Boston Marathon Spotlight Athlete
At age 47, Matt Stegall keeps pace with people 15 years his junior. Having a 17:30 5k is no joke, and it’s certainly fast for any person to run at any age. Having ridden and raced mountain bikes for 25 years, and having a few trail running races under his belt, Matt Stegall signed up for Knoxville Marathon the night before the race in 2016 on a whim.
His final time was 3:13:53, which put him in 1st place for his age group and gave him a qualifying time and slot for Boston 2017.
By his own admission, Matt trained with an unstructured approach with not enough long runs, and too many hard days. Coupled with the brutal heat seen in Boston during that year, Matt did not have the race he wanted. So, he sought out coaching with KE.
“Literally right when I got back from Boston, I signed up with Bobby. Best investment I’ve ever made in myself.”
This isn’t to say Matt isn’t a talented athlete. He clearly very much is. But he has identified that the thing that works for him sometimes can work against him during long periods of training.
“I think for a lot of people who are 'type-A' athletes, going hard is not our problem. Not going hard is the thing we need a coach for. To add that structure. [Bobby] taught me the value in all these easy efforts. Going hard selectively. It’s really paid off. If you had told me when I started that I’d run a 1:22 half marathon or sub 18 5k, I wouldn’t even think that was possible. I certainly wouldn’t have thought it was possible by going out and running a bunch of slow miles.”
Attracted to not just the convenience of being able to lace up a pair of shoes and head out the door, Matt turns to running specifically because of the way in which it improves his daily life.
“I love having that process. What will make you a decent runner is also the exact same things that will make you good in your job, school, your relationships. It’s that process of everyday putting in that work with no immediate reward. For a long time, I was a gamer. I just wanted to show up and do good. You can get away with that in some sports when you’re young. Running doesn’t allow that. There’s no hack for running. You have to put in the work.”
I’m sure there are lots of runners who can empathize with staring at the weather forecast and dreading a 21-mile long run in the pouring rain. No one really wants to do that. Yet, this is precisely the thing that Matt finds rewarding about the sport. Overcoming those mental (and physical) hurdles that are either imposed on us or that we impose ourselves.
“Those [days] are very rewarding. You went out and did something you didn’t want to do. You reeeaaally didn’t want to do that. But you know you can’t skip that day because that’ll show up months from now. I love that about this sport.”
Matt gets a lot out of running. It’s enhanced his life in ways that he very much confirms with his words, actions and positive attitude. Yet it is not the defining focus of his time. He is a general manager of an automotive dealership. He is married. He has three children. His life is a full plate, but he finds the time with a relative amount of effort that he describes as doable.
“All you need is a pair of shoes. And you do have time. We all think we don’t have time. We have the same amount of time as Albert Einstein, or Steve Jobs did, or anybody that does all these incredible things. Do you want to spend 45 minutes staring at Facebook? Or do you want to spend 45 minutes investing in your life? In your health?”
While he is primarily responsible for putting in the work, Matt thanks and credits much of his success to his wife, Whitney.
“She is super supportive of my running. She wants me to do it. She knows I need that. Never a day goes by when she doesn’t ask me how my run went. That means a lot in a marriage. We have three teenagers. There’s no doubt that she’s had to take on more sometimes because of me going racing.”
In speaking with Matt, one can’t help but walk away from the conversation inspired by his ‘can-do’ positive attitude, and his down-to-earth mindset about running, and how—even with the stresses that daily life gives us—it’s completely possible to lace up and get out the door every day.