Marathon Quest and the Power of Perseverance

June 06, 2024

Progress is often a journey filled with unexpected turns, setbacks, and moments of triumph. Matt Wright, the founder of Urban Peaks, exemplifies this through his inspiring journey from a self-doubting runner to a marathon finisher and entrepreneur. His story, shared with Run Republic, offers valuable insights into the power of perseverance, learning from failure, and chasing personal goals with unwavering determination.

Matt's relationship with running began on an uncertain note. Despite being sporty during school, he was frequently told he wasn't a great runner. His participation in running was limited to occasional cross-country events and team sports in his teens, and he stopped running altogether during his 20s and 30s. However, the global pandemic in his early 40s rekindled his interest in running. While working away from home in London, Matt began running short distances, gradually increasing from 1 mile to 2 miles, then progressing to 5K, 10K races, and a half marathon. This progress lead to the establishment of Wright's aforementioned outdoor adventure company in Sheffield, Urban Peaks.

Matt's newfound passion for running led to the creation of Urban Peaks, an outdoor adventure company based in the Peak District. Urban Peaks offers guided trail runs, corporate and family day trips, and short holidays, along with participating in various running and triathlon events. The company also hosts a friendly running group that meets regularly for social runs and events.

Urban Peaks is more than just a business for Matt; it’s a community built around the mission to encourage people to be more active outside. The group welcomes new members, emphasising camaraderie and support rather than competitiveness. Matt also provides one-on-one coaching for those with specific running goals or events in mind.

From the outset, Matt's marathon journey was fuelled by a deep-seated desire to conquer the infamous 26.2-mile distance—a dream he'd harboured. Despite the inherent challenges, he was determined to succeed. The 2023 London Marathon was a learning experience for Matt. Despite finishing with a respectable time of 4 hours and 26 minutes, he faced significant obstacles. The cold, wet conditions, coupled with a lack of pacing and fuelling strategy, led to severe cramps and hitting the dreaded "wall" at the 30K mark. These struggles taught him invaluable lessons about the preparation needed to conquer the distance.

In May 2024, Matt took on the Edinburgh Marathon with a renewed sense of purpose and a well-structured plan. This time, he had ample preparation time, incorporating strength and conditioning, swimming, and mental preparation into his training regime. There was, however, an unexpected setback during his preparation which almost threw the whole Edinburgh Marathon goal up in smoke. 

While on a routine run, Matt had forgotten his water bottle and decided to use, for the first time ever, a public water tap to hydrate and cool himself down. What seemed like an innocuous moment turned out to be dreadful as Matt was left with a dangerous water-borne disease called Campylobacter which left him bed-bound for 5 days and almost hospitalised.Matt made it through this illness, losing 5kg in the process, and took the attitude that dropped weight would benefit him and his goals for the Marathon ahead. 

The challenging weather conditions didn’t deter him; he stayed warm and well-prepared at the start line, learned from his previous mistakes, and maintained a steady pace throughout the race. Matt’s dedication paid off. Despite the rain and headwinds during the race, he achieved a significant personal milestone by finishing under 4 hours, cutting 28 minutes off his previous best. This achievement was not just about the time but about overcoming personal barriers and dedicating his effort to a meaningful cause, Brain Research UK, in honour of his father. Matt has smashed his fund-raising target of £1,000 for Brain Research UK, as it currently sits on north of £1,250.

Crossing the finish line under four hours, with a time of 3.58, was an incredibly emotional experience for Matt, as he dedicated the final six miles to his late father Alan Wright (66) who was taken too early by an unforgiving brain tumour, along with those who have passed away too soon or fighting cancer today. This dedication fuelled his determination and made each step deeply meaningful. The marathon environment further highlighted the sense of community and purpose; many participants were running not just for personal achievement but to honour loved ones or support important causes.

Matt told Run Republic that he had 4 goals heading into the Edinburgh Marathon; to make it to the event, to finish the Marathon, to earn a new PB, and to run it in under 4-hours. Matt unexpectedly ticked off all four goals that day in Edinburgh and firmly believes that goal-setting is a huge benefit which can lead to growth.

Matt's journey underscores the importance of perseverance and learning from failure. His advice to others is clear: never wait to pursue personal goals, whether in running or any other area of life. Life is precious, and achieving goals often involves overcoming setbacks and learning vital lessons. "If you’re not failing at times, you’re not even trying. Never ever give up," Matt emphasises.

Through Urban Peaks, Matt Wright continues to inspire others to embrace challenges, support meaningful causes, and enjoy the journey of personal growth and achievement. His story is a testament to the power of resilience and the rewards of chasing one's dreams with passion and dedication.

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