POW Marathon a Destination Race! Interview with Houston Laws - P.O.W. Report

Sunday, February 10, 2019

POW Marathon a Destination Race! Interview with Houston Laws

By Gretchen Klein

Gretchen Klein was able to interview Houston Laws for this month's featured profile highlighting the Prince of Wales Annual International Marathon.

Houston Laws, who now lives in Juneau, is a testament to how one goal of running a single marathon can lead to accomplishment after accomplishment and lead to great achievements in Ultra-Marathons!

After participating in 12 years of wrestling in Southeast and becoming a State ranked wrestler, Houston had a vision to celebrate his 17th birthday by completing the Prince of Wales Marathon in 2003.

“The weather was unseasonably hot that weekend” Laws laughed as he reflected on the painful experience of staggering into the finish line tent for hydration and recovery support after completing the daunting 26.2 miles.

The “marathon” was created in commemoration of the fabled run of the Greek soldier Pheidippides who ran from the Battle of Marathon to Athens and reported a great victory against the Persians.

“It probably wasn’t the smarter move without some long runs before hand, but it was an amazing experience!” Houston recalled and indeed a great birthday present to himself that he will always remember.

After seeing how “the 12 communities of POW come together to put on this race and everyone pulling together in unity” Laws was called back to the Island and raced again in 2011—this time more prepared with miles of road under his shoes. Lining up with the runners in Hollis, along with Jeff Rhodes, the traditional shot-gun fired signifying the start of the race and off they went. Laws and Rhodes worked their way together along the scenic highway and helped each other out in the last four miles of the race with Houston finishing first and Jeff shortly behind in second.

It was then in his early 20's while working at Juneau's Bartlett Hospital that he decided to switch into over drive and focus on ultra-marathons. Houston and his friend were talking one day and decided that it would set personal records to be one of the few individuals who ran all four 100 miles races in Alaska.

They had to chart out the races that would be approved and train for it. In 2014 Houston, decided to push his body to the limits and set his eyes and feet on the Klondike Race in Skagway. After speaking to race officials they allowed this one to be used for competition.

“Each 100 mile race is unique due to the weather conditions and terrain” Houston said and “preparing for a 100 mile race, you have to run four days a week with 20-23 mile runs so your body gets used to it.” Fortunately, his job at the hospital which is 3 days on and 4 days off allowed him to exercise and in addition to having a dog running business, Houston conquered any excuses not to practice and train. In just one year and with his sted-fast dedication, Laws crushed four 100 mile tracks all before the age of 30!

Advice from Houston for Marathon runners:

“Each race is unique” drink water but don’t over-hydrate.

Houston gets his electrolytes from the foods he eats and prefers Whole Food Bars.

Audio books are great for running 20-30 miles, so make running fun again!

Houston had a “Dog Running Business” when he was training for 100 miles races. He would run every where including errands, grocery stores, picking up the dogs, and taking them on training sessions with him.

“Each race was unique. One was in freezing temperatures in Susitna, Alaska and another was in SE to accomplish the four, 100 milers in 1 year. He finished some in 33 hours and another in 18 hours. It’s important to make sure you have your back back with food and water to carry you through 24 hours, and making sure you are taking in the food and water you need hourly. Eat every hour and drink every 30 minutes when doing 30 or 100 mile races.”

“Care Packets along the route from friends is a must. This might not seem that big of deal but if someone drops off a Starbucks Express to you 60 miles into the race it might be the most amazing surprise you ever get--even if you don’t usually drink it on a daily basis—and this will motivate you to keep going when running a 100 miles.

Runners should cross train with weight lifting, swimming, and hiking.

It’s important to have the correct running shoes and clothing. Houston wears layers of clothes in Juneau due to cold conditions. Mittens, 3 layers of shirts, Costco water resistant pants over the layers and a thermos!

Shoes are very important. Talk to a professional who deals with fitting shoes for runners. It’s critical to buy shoes that fit correctly. Shoes should be one size bigger for expansion of the foot during running and layers of socks when running in extreme cold climates.

Favorite shoe stores Nugget AK Outfitter, Foggy Mountain, REI for clothing and Costco for rain pants.

“Words of Wisdom from a Seasoned Pro”

Mix up your food. Make your food fun! It has to be something easy to digest and don’t be afraid if some one hands you an espresso after running for 50 miles. It might be the best thing you see in 10 hours.”

Houston Laws continues to run and swim for fun and don’t be surprised if you see him out on the trails in Juneau enjoying the beautiful glaciers and terrain in The Last Frontier!

Join us on Prince of Wales this year. POW is part of the Alexander Archipelago in the southernmost portion of the Alaska panhandle.

Sign up: https://www.powmarathon.org/

Accommodations and Transportation may be found at: https://www.princeofwalescoc.org/

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