Friday, May 2, 2008

When I grow up, I wanna be...

...just like Matt Simms. Ya know, how once in a while you meet someone and you think, "if I had any ambition, energy, talent, and/or any life skills of any sort, I'd probably be just like this guy." Well, that's exactly how I feel every time I talk to Matt Simms of Langley (Whidbey Island), Washington. This guy is really amazing. I mean, it's enough that he's just an incredible runner, with many, many...many wins and top five finishes in races all over the NW, but that's not all. The guy is also one of those "giving" guys that I've never been able to understand (in that I've never been much of one myself). A few weeks ago, I sent Matt an e-mail begging for some "elite runner" comments on the QT, as I was waiting until about two days before my deadline to write my article, as is my usual procedure. So, of course, Matt sends me, like, a three page, well thought out, perfectly meaningful, e-mail covering all of my questions. Then, finally, there's the service for our country in Iraq, which I surely am not envious of, but I admire and appreciate all the same.

So, of course, when Matt felt his hometown could use another local run...he just decided to set up the Langley Half Marathon.

Or, in his own words:

Langley (and South Whidbey in general) has a history of races but events have fallen away in recent years due to lack of willing organizers. Through a series of fortunate events when I was mobilized over in Iraq, I had the incredible opportunity to direct the first ever BolderBoulderBaghdad. It was that experience that changed me forever as a runner. To that point in my running life I’d done maybe 1000 events but had never organized a single thing. Then I saw 650 people sign up for and race BolderBoulder and watched in amazement as my ragtag team of never-done-this-before volunteers show up at 2AM for a 5AM start, working like crazy to get everyone to the starting line with numbers on and all the water and gels to the water stops and t-shirts to everyone afterwards and awards to the overall and age group winners and the million other things that go into pulling off a race. And then I watched those 650 people from all walks of life, from 30 or so countries, some with fitness and training and some just out there to be out there, race a hard 10k in a blazing hot sandstorm. And then for the next month afterwards I kept hearing about it. I’d walk past two people in a conference room waiting for a meeting to start and they’d be saying something like “I never thought I could break an hour but that tailwind at mile 5 was great! 57 minutes!” Or someone would stop my walking to work and say “Are you the one who organized the 10k? I really wanted to do it and I trained for it and all my buddies did it but I was working that night and couldn’t be there. Are you going to organize another one?” Or, I’d hear someone sitting at a dinner table telling a story about the race and someone else down the table a bit would say to a friend “I could never do something like that. I don’t think so, anyway. Do you think maybe I could do one of those?” And I realized a race like that mints runners. And in my humble opinion, more runners in the world is a good thing. So I took on the Baghdad Ten Miler, Peachtree Baghdad (where we had almost 1000 runners!), the Baghdad International Marathon (as an assistant to the race director), and the Baghdad Marathon. And I raced them all too, either in the actual race or in the volunteers run I organized the day after each one of them. So then I come back home last year and go back to normal life and about 6 months later I started feeling like I ought to be organizing something. And so I tossed out the idea to my local running group on a Sunday long run and it took about 10k to sort it all out but, eventually, the Langley Half Marathon was born. But not so fast. 6 months of permits from the this and the that and the the other and approvals from this high council and that set of grand poobahs and and and THEN it was finally a go.

Now all we need is a field.

Hey, he needs a field. I said, "HE NEEDS A FIELD!" So get over there and enter up already.

Matt says "thanks". That's just the kind of guy he is.

thanks to Linda Wong for the photo.

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