Name: Jim Mattson
Hometown: Excelsior, Minnesota
Occupation: Chief technology officer
Time Running: A little over 2 years
Reason for Running: At the beginning of the pandemic, I began running during my normal commute time. I was immediately hooked and joined my new passion of running together with one of my family’s other passions: helping others. The decision to join Team World Vision and continue running is an easy one to help children all over the world get access to clean water.
I technically began running in my mid 20s (the early 2000s), but it did not last long due to severe knee pain. I visited the doctor and everything checked out fine. The doctor’s response? Some people are just not meant for running. (I know, very motivational.)
Fast forward to the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, and I began to walk. Then, I started to run on the treadmill for about a month as a way to take advantage of my no commuting time while working from home. After the first few weeks of treadmill running, I started to run outside. At the beginning of my journey, knowing years ago that I injured myself, I built my fitness slowly.
More From Runner's World
By April 2020, I was running distances between two to four and a half miles every day, for a total of more than 100 miles for the month. I was hooked.
In May, I began to ramp up mileage even more, with a long run of seven miles and a total of 134 monthly miles. For the following months, I ran 176 miles, then 274 miles. And in August, I got to 158 miles... before I injured myself. I strained an abductor muscle and couldn’t run at all.
For the next 30 days, I only finished 28 miles. Up to that point in my journey, about 130 days, I had run every single day, clocking anywhere from two to more than 15 miles. I also competed in six half marathons (all virtual due to COVID-19 restrictions).
After recovering from my injury, I spent the next 100 days building my mileage back up to where I was, averaging runs of three and a half miles and completing one more half marathon. So all in, in 2020, I ran seven half marathons and logged more than 1,100 miles.
As a long-time supporter of World Vision, I decided that I also wanted to connect two of my passions: running and helping those in need.
Helping those in need has always been important to my family. We volunteer at a local food packing organization Feed My Starving Children. And about seven years ago, we also began sponsoring children around the world through World Vision. We currently sponsor 27 children in 19 countries with most of the children living in parts of Africa. Through sponsoring, we began to learn about the water crisis in the world, and we began to focus our help on bringing clean water to those in need.
It began by simply committing to giving up bottled and canned water for one week each month. We donated the money saved to World Vision’s Clean Water Fund. We quickly decided to stop purchasing any bottled or canned water in order to increase how much we could donate each month.
My family and I are so committed to helping because we learned how difficult it is for people to get access to water in other parts of the world. For example, the average woman in rural Africa walks six kilometers each day to haul 40 pounds of water, and an estimated 771 million people lack access to clean water. Also, according to WHO and the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), about 1.8. billion patients and health workers face a higher risk of COVID-19 infection and other diseases due to the lack of basic water and sanitation services at health facilities.
That’s why I joined Team World Vision in the middle of 2021 to raise funds for the cause. In 2021, I set two goals: run a full marathon and log 2,021 miles. I also decided that I could not go it alone on this journey, and signed up for one of Hal Higdon’s training plans.
I ended up running two marathons in 2021, one virtual and the other, the Twin Cities marathon). Through generous gifts, I also raised over $10,000 for Team World Vision, and I came across the finish line with a time of 3:43:24.
I know now that I did not properly fuel myself for that day, as I was completely out of energy by mile 19 or 20. I had been pacing for a 3:30 marathon, but completely fell apart the last few miles. I immediately signed up the next day for the 2022 race, determined to conquer those last six miles successfully.
I also completed my running goal of running 2,021 miles with a big push in December, closing out the year with more than 200 miles.
In August 2022, I will participate in another Team World Vision (TMV) event, the Mother of All Relays, the 199-mile Hood to Coast relay race (HtC) in Oregon. The TMV HtC team focuses on fundraising for South Sudan, one of the countries in deepest need of clean water.
A fundraising partnership formed 10 years ago between TMV, HtC, and two-time Olympian Lopez Lomong, to raise awareness and funds for South Sudan. Specifically this year, the TMV HtC team is taking on a project in the Upper Nile region of South Sudan to help build infrastructure to bring clean water to 5,000 farmers to provide access to crop growth.
Each participant of the TMV HtC team has a fundraising goal of $10,000. And to date, again through the generous gifts of all of my supporters, I have raised over $25,000, and the team has already surpassed $1 million in fundraising with five weeks to go before the event. I am looking forward to running in this relay and continuing to raise funds for children in need.
My focus on helping children get clean water is now inspiring me to continue to run every day. Recently on a long run, I was starting to get tired. I thought of my sponsored children and began pushing harder to finish. I am now running for them, as much as I am for me.
Running, and now the connection with Team World Vision, has given me a sense of purpose to give back even more. I am very appreciative of my supporters who have helped me fundraise and bring children access to clean water for life. That to me is what running has empowered me to do.
I am only two-plus years into this journey, and I feel I have so much more to learn. One thing that I have learned is that the running community is amazing and supportive—whether it be online, at a race, or in a store. It’s one of the strongest and most supportive communities I have ever experienced. I am thankful that my path has crossed into this community.
These tips have made my running journey a success:
1. Keep it consistent
Running consistently has helped me grow stronger as a runner. Also, consistently following a plan has helped shape my running. When I first started, I just ran miles with no structure or specific types of runs, I was just enjoying the activity. But now I follow a plan more closely to keep reaching my goals.
2. Stay fueled
When I first started running, I did not understand the importance of water and food on longer runs. I am now disciplined and thankful for clean water, the ability to bring gels, and the importance of a prerun meal.
3. Stretch it out
What has helped me minimize injuries and recover more quickly is stretching, strengthening, and yoga. A 10- to 15-minute practice pre- and postrun using Yoga With Adriene videos has made a significant difference for me.
Jim’s Must-Have Gear
→Garmin Fenix Watch, Hal Higdon app, Nike Run Club app, Strava, Stride: These are all my tracking must-haves. As a technology and data person, I am enamored with all of the data I can collect and how I can learn from it. You can’t improve what you don’t measure.
→Huma Chia Energy Gel: Huma gels are my go-to for energy during mid to long runs. They are easy to consume, pack nicely, and are easy to digest. I have never had a bad-tasting one either!
We want to hear how running changed you! Send your story and submit your photos to us via this form. We’ll pick one each week to highlight on the site.
Emily Shiffer is a freelance health and wellness writer living in Pennsylvania.