Run/Bike/Tri Your Own Race Program Appalachian Trail
Posted: August, 2012
Matt Howard, from Charlotte, NC is taking an uncommonly long walk in honor of his father, David, who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in the fall of 2010. David was a former city planner who later worked as a lobbyist for childhood development and education until he lost an aggressive 18 month battle with the disease in January 2012.
Determined to make a difference, even if it meant climbing mountains, Matt set about doing exactly that. Inspired by a love of hiking and camping that he inherited from David, he began planning a 2,184 miles long hike covering the Appalachian Trail, with the goal of raising $5 for every mile covered to support the MMRF. Matt shared his plan with his father during a family visit over the holidays and became even more determined to see it through after his father’s passing.
Matt trained for three months by maxing out the incline on a treadmill at his local YMCA, and kicked off his fundraising by collecting donations and contributing his tips from customers at the local Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop, where he was a manager and had worked for 12 years.
What is expected to be a four to six month long journey through 14 states from Georgia to Maine commenced on April 4, 2012. Matt’s mother Linda saw him off at Amicalola Falls State Park and promised to keep him virtual company by walking for exercise herself back home during his journey. Matt calls Linda every few days to check in when he gets cellular phone service, and keeps friends, family members and supporters posted on his progress through his Facebook page. On July 26, Matt celebrated his 30th birthday on the trail by hiking 30 miles up Mount Graylock in MA. He expects to arrive at his final destination of Mount Katahdin in ME by Labor Day.
Through rain and summer heat, Matt forges on in his orange MMRF PowerTeam shirt, carrying a small vial of his father’s ashes and MMRF donation cards, spreading awareness and raising funds along the trail and at stops along the way. It has been a difficult journey, but also joyful and cathartic. “I told myself I’m going to finish this no matter what. My dad is always in my head. The hike has been a good thing to try and move through this loss.”
In keeping with the Appalachian Trail hiking tradition of using nicknames, Matt refers to himself as “MMRF,” pronounced as “Murph.”