"Finishing is Winning"

"I really struggled with confidence the night before the race and had a hard time getting to the starting line..."

My story has been told a number of times.

From the open heart surgery that led to my first 200-foot run to my journey to a full marathon, I’ve kind of documented the whole process. But the marathon was more than I could ever have imagined.

I really struggled with confidence the night before the race and had a hard time getting to the starting line. Not necessarily because I didn’t think I could finish, but because I knew the second half would bring a new obstacle: loneliness. I spent months training with a group and learned to lean on and love the camaraderie and support. Most of my friends were planning on doing the international half, so once they finished, I would have to face 13.1 miles alone. The last time I did that it was a terrible experience.

The first half was more than I had hoped: the sunrise reflecting off the Renaissance Center as a barge sailed beneath me, the crisp air coming out of the tunnel, the throngs of cheering people, even the rainbow over the glistening Detroit skyline made every step beautiful.

The second half began well enough, but as I got to Belle Isle, I started to fade. Last year I injured my knee on Belle Isle and my brain just wouldn’t allow me to get over that struggle. I was grateful for a boost from one of my Gazelle friends as she ran by me for the US half, but every step got heavier than the step before.

I knew if I just kept putting one foot in front of the other I would get there eventually. But my brain kept saying quit. Someone I’d never met saw my green bib and said, “Dig deeper, man! The first one is the hardest but feels the best.” A mile later I passed Ethan. Ethan was walking and was clearly frustrated. I saw his green bib and gave him the same advice I’d just received. He asked if he could run with me.

But my brain kept saying quit. Someone I’d never met saw my green bib and said, “Dig deeper, man! The first one is the hardest but feels the best.”

— Matt Laura

Ethan signed up on a whim and his training consisted of a few runs—the longest being six miles

In that moment, all the advice, training, wisdom, and love is received over the previous weeks from the members of Gazelle Run Camp kicked in. I knew what I needed to do was pass on what I’d learned and get Ethan home.


The last six miles or so, Ethan and I shared our stories, focused on our technique, and ran to the finish. As he cried and hugged me and got someone to take a photo of us together, I understood the true magnitude of what Gazelle Run Camp does—it gives hope to everyone that the impossible is possible. Everyone. No matter what.

I’ve always loved running because everyone can win every race: whether it’s a grand master title or crawling over the finish line, finishing is winning. Gazelle gets that and fosters it.

I’ve been in tears for the past 24+ hours because I can’t believe I did this. The memory of my fellow campers screaming my name as I finished—as proudly as if I were setting a world record—brings the biggest smile to my face. And knowing that no matter what happens for the rest of my life, I will always be a marathoner brings a joy that only runners understand.

Join us for Winter Run Camp!