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“Running has given me huge mental and physical benefits”. Matt Rees, The Welsh Runner

If you don’t recognise the name Matt Rees aka The Welsh Runner (where have you been for the last 2 years??), then you will probably recognise Matt from this picture taken 200 metres from the finish line at the London Marathon in 2017.

Matt Rees helped David Wyeth over the line at London Marathon 2017

Matt is joining us at the RunFit Expo again this year and we cannot wait to hear everything he has been up to in the last 12 months. Matt will be on the stage at 1.45pm and will be talking all things running and his big goals for the future.

WHY DID YOU START RUNNING?

I started running as a New Year’s resolution in 2015 aged 27. I have always been fit through playing sports and going to the gym, but I hated running. Building muscle with heavy weights was more important to me. However, I decided to start running to help with my anxiety. Running has given me huge mental and physical benefits.

WHAT WERE YOUR FIRST EXPERIENCES OF RUNNING?

At first I really struggled. I found it so hard. I thought I was fairly fit from playing football but it took some adjustment. I didn’t enjoy it to start with. I stuck with it though and started to feel good after each run. There was a sense of release, and my mental health was improving. As I persevered I started to improve too, and it became more enjoyable.

HOW HAS YOUR ATTITUDE TOWARDS RUNNING CHANGED?

I never liked running or understood why people would run. Now I see all of the benefits it provides and love it. I also love the welcoming running community that I have become part of. I never really understood the supportive community out there until I started running.

ARE THE REASONS FOR RUNNING NOW THE SAME AS THEY WERE WHEN YOU STARTED?

I will always run to help with my anxiety. Running isn’t a cure but it helps tremendously. If I stop running for a few days I really notice the difference. However, I have other reasons I run now too. I am competitive and want to achieve new PBs and push my limits to see how fast and far I can go. It’s a big challenge which has its ups and downs which I love.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE DISTANCE AND WHY?

My favourite distance is the marathon because of all the preparation and planning it involves. You can’t just rock up to a marathon and run well. You need to commit. I find the challenge of training and racing a marathon amazing. I also like that it lasts longer than other races, and that it is always a big occasion.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE KIND OF RUN AND WHY?

I can’t choose. I love them all for different reasons. Road is fast and you are more likely to have support on the course. Trail is often beautiful, and I love the technical side of it. Cross country is tough, and really is the grassroots of running. Fighting through mud and up hills gives you a huge sense of achievement, and times do not matter.

WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO KEEP RUNNING?

I have lots of motivations. I want to manage my mental health and help others. I want to challenge myself and see what I can achieve. I want to set a good example for those around me, and promote a healthy lifestyle. But most of all I just love the feeling that running gives me.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVOUTIRE RACE AND WHY?

It has to be the London Marathon. I have had some special moments there and each time it has been very emotional.

HAVE YOU TAKEN PART IN ANY ROCK N ROLL RACES BEFORE?

Yes, I ran the RnR Liverpool Half last year. I absolutely loved it. The bands around the course were incredible and kept me going. I remember each time hearing the music in the distance and setting myself the challenge of running well until I got to the band. It was a great way to keep me motivated. I also surprised myself and was the overall winner of the race. It came as such a shock but is one of my running highlights.

WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE EVER BEEN GIVEN FOR RUNNING?

Listen to your body and try to stay consistent. This is the key to long-term improvement. If you can get through a good block of training without getting injured and keep turning up then you will improve. You don’t have to ‘win’ every session or run, just keep showing up. I would also tell people to slow down. Take your easy runs easy. Easier than you think. Those easy runs really help develop your aerobic fitness but also help you recover ready for your next hard run.

WHAT ARE YOUR RUNNING GOALS THIS YEAR AND LONG TERM?

I have unfinished business with the marathon. I got injured when I was a few weeks away from a big PB attempt in Seville Marathon. So my goal this year is to get back into that shape and go run brave in Chicago Marathon.

Long term I would like to compete for Wales. It seems like such a huge goal but I know if I can realise my potential that I have a chance. If you don’t stop trying then you can’t really fail.