Matt has been running for 20 years where he got his start at 11 years old while running summer track in Texas where he grew up. He competed in cross-country and track in middle school, high school, and college. After college, he ran for Hudson elite where the focus was on road racing and he qualified and competed in the 2016 Olympic marathon trials. After the Olympic trials, Matt made the switch from road to trail racing where he qualified for 3 world mountain running championships. He is now an ultra runner for Nike trail and Unived nutrition.
After all that you accomplished, what drives you to continue running?
I simply love it. It's become part of my life and I can't imagine what things would be like without getting to run. It levels me out, keeps me excited about things and motivates me to always better myself.
How do you motivate yourself on days when you don't feel like running?
I look at training sometimes like putting money into the savings account. On those days that it's tough to get out the door I remind myself that a few easy miles in the bank can pay dividends for what I want in the future.
What are your goals for the upcoming year?
This year is going to be all about improving more with the ultra distances. This past year was sort of a test run to see what distances I enjoyed most and how I could handle long days. Training wasn't very specific or geared towards a 100K or 100 mile race really, so I am excited to get in more volume and continue to test the waters with preparation for Western States 2020. The plan is to run The North Face 50, Way Too Cool, and Western States as some of my more dialed in efforts and then sprinkle in some fun more low key races in between.
What can you tell us about your coaching/run club for those who may be interested in signing up?
So I coach a team of amazing human beings from all over the world called Matt Daniels Run Club. I am always accepting new athletes who are interested in having an individualized coaching program. I coach all distances and all terrain! One can get more information by visiting my website or sending me an email.
When most people think of Nike and running they think of track. What would you say are some of the things you love about the Nike trail team?
Being part of the Nike Trail team is like being part of a family. I love the fact that we are all so close and work together. Nike really has a vision for where their place in the trail world will be and it's so great to be part of such a wonderful movement.
What has been your most memorable race to date?
This is a tough question to answer! My most memorable were the ones where we won National cross-country titles during my time at Adams State University. I don't think there is a more satisfying feeling than a collective group of 7 guys all toeing the line together on the biggest stage and getting it done. In 2012 and in 2014 I was able to place 4th, and 5th at nationals while only being the 3rd man on my team! Finishing that close to all my teammates and taking home the title under adverse conditions made it much sweeter than any other race. On an individual level Western States takes the cake. Yes I had a great performance, but what made that race so memorable was getting to share it with so many people who were involved in helping me get to the finish line.
What does your weight training consist of and which exercise do you feel helps your running the most?
I don't do much weight training these days. I have found with trail running I get most of my strength from running in the mountains. I also put on a lot of muscle really quickly so I have to be careful with how much time I spend in the weight room. In the off season I will do your standard Olympic lifts and core work to stay fit and strong but that's not often.
What's the weirdest or funniest thing that ever happened to you while running?
We will go with weirdest. In high school my friend Daniel and I found these random trails and old dirt roads deep in the woods outside of town around these two mystery lakes no one knew existed. We ended up doing a lot of training out there together because no one knew of it and we considered it to be our hidden running paradise. Two weeks before leaving for college we were out running there in the woods and we came upon a girl who was probably 5 years old wondering around standing on the trail. She didn't speak any English and was just wearing a white dress. We were so spooked! We spent the next 2 hours looking for her parents. No one was found so I ran into town and went into a gas station to see if we could call the police, since this was before everyone had cell phones. When I went back to find the girl and my friend, Daniel told me two people came up to him and took the girl and said it was theirs. I've always wondered what happened and what in the world was going on.
What's your favorite pre-race food or drink?
Pizza with jalapeños, pineapple, and chicken and a big Dr. Pepper! It's always worked for me. Pizza is great with that style you get sweet, spicy, and some protein and then Dr. Pepper is my favorite drink in the world.
What's your favorite thing to eat during an ultra?
I tend to pretty much just stick to my Unived gels and drink mix. I will say I had a popsicle at an aid station at Western States and that changed the game.
What ultra has been your favorite to race at?
Western States takes the cake. I am a huge history guy and Western States has so much of it. It's nearly impossible to explain the aura around that race but it is something truly special.
What distance has been your favorite to race?
This is tough...I have loved them all! I do enjoy the 50K because I can use my speed mixed with my aerobic abilities to do something special.
As someone who ran a sub 4 minute mile, have you ever considered running a beer mile?
I ran a beer mile back in the day. It wasn't pretty and way harder than my 3:59 mile. I love to run and do enjoy a beer or two but I hate mixing the two together. I'll stick to social beers.
Do you like ice baths?
Nope! I can't stand being in cold water. I have a belief that if you are doing something that you don't enjoy then you wont see any benefit from it so I stay away. If you truly believe that ice baths help you then stick with doing them because it is likely that it is helping...even if it is placebo.
In your free time when you’re not running, what other hobby’s do you enjoy?
When I am not running I really enjoy being lazy and doing relaxing things like sitting outside and drinking a beer or spending time with my wife. Most of my time is spent coaching when I'm not running though which is fine by me.
What's the most important tip you like to give new runners?
Always try to find a place of love and passion for running when you get out the door everyday. If you can't have that feeling when running then spend the day doing something else that interests you. Too many consecutive days of doing this for the wrong reasons will burn you up and spit you out really quickly.
When it comes to running, what would you say is your biggest strength and weakness, and why?
My biggest strength is that I love this sport so much. By loving it so much, it allows me to have fun and appreciate every step...even on the bad days. My weakness is that sometimes that can get me into trouble because I want to run harder and more because I enjoy it so much. As we all know that can be a recipe for disaster.
Who is someone you look up to in the sport and why?
I try not to idolize really. I do really look up to some of the great coaches in our sport though. My coach in college, Damon Martin is someone I probably look up to the most. He taught me so much and gave me a chance/opportunity when I was at the lowest point in my life and because of that I really owe him a lot.
What's next for Matt Daniels?
Next up is preparations for The North Face 50 in November. I just got back from a trip to Europe and am excited to enjoy an amazing Fall in Boulder training.
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