The look on his face and a pronounced fist pump spoke volumes when Matt Davis crossed the finish line.
And for good reasons. After all, it was the first time in the 38-year-old’s life that he had run 26.2 miles — a marathon — when the local radio executive and on-air personality competed in the 2017 Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati in May. Even more, however, the accomplishment realized a life-changing goal Davis had set for himself.
“I was looking to do something positive,” Davis said. “I decided I wanted to be the best version of myself and I did enjoy running.
“My goal was to run a marathon by the time I was 40 so I decided to go for it.”
Lacing up a pair of shoes was nothing new to Davis, who had casually run on his own before and even took part in some 5K races several years ago. But when he set his marathon goal more than a year ago, Davis understood that a firmer commitment was needed.
“I did some online research about how to begin training, and I knew that one of the first things I needed to do was to find the proper shoes,” Davis said, adding that he made his way to GoGo Running at The Shoe Box to begin the process. “They took a lot of time with me. They want to make sure you get the right fit.”
That visit led to a meeting with co-owner and running coach Jay Stephenson. “Jay helped fit me for my first pair of running shoes,” said Davis. “From that first meeting, I started talking with him about running. I did a few 5Ks, began to run three to four times a week and eventually I started increasing the distance.
“I went from having no physical activity and a sedentary lifestyle to an active healthy lifestyle,” he added, noting that he had dropped 20 pounds since starting. “When I run I listen to music, podcasts. … I even listen to people talking about running. But a lot of times I don’t listen to anything. I enjoy the tranquility.”
Davis eventually ran his first half-marathon in the spring of 2016, a race that led him to entering the marathon in Cincinnati and focus on training for the demands it takes.
“Jay really helped me with the nutrition side of it and how important that is,” said Davis. “He helped me develop a plan to train for the race and for the weeks leading up to it.
“Running is so mental. To be able to talk with somebody who knows about it and has the knowledge — Jay helped me so much through his support.”
“I helped Matt learn what to take and when to take it,” Stephenson said, “and he sent me updates of what he was doing regularly.”
The Flying Pig course — which starts in downtown Cincinnati and meanders into the suburbs and back downtown to the Great American Ball Park — proved to be a difficult one at the start. At the 3½-mile mark, the runners immediately face a taxing 300-foot climb in a 5-mile stretch.
“The first part of the race was really, really hard because it was uphill,” Davis said. “But after that it flattened out a little.”
“Running a marathon is hard,” said Stephenson. “But I thought he did an amazing job. There’s a lot more ahead of him.”
All told, Davis covered the Flying Pig distance in a little over five hours, a respectable time for marathoner newbies. Yet anyone who has run the race will agree; finishing it is an accomplishment in itself.
“I can’t begin to describe what it felt like to finish,” Davis said.
Davis has already set his sights on his second marathon and will run in the Rocket City Marathon in Huntsville, Alabama, in December.