By Jeremy Brown
Matt Macias’s run at the New York City Marathon turned tragic circumstances into a day of triumph.
It seems that Matt Macias is always running. Between teaching full-time in the South Bronx and working at Club Fit’s Energy Center, he’s perennially on the move. But recently, Macias was running not because he had to, but because he needed to.
Last month, Macias participated in the New York City Marathon, running to raise money for Alzheimer’s research. It was an emotional and challenging run, particularly because the cause is one that is very close to his heart.
“My grandmother was very sick with Alzheimer’s and dementia,” he said. “I was feeling kind of useless in a way. Like there wasn’t anything that I could do. So I decided to try and run and raise money for the cause.”
Macias said that he was inspired to take on the marathon by Chris Becker, another Club Fit employee. Two years ago, Becker ran the Chicago Marathon, raising more than $2,000 for breast cancer research in the process.
“He’s one of my best friends,” Macias said. “So I knew that, if he could do it, I had to one-up him!”
Macias had run a number of half marathons but had yet to actually run a full marathon. The closest he had come was a race in San Diego, but an injury had forced him to walk the course instead. In addition, his training was made more difficult by the fact that his grandmother had passed away.
“Everything was just so tense,” he recalled of that time. “The stress was getting to me physically. I know running probably would have been better for me, but I just couldn’t.”
Luckily, Macias said, he had a built-in support system at Club Fit, with many of his co-workers stepping in to help him out when things became too trying.
“Chris Becker was always there, Angelina Curcio always had my back, Kristen Saffo was also there for me,” he said. “All those people helped me every step of the way. I’m starting to realize that all my friends work at Club Fit!”
On the day of the marathon, the unthinkable almost happened when Macias awoke with a fever of 101 degrees. Determined to compete in spite of his illness, he hauled himself out of bed and hit the pavement. However, about halfway through the race, the fever began to catch up with him, and Macias began having second, and maybe even third, thoughts.
“I actually thought about quitting and started texting people saying, ‘I shouldn’t have done this, I’m too sick to run,'” he said. “But, in my armband, I had my grandmother’s prayer card. So I just took it out and ran with it in my hands the rest of the way. That’s when I knew that I was going to finish.”
Having crossed the finish line and raising more than $4,000 for Alzheimer’s research, Macias said that the whole experience was overwhelming.
“It was unbelievable,” he said. “Especially all the support I received from everyone. And not just the friends and family who came to watch, but all the people who were tracking me at home and everyone who helped me raise money for this great cause. And being able to run through the streets of New York City was just insane. There’s nothing quite like it.”
Next up, Macias and Becker plan to run a marathon at Disney World in Orlando, with a course that will take them through all five parks in one day.
“I haven’t started preparing for that one yet,” he said. “I’m giving myself time to recover from the last one. But the physical part isn’t as challenging as the mental part. Once you get to mile 18 and you say to yourself, ‘I still have six more to go!’, that’s when you start questioning what you’re doing.’ But the more you work at it, the easier it gets. Practice makes perfect.”