|Matt after the 1500 on Saturday night|
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Wow, what a week! Or, I guess I should say, wow, what a great 23 minutes! There was some schedule reshuffling last week that worked out in Matt’s favor. Instead of having the 1500 meter and the 5000 meter events in the same night, the 5000 was moved to Friday night. It was the opening event of the evening and Matt was the only runner. So of course he won, but the awesome part is he won with a fantastic time of 17:52. If you recall, this is more than 30 seconds faster than his last time trial before he left for Mesa (but shy of his 17:24 personal record). Matt said that everyone was cheering him on and that even though he was the only runner, everything happened just as though there was a full heat of runners--they cleared the track, used the flag system, and gave Matt all of the regular race commands. The last mile was rough, but he pulled through. Going into the two events, this was Matt’s stronger event. He is a distance runner (in running terminology that is anything over 800 meters (half a mile)) and doesn’t have the rapid leg turnover for the sprints. With the three hour time difference, I had to struggle to stay up for the results, but it was worth it. I could hear in his voice his enthusiasm, and I know he must have had a huge grin on his face.
On Saturday, Matt got to the track at about 5pm, but his event wasn’t until 9pm. He got to watch all of the wheelchair and other ambulatory track events. Then, at 9pm, it was his turn to take the track again. All of the runners were introduced as either a member of their national team or another affiliation. Since Matt has no affiliation (yet!), he was introduced as “last night’s 5000 winner” which sounded pretty cool to him (and me). For Saturday night’s 1500 (a quarter lap shy of a mile for the non-metric) he had some competition. There were eight ambulatory athletes in his heat, including one other visually impaired runner. As far as times and placing goes, Matt’s only competition was the other visually impaired runner, but that didn’t stop Matt from wanting to run with all he had. During the first lap one of the runners took off and was almost instantly out of his vision. As lap times were being called, Matt realized that he was closing the gap. In the end, Matt was the first place visually impaired runner with a time of 4:45 and the second finisher in the heat. (The first place finisher was four seconds ahead of Matt.)
I will have pictures and more on his experiences tomorrow, but right now I’d just like to tell you all how proud I am of Matt. I’m not going to lie, it was a long week for me, but listening to him talk about all of the new friends he made and amazing athleticism on display that he was a part of made it all worth it. I know that this was only the first event for Matt and that he’ll have to travel to many more over the next two years, but I think it was probably one of the most important ones in that he needed to get that first whiff of what it would be like to be on the U.S. Paralympic Track and Field Team and to meet other extraordinary people striving for excellence. If Matt had a bad race or didn’t feel a part of the process and experience, I think it would be hard for Matt to justify continuing. But he did have two great races. He did meet extraordinary people (I heard a lot of great things about some of the Canadian team members he met). He did get sucked in to the experience. I’m his wife so I get the award for biggest and loudest cheerleader, but I know that there are lots of other cheerleaders out there reading this that were rooting for him last week. Leave a message on the blog or forward to someone that you think might be inspired so that we know you’re out there cheering him on. He might be doing this for himself a little bit, but he’s also doing this for his family and for everyone out there that wants to be known for something other than what people think of first when they describe them.