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Meeting Matt Elliott: Runner’s World Cover Star + Olympic Hopeful

One of the best things about working with Run Charlotte Run is that it’s getting me engrained in the running community again. I didn’t realize how much I had missed it. Since starting this position I have connected with local runners to share their stories, attended group runs, visited local running stores, participated in a race and worked with some great people in the community on articles I’ve written. I not only feel more connected to my community but also more fired up about running than I have been in years. It’s such a powerful sport in its ability to bring people together and to help individuals to see how strong they are and how much they’re capable of accomplishing.

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Last Sunday I was invited to attend a team dinner for a local cross country team to cover a special guest speaker. Matt Elliott, a local runner, elementary school teacher, Runner’s World and Running Times cover star and Olympic hopeful, spoke to the team about goal setting, passion and his road to the 2016 Olympic trials.

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Matt’s story is one of hard work, passion and investment in his training. He’s from a small town outside of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where he started running in 1999 under the supervision and coaching of his parents. He went on to run for his high school and then collegiately at Winthrop University. Matt seems to only be getting faster and stronger as the years pass and his list of running achievements includes running a sub-four minute mile nine times with a personal best of 3:54, a 3:36 1500 meter PR, a 13:44 5K PR and a fourth place finish at the 2013 U.S. Nationals in the 1500 meter event.

For the last few years Matt has worked full-time as a K-2 teacher at The Palmetto School in Rock Hill, South Carolina. The Palmetto School is a 501(c)(3) school located in Rock Hill that serves children in grades K-8 who have been removed from their home by DSS for reasons of abuse, abandonment, or neglect. The children live in an on campus shelter, The Children’s Attention Home. An average week for Matt looks like 90 miles of running, 50 hours at work, 3 pool sessions and 3 strength training workouts. Matt firmly believes that you must make an investment in your training in order to see success.

Matt is making the ultimate investment as he takes a two-year leave of absence from the school and community that he loves so much to move to Knoxville, Tennessee where he will train for the 2016 Olympic Trials. Matt will be working with a strength and conditioning coach at the University of Tennessee who trains Olympic hopefuls.

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One of the things I found very interesting about Matt’s talk was his emphasis on the importance of lifting to his training program…and not just any lifting but Olympic lifting. He focuses on triple extension exercises like snatching, squatting, deadlifting, cleaning, etc. that require hip, knee and ankle extension. His focus is on becoming a better all around athlete so that he can perform better at his sport of choice, running. This made me so happy because you know I will forever advocate that runners should strength train.

I also loved hearing Matt endorse foam rolling and stretching as “musts” when it comes to injury prevention. Matt joked that he’s spent more time with his stretching band and foam roller over the last year than he has with his girlfriend. And although Matt is a sponsored Brooks athlete, he was the only top five finisher in the 2013 Nationals who didn’t travel with his own bodywork paid professionals. Matt keeps it real with foam rollers, stretching and ice baths.

Going into the 2016 Olympic Trials for the Rio games, Matt has outlined a few areas of focus for him:

– Getting more sleep. He’s currently getting around 7 or 7.5 hours per night but wants closer to 10 for his body to fully recover from his training and get stronger.
– Train smartly and avoid overtraining, which he dealt with for the first time this year.
– Shift his mindset going into races from fearful and anxious to calm and focused.

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This U.S. Olympic Track Team is the hardest in the world to qualify for but I’m rooting for Matt as he follows his passion and invests in his best and strongest self! It was an honor to meet Matt and he is seriously one of the nicest and most genuine guys I have ever met. I wish him so much success in Knoxville!

Want to learn more, follow along and support Matt? 

– Visit his website.
– Follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
– Join me, Run Charlotte Run and the Charlotte Country Day School cross country team and sign up for The Run for Attention 5K on October 11 in Rock Hill. Matt organizes this race that benefits The Palmetto School and The Children’s Attention Home.
– Read his feature in Running Times.
– Read my story with Matt’s three keys to success as a runner on Run Charlotte Run.
– Buy the latest edition of Runner’s World Magazine!

{ 9 comments… add one }
  • 1
    Tina@GottaRunNow August 27, 2014, 10:59 am

    I’ll keep his focus on lifting in mind the next time I’m not feeling inspired to do some lifting. Sometimes I need a little push!

  • 3
    kristin @ W [H] A T C H August 27, 2014, 11:18 am

    what a great story — you gotta love rooting for people like this. and im sure those high school girls didn’t mind watching him give a talk 😉

  • 4
    Lisa August 27, 2014, 11:55 am

    I have known Matt since his undergraduate years at Presbyterian College. I ran in college and he had several friends on my team. I have enjoyed sharing his inspirational story with many of the athletes I coach. This video would be an awesome one for you to share on the blog: http://www.flotrack.org/coverage/250797-USA-Outdoor-Track-Field-Championships-2013/video/715050-Matthew-Elliott-Full-Time-Teacher-Gets-4th-at-USAs-Watch-this-Interview#.U_3-caNW81I

    It’s from the 2013 USA Track & Field Championships. Matt just barely hit the qualifier to run and barely made it to the finals. He had an amazing race and finished 4th in the finals. In the video he’s still in shock by his performance and it hasn’t really sunk in yet. He starts to explain how he wants kids out there to understand that he was not a super-star in HS. He just never gave up. He talks about not needing a big sponsor. He’s trying to say that anyone can make it and he gets all choked up. It’s an awesome message!

    • 5
      Jen August 27, 2014, 3:22 pm

      thanks so much for sharing this lisa! the video is amazing. matt is such a great guy and a testament to the power of hard work, dedication and focus. i am definitely a fan and wishing him all the best as he pursues this new goal.

  • 6
    Jennie August 27, 2014, 12:15 pm

    Handsome, talented, outstanding work ethic and he works with disadvantaged children….are you kidding me? He sounds pretty much perfect. I know who I’ll be rooting for in Rio! Thanks for an inspiring post today.

    • 7
      Jen August 27, 2014, 3:21 pm

      so glad you enjoyed the post jennie. it was one that i was so excited to write. it’s awesome to support people doing great things!

  • 8
    Hillary | Nutrition Nut on the Run August 27, 2014, 2:09 pm

    I have to say, you two look cute together 😉

    • 9
      Jen August 27, 2014, 3:20 pm

      ha! thanks hillary but he’s totally taken! 🙂

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