Matthew in his “victory pose” after the Cheyenne Mountain Trail Race

I am one of the fortunate people that get to have Matthew as my friend and running partner, and was thrilled to interview him for the Summit Spotlight for July. I asked Matthew to walk me through his journey into running, moving to Colorado, and being part of the Pikes Peak Sports Marmot Team. The Marmot Team participates in the Triple Crown of Running that consists of the Garden of the Gods 10 Miler, Summer Round-Up Half Marathon, and Pikes Peak Ascent. Members of the team get to blog about their training experience. At the time of this interview, Matthew had just finished the second leg of the Triple Crown and has one more race to go.

-Melissa Saliba

How It All Started: St. Louis

“ How I started running…how this happened…how this all began was when I lived in St. Louis. I hated it there at first, but that changed and it changed my life forever. My mom saw a bunch of runners one day, and when she came home she asked me if I would like to join the cross-country team. I said yes, that I would give it a try. I did the first practice before the school year started. We went to Moss field where we practiced before the school season started…and I was the slowest kid of my freshman year. On my first race, the first race of the season at Blackburn Park, it was soaking rain. The course was covered in mud…we had to run through it and it was hilarious. When I was getting close to the finish line we made a turn around behind the trees and I slipped and I was covered in mud top to bottom. And that race, I will never forget! St. Louis…I love that place. That’s where I graduated from Webster Groves High School, that’s where it all started, and the town changed life forever. It was a really cool place to live, to raise a family on your own, and to meet people.”

 

Challenges

Matthew after the disappointing news of a stress fracture

“After the first year and after running and stuff, I decided I wanted to quit. But I kept running, and I kept going. It kept me stronger and faster, but then the injury part came during my junior and senior year. I had a stress fracture on my right leg during my senior year. I was so mad because I was having a good season with running and my goal was to run with the varsity team that year. My senior year I broke time, got medals, and I made varsity. The season came to an end and every year they do an award and then my coach and my mom and I were sitting down at the awards ceremony. Every year they award a Statesman Award for the best athletes. I was wondering if I was going to get this award and then suddenly, I figured it was going to be me, and my coach called my name! I was glad to get it and it was an honor to have it.”

 

Bigger Races

“My first full marathon was the Chicago Marathon. Before I completed this, my oldest brother, Michael, was diagnosed with cancer. He was going to be an exchange student in Germany, but then he got cancer. My mom and I wanted to do something so we joined the Team in Training and we did my first half-marathon during my sophomore year at Disney World. When my Mom got re-married and went on her honeymoon, she broke something in her leg during her honeymoon. This was really bad for her because she was training for that race, but she ran/walked the whole way and she did ok. Since then, I have done the New York City Marathon and the people from Achilles did and I had two runners run with me. It was kind of good running in the big city. You first start on Stanley Island and you run to this bridge. Then you go to Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, and the finish line was in Central Park. That was when I wondered, “I want to do something really cool.” My runners were right next to me and we put our hands up and we made it through. My neighbor, Mr. Riley, did that race too, which was kind of cool. It was a really fun experience and a really fun thing to do.”

Matthew poses at the finish line of the New York City Marathon

Jack Of All Trades

“My favorite things to do are rock climbing, swimming, yoga, Zumba workouts….I’m an artist by the way. I joined this program called The Club of Arts – it’s a program for people with special needs and it’s so amazing. They have different classes and my favorite is their art class and that is how I am making all these designs. It is a cool place and they have different classes you can try and do. They also have a Buddy Bus. Every month you will see what people will want to do and the Buddy Bus will take them out to go places and eat lunch, and then bring them back in the afternoon before they go home. When I do the art classes I paint and draw.”

“When we moved to Colorado, I had to stay a few extra days in St. Louis because I’m a singer and I had been singing my entire life through high school, and I was performing with the Miramax Choir. It’s a Community College I went to and I went there for about four and a half years, and I love their choir by the way. They went to Disney World to perform at the Epcot Candlelight processional for two years in a row. Last year we went to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City. My Mom came and we went to do a few things. I went to perform at Carnegie and we flew back to Colorado Springs.”

Matthew with his mom, Denise, outside of Carnegie Hall

Staying Motivated

“I ask myself if I would like to keep doing running or if I would like to quit. It depends on what I choose. And that’s how I decided I wanted to keep running, I wanted to stay in shape. I want to stay healthy and that’s how it happened. I eat good and I don’t eat sugar or candy or anything like that. My favorite food could be pasta because it is really good for you for your run; also vegetables and other stuff. My brothers…they have their own problems!”

Moving to Colorado, Running Trails, and Becoming a Marmot

“When I first came to Colorado it was for a family trip around 2013. It was me and my family for a family trip for a few days. My oldest brother didn’t come, but it was me, Mom, Bill, and Mark. We loved it when we first came. We checked the place out and we stayed at Breckenridge for a few days and it was kind of cool. We did some hiking and some other stuff there. And, that is how we loved it. My Mom and step-dad came multiple times to Colorado when we still lived in St. Louis. Two years ago, in 2016, my Mom came here to Colorado Springs and she got a job at the Air Force Academy and that’s why we decided to move to Colorado Springs.”

Matthew with a group of runners on a snowy training run before the Cheyenne Mountain Trail Race

“My first trail run was the day of my birthday, and then in April, I ran my first trail race at Cheyenne Mountain which was pretty cool and I had a cool time. So that was a little bit fun. And now, thanks to Achilles for the training and all that they’ve done and all they’ve just did. The Marmot team is a pretty awesome team and we meet on the day of the race and we do a group picture during the start before the race starts – like at the Garden of the Gods and the Summer Round Up. And the final race is in August and that will be the Pikes Peak Ascent. It is a good team and they have some good runners and it’s been pretty cool to meet them. In regards to blogging on the Marmot team, I am pretty good at writing and pretty good at what jumps into my head and that’s how I know what to say. I am most excited to get up there to the top for the Ascent. Now, how did this all happen? How did I want to do the Triple Crown? It was when my step-dad was sick, that’s when I knew I definitely wanted to do something. That’s why I wanted to do the Triple Crown and do these challenges. The Summer Round-up is one of the toughest races that I have ever done. It was cool at the start, but then it got harder when we finished. My tummy wasn’t feeling good from all the running. We did most running all the way, and some hiking to other parts of the trail. I was so tired, so not feeling good after the race was done. One of my favorite races was the Garden of the Gods. There are so many trails to see and do in Colorado. One of my favorites is Pulpit Rock and my favorite could be the incline. My Mom did it, I did it, and my brothers don’t really want to do it.”

Matthew runs with guide, Michael McGann at an Achilles Pikes Peak workout

 

Matthew with his Pikes Peak Sports Mighty Marmot Team before the Garden 10 Miler

Future Goals

“My big goal and dream is to run the Boston Marathon. After the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, that’s when I decided I wanted to do Boston and I wanted to honor those people that were affected. I was to get in Boston and run the race. Other races like the Barr Trail Mountain Race, and maybe the Bolder Boulder. Maybe another race at Disney World like a half-marathon. I am not sure about the Pikes Peak Marathon…it all depends.”

 

Matthew with guide and former Mighty Marmot, Dave Mulligan, on a training run to Barr Camp

“I am trying to get a job – that is my bigger goal and a top priority. I am volunteering at the Flying Horse Ranch right now with my friend Barbara. We also do cooking and other activities. My other goal that is a big one is to start a relationship with somebody. That is my bigger goal and I am trying to work on that. And, trying to be independent, that’s all it takes. I would like a job not far and close to my house where I can ride my bike there. I have a cool three-wheel bike.”