Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Matt Jenkins: 760-mile Run Across North Carolina--Barefoot!

Matt started running while he was in the Marine Corp 11 years ago, just to prepare for the mandatory 3 mile Physical Training (PT) test. He began increasing the distance of his runs to make the 3 mile seem easier.  Before long, he was running marathons and more.  During the last leg of the Derby 50K in November 2009 Matt decided to take off his shoes, which were soaking wet by then, and just ran barefoot for the last part of the race. He felt great and was able to run faster. He later learned more about barefoot running and how to practice and toughen his feet!

On July 14th 2010 Matt Jenkins started his 760 mile run across the state of North Carolina barefoot. Why did he do this? To raise money and awareness after major funding cuts for a nonprofit which he worked for that provided afterschool programming and enrichment for kids. He finished August 13th and says his goal was to run about a 50 Km (31 miles) a day. He didn’t have a support crew, just his jogging stroller to keep his supplies in, and he camped at night. It took 30 days from start to finish. Amazing story, really, even if you stop there. But, I left out something that makes Matt’s story even more amazing – a venomous snake bite!

Matt had been running for almost a month straight and was on his last week of his journey. He recalls this part as the “mountain phase: it was his hardest. The terrain was challenging and the roads were not smooth but a rough gravely asphalt. He kept thinking, “ I know this is hard and it’s not fair to say you have to do 30 miles of this (rough road surface) but I’m determined to do these miles…come on just get your miles and you’ll get to the end”. Matt says he took it one day and 31 miles at a time.


Mile 446


On August 3rd, he was running through Franklin NC. It had just rained and there were branches all over the road. Matt remembered being warned that snakes often came out onto these roads shortly after the rain. He ran one over with the jogging stroller mistaking it for a branch, and said he jumped really high after it seeing it strike at him. He kept running and thought he needed to be careful since it was a really close call. Afterall, he is BAREFOOT! The next time he wasn’t so lucky, Matt didn’t even see it coming, but he felt it bite. He says it took a while for him to register that he had been bit, that he needed to stop running and finally that he might be in trouble! He had no cell phone reception and so he ran to a house and the couple not only called the ambulance for him but had him to stay after he left the hospital. It turns out he had been bitten by a copperhead! He returned home hoping for the swelling to come down and after 5 days drove back to Franklin to finish the 100 miles he had left.
Day 3 after the bite.

When I asked if he thought about not finishing after the bite he said “never!” He had no doubt in his mind that he was going to finish. In fact he says in the times when he felt tired or wanted to stop he thought about why he was doing it. He remembered the kids and the families that he had worked with. He knew he had their support and knew he needed to do it for them.

He says the first day back on the road after the bite was the hardest of the entire run. The pain was intense. He said he was determined to just put one foot in front of the other until the end. When reflecting on the bite he said that he was glad it happened...it renewed media interest in his story and cause. He says it also it proved to be a wonderful analogy to him. The budget cuts were a roadblock for the nonprofit just as the snake bite was a roadblock to completing the run. And, like the nonprofit organization - he was not going to quit!

Matt spends more time running in combat boots these days in the Army Reserves and has been training for the Best Warrior Competition , in which he received second place in his division. He plans to run with his friend Daniel for part of Umstead 100 mile endurance run Saturday April 2.

He says that his biggest thing is “…setting your own goals; it has to be fun or I’m not going to do it.  It could be spending time running with someone you care about, or pushing yourself to a new goal. In other words, you have to have the end goal in mind. Once you know how it feels to finish a marathon, you can push through anything.”

By the way I asked Matt would you do it again, snake bit and all. And without hesitation he said YES!


You can read all about Matt’s journey in his book A Barefoot Run Across North Carolina

2 comments:

Mik said...

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Emily said...

Mik, thank you, I appreciate that! I feel so privileged to get to speak with each of these amazing and inspiring individuals!