the start. Matt and Andrew reported feeling good for the first part of the race, running alongside some of the elite Americans trying to qualify for the U.S. Olympic marathon trials for the first eight miles, before the marathoners split off from the half-marathoners. “The goal was to not go out too hard, and feel good through the first eight miles,” Matt says. After the split, both men found the headwind on Montrose Avenue made it challenging to maintain the pace. “The final two miles I gave all I had left,” says Matt. “Running into downtown Houston was a fun experience, despite the pain!”

“Whilst I am realistically not going to be able to match the times of my younger self, challenges like the father and son record provide new incentives to keep training and racing,” Andrew says. As for his son, Matt says, “Running is something we are both passionate about, but it is often fairly individual. It was a lot of fun to go for a record with my dad, and was especially cool to get to be on the startline at such a big event next to him.”


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