Up and Running

Matt and Wayne in training for their marathon

Matt and Wayne Don't Have Time for Coronavirus - They're Running Virtually!

“I always ran away from everything.  I’m a natural runner.  I run from problems and responsibilities,” said Matt, a former City Mission resident who has been training to run the full Pittsburgh Marathon.  “But I feel like this time I’m actually running toward something.”

There are many paths that can lead people to a homeless shelter, but recovering from a period of homelessness in your life almost always requires a profound life change -- building better relationships, starting healthier habits, making new choices.  A new life is no easy thing to come by.

During a morning devotional in the City Mission chapel, City Mission House Coordinator, Wayne Heckman, announced that he would be training for the Pittsburgh Marathon, and he invited the residents to join him.  “Something just spoke to me right then,” Matt explained.  “I thought, this could be a way to redeem my confidence and my ability to go after a goal.”

Wayne and Matt have been training together since early January.  Twice a week, Wayne wakes up at 4 in the morning and drives to the Mission from his home in Dormont to meet Matt for a run.  Together, they do a five-mile circuit through Washington, even on the coldest, darkest winter mornings.  “We typically run at 5 am.  Sometimes, it’s cold and miserable,” Matt explained.  “But it’s also really peaceful.”  To keep warm, he wears thermals and a neoprene hoodie that just “popped up in the donation box” one day from a generous donor.

There are many paths that can lead people to a homeless shelter, but recovering from a period of homelessness in your life almost always requires a profound life change -- building better relationships, starting healthier habits, making new choices.  A new life is no easy thing to come by.

Wayne and Matt run together twice a week to provide mutual encouragement.  “The consistency and the camaraderie of the training is definitely beneficial to my recovery,” Matt explained.  He also runs two additional days a week on his own, including his long run on Saturday.  His longest run to date is 15 miles.  “I felt like I got hit by a truck after that,” he explained.  “I’m just really proud of both of them,” said Leah Dietrich, City Mission’s Director of Residential Programs.  She has been very impressed by their commitment and the bond they have formed over this shared experience.  “Look at what Matt has shown himself that he can do, and the amount of dedication they’ve both shown is phenomenal.”

Wayne has been a runner since he was a kid.  When he was in his early twenties, he started training for several marathons but never actually ran in any of them.  “I’ve been a good quitter my whole life,” he explained.  Then in 2011, he finally ran in and finished the Philadelphia Marathon.  “It was a kind of spiritual experience, like climbing a mountain,” he said.  “When you cross the tape, they drape a robe over you, hand you a medal, and say ‘congratulations, marathoner.’  I told myself, if I can ever help someone else have that experience, I will.”

Matt, who is originally from North Carolina, came to City Mission in October.  “I felt like a big failure when I first walked in the door here at the Mission, but now I know I was there for a reason.”  Creating a new life for yourself is never easy, but Matt is running after every opportunity to make a better life for himself.  “You really find peace at the Mission.  You don’t have to worry about anything.  You’re not chasing after stuff.  You don’t have a car or a house or anything, but you’re really happy.  You find inner happiness, and you can take that with you anywhere.  It’s a beautiful thing.”

Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, this year’s Pittsburgh Marathon has been canceled, but Matt has vowed to continue training.  “Oh, it’s a part of life now,” he said.  “I’m not going to stop running.  I’m going to stick with it!”

Both Matt and Wayne have decided to do the virtual race through www.pittsburghmarathon.com, which allows them to run the marathon on their own and record their results on the website.  They have also decided to use the opportunity to help raise support for the life-changing programs at City Mission.  Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, City Mission has had to close their Thrift Stores for retail shopping.  This is losing them approximately a third of the income they rely on to support their programming.  City Mission and the men, women, children and veterans who rely on the Mission – people just like Matt – need your help now more than ever.

You can support Matt and Wayne’s incredible effort and the work of City Mission at HERE.

April 14, 2020
Susan Gartland - Social Media Manager
Sue Gartland
Social Media Manager
Sue has a vast career in gospel rescue missions adding great value to the City Mission team. Sue has been in many roles in the mission and is always filling in where she is needed - which is A LOT!
sgartland@citymission.org

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