Ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Matt Smith: Running for the Bulls

Matt Smith raised $3,000 for an RMEF
Habitat Partnership at his first marathon
Everyone’s heard of running with the bulls, but what about running for the bulls (and cows and calves, too)?

And—if training for a marathon isn’t challenging enough, how about trying to raise $2,500 at the same time to support your efforts? 

That’s exactly what Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Wisconsin state chair Matt Smith did this past May when he decided to tackle the Wisconsin Marathon. A runner for years, 47-year-old Smith had already completed a handful of half-marathons in his lifetime, each time walking away from the experience proclaiming: “People who run full marathons are crazy!” 

But last Christmas when the application for the Wisconsin marathon/half-marathon event appeared in his mailbox, for reasons he still can’t explain, Smith checked the marathon box. “People compare me to a Clydesdale,” he says of his 6-foot-2-inch, 230-pound frame. “I’m not built to run marathons.” 

Yet he found a four-month marathon training program and began pounding out the miles. About a month into it, Smith had an idea. 

“I thought, if I’m going to do all this work, I’d sure like to round up some awareness and proceeds for the Elk Foundation. In Wisconsin we’re always looking for unique ways to raise funds other than big game banquets. Why not try to raise $2,500 to put toward a habitat partnership?” 

Smith created a space on a fundraising website called www.crowdrise.com, put together a short video narrated by his 11-year-old daughter Shae, and began advertising his goal to RMEF staff, members and volunteers, as well as family, friends and colleagues. In the video, Shae speaks to her dad’s love of nature photography, camping, fishing and bowhunting—pastimes Smith says help him find what Celts refer to as the “thin place,” where one feels just inches away from God. 

Smith’s love of wild places and his desire to protect them is what attracted him to the RMEF 12 years ago. He rolled up his sleeves and volunteered at the first big game banquet he ever attended, and never looked back. Today Smith is a Life Member, Habitat Partner, and serving his fifth and final year as state chair.

On race day, Smith arrived conditioned and ready to go, and cruised comfortably along the shore of Lake Michigan until rounded the 20 mile mark. Then he hit the wall.

“The last 6 miles were straight into a 30-mile-per-hour headwind,” Smith recalls. “Right around mile 22 my legs were spent, and it was all I could do to cross that finish line.” 

But he got a little help. At mile 26, Shae met her dad on the course, took his hand, and ran the final .2 miles by his side. “For a dad, it was a pretty cool moment,” Smith says.

And the habitat partnership he was working toward? Smith ended up raising $3,000—and something more. 

“Probably 80 percent of the people who contributed were family, friends and colleagues who had never given to the Elk Foundation before,” he says. “The effort raised awareness of the Elk Foundation and its mission to a whole new audience.”

For this Clydesdale, that was icing on the cake.

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