Runner tests strength, endurance in Marine Corps Marathon

BY GAIL M. WILLIAMS
Muleshoe Journal Correspondent

Marathoners, like Marines, have to be physically and mentally tough, willing to make sacrifices to obtain their goals.
Raul Mata of Muleshoe recently found out just how tough he was.
With a limit of 30,000 runners, there’s no guarantee that a runner will get into the Marine Corps Marathon, which starts its 26-mile 385-yard course in Arlington, Virginia, runs through Washington, D.C., and finishes back in Arlington.“It’s decided through a lottery drawing,” said Mata. “When my sister called and said we got selected, I thought, ‘Oh, man. Well, OK.’”
Mata had run 10K races and the 15K Dallas Allstate Hot Chocolate, but this was his first full marathon.
“It’s a far stretch from a 10K to a full marathon,” he said.
Regina Mata, Raul’s sister, is an experienced marathon runner who urged her brother to run the marathon and helped him train.
“We got selected back in March or April, and I started training in May,” Mata said. “I started training 2 miles at a time. I would train on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, then go for a long run on Saturday, increasing the distance slowly.”
When he began to train for the race, Mata, 32, a branch manager for Washington Federal in Clovis, considered himself in pretty good shape. But the training often left him sore and tired, having to ice down his joints and muscles after a run.
“I was rudely awakened when my alarm clock rang at 4 in the morning on Saturday, my day to sleep in,” he said. “If someone asks you to go out for drinks on Friday night, you know you’ll feel it at 4 in the morning.”
His long runs increased to 16, 18 and, eventually, 20 miles. Typically, he and Regina trained together on the longer runs.
Nicknamed “The People’s Marathon,” The Marine Corps Marathon is the largest marathon that does not award prize money to its top finishers.
On Oct. 28, 2018, Raul and Regina Mata ran the race in 5 hours 56 minutes, running together all the way and finishing in the middle of the pack, placing around 16,000.
“My biggest driver was fear of failure,” Mata reflected. “You don’t go in expecting to win, as long as you finish.”
The trip to Washington, D.C., was a family affair, including Mata’s mother and father, wife and children. The family had not been to the nation’s capital before and was able to do some sightseeing.
Immediately after the race, however, they mostly “hung around the hotel and ate,” Mata said.
Known as “The People’s Marathon,” the Marine Corps Marathon is the largest marathon that does not award prize money to the top finishers. According to their website, the mission of the MCM is to promote physical fitness, generate community goodwill and showcase the organizational skills of the United States Marine Corps.
As a government entity, the MCM is not authorized to participate directly in any charitable fundraising. However, the MCM partners with many qualified 501(c)3 organizations, affording them the platform to raise awareness and funds through runner participation in the MCM.
In spite of the time, pain and sacrifice that went into the marathon, Mata says he would be willing to do it again.
“I wouldn’t be opposed for it,” he said. “It was really very rewarding.”

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