Among the thousands of runners expected for the Sept. 23 Quad-Cities Marathon, at least one will be covering the 26.2 miles for a globally noble cause.
Bryce Matteson, 30, of Denver, is doing the marathon for Run5050, an organization he founded to raise money for Healing Waters International. The organization provides clean water and partners with leaders in at-risk communities around the world. Since January, Matteson is working toward the goal of running 50 marathons in all 50 states, and raise a total of $750,000, for 50 water projects.
“Running is a gift I have, a resource we can use to help bring more good,” Matteson, who ran track at Indiana's Bethel College, said Wednesday. “I'm not running these marathons for fun. This is what I can do to help people."
“Running has always been a part of my life and it is a passion and gift that I was given and I wanted to challenge myself and inspire others to be a part of something larger than yourself,” he wrote for the project website, run5050.org.
“Water is a basic human need and I am going to devote the next year of my life to making sure that more people are given access to clean water because they are worth it,” Matteson said. “The change that clean water is bringing to these people, these communities, and the world is invaluable.”
He ran his first marathon in Colorado in 2016, the same year he and his wife, Jessie, got involved with Healing Waters. A photographer, she went on a first trip to Guatemala, and has since been hired by the organization. Between the two of them, they have volunteered on projects in Haiti, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Guatemala.
“After having the opportunity to travel and visit Healing Waters project sites in Latin America, I had the overwhelming sense that I needed to do more,” Matteson said.
He began doing marathons to qualify for the famed Boston Marathon, but has not been able to. After the first one, which Matteson finished in about four hours, he ran one in South Bend, Indiana, in 2017.
“After only my second one, I jokingly said, could I do one a week?” he said of the idea for Run5050. “It was a challenge to map out and get the schedule down. It was a fun puzzle to work on.”
The marathon of marathons began Jan. 6 in Riverside, California, has included three in Colorado, and will end in December in Hawaii. On Saturday, he will compete in a marathon in Haiti.
Through Matteson's network of friends and family, he typically finds someone to stay with in each city. In July, he averaged more than one week — completing seven marathons, mainly in the West.
“That was a stretch; it made me really worn down and exhausted,” Matteson said. “That I came out of it, I felt good afterward. It made me stronger.”
“The biggest challenge is the day-to-day, when I'm not running marathons,” he noted. “I make sure I'm eating healthy and staying healthy, stretching. I've never enjoyed stretching, even when running competitively, I didn't like spending half an hour stretching."
Of the races so far, Aug. 19 in Anchorage, Alaska, was especially memorable, he said.
“Alaska was really cool. I saw wildlife I don't see that much,” he said. Just most of it was along this trail in a wooded area. That was really neat to see. Every race is really different. There are things about all of them — whoever is putting it on, whatever city, they want to showcase and highlight cool things.”
“In Denver when I'm training, I see the same trail or course. Being able to experience a totally new space, it helps being not so mundane,” Matteson said.
Run5050 has raised $55,000 so far, and Matteson hopes this will become a permanent nonprofit organization.