A mere 50 per cent of contestants ever finish the Fat Dog 120 Trail Race and now Matt Hosford can say he is one of them.
Starting at 10 a.m. on Friday morning the former Maple Ridge resident ran 193 kilometres, from Keremeos in Cathedral Provincial Park to Manning Park that included one river crossing and had an elevation gain of 8,673 metres, just short of that for Mount Everest (8,848m).
The Fat Dog 120 Trail Race has been shortlisted as one of North America’s hardest running races by Competitor Magazine and was shortlisted by Outside Online as one of the nine toughest ultra marathons.
Matt had 48 hours to complete the race, but he managed to complete it in just over 42 hours.
He crossed the finish line at 4 a.m. on Sunday.
“It was harder than I thought it was going to be,” he chuckled admitting that he didn’t know why he thought it would be easier.
“Initially I felt really good for the first half and I went out way faster than I should have. And then it just, everything caught up to me. My body started getting really tired and I became really street deprived after the first night and I really slowed down,” he said, adding that it was really challenging being on his feet for over 24 hours.
After every half an hour he needed to rest his feet off the ground.
“I wasn’t expecting that much pain from my feet,” said Matt.
Hosford was competing in honour of his twin brother, Owen.
Owen fell to his death while mountaineering near Squamish in July 2014.
The 26-year-old had just started the sport and was out with two friends when he slipped on some snow and fell off a 30-metre cliff. He had the proper gear, but for whatever reason, at the time, he wasn’t wearing it.
Even though search and rescue members happened to be in the area and were on the scene within two minutes, Owen was unresponsive and could not be helped.
He was pronounced dead.
Hours later the RCMP paid a visit to his parents’ house in Maple Ridge to notify them of his passing.
Helicopters airlifted his body out the next day.
Matt and Owen moved to Maple Ridge with their family from Zimbabwe in 1993.
They attended St. Patrick’s elementary and went to high school at Archbishop Carney in Port Coquitlam.
They were always very active and from Grade 5 to Grade 11 they were members of the Golden Ears Athletics Track and Field Club and were coached by Andrew Lenton.
They used to run in the UBC Research Forest trails together and on some of the trails around Alouette Lake.
When they were in Grade 10, they did an outdoor education program through their high school, during which they were able to go on a number of outdoor trips throughout the year. They learned about environmental sustainability and climate change.
“It really opened our eyes and gave us a new perspective on education and being able to pursue your passions through education,” said Matt.
“It was something that affected us long-term because after that program we still really got into the outdoors and we continued to do stuff outside and follow that passion,” he said.
It has taken Matt and his family a long time to figure out what they wanted to do to honour Owen.
They wanted to do something special and meaningful and decided they want to give the gift of outdoor adventure to at-risk youth in Owen’s name.
“A lot of the time it comes down to opportunity, your family life being able to provide the time and money to do those kind of trips,” said Matt, who will be raising money for a scholarship that will fund outdoor excursions with Outward Bound Canda for at-risk youth and high school students who cannot afford to enroll in outdoor programs.
“I am trying to focus on just B.C. trips. On Vancouver Island, a couple of days kayaking trip or doing the West Coast Trail hiking trip and that kind of stuff,” said Matt.
He participated in his first marathon in January 2016 and his first ultra marathon – any race more than 50 kilometres – in June the same year.
For Fat Dog, he has only been preparing since January this year.
“I’ve been subtly increasing my distance of how much I run. So running a couple of days a week. I’ve been going to the gym to strengthen certain muscles in my legs and in my arms, and then just studying nutrition and studying people’s races,” said Matt, trying to pick up any tips he possibly can.
Matt turned 30 on Saturday and couldn’t think of a more meaningful place than Manning Park to spend his birthday. It is the first place his family every went hiking and skiing when they came to Canada and the last place he went on a hike with Owen.
Some racers will sleep for an hour or so while doing the Fat Dog, but Matt planned to listen to his body to assess how much rest he got along the way.
He snacked on espresso beans and flat Coca Cola along for the caffeine and the sugar.
But his biggest boost was from his father, who acted as a pacer, a person who runs alongside a racer to provide moral support, for the last 40 kilometres.
“He would check in on me and make sure I was doing okay eating everything and drinking and not making me sit around too long. Because every time, if I sat around for too long my body would start getting quite sore every time I restarted,” said Matt.
“It was good to have someone there, especially my dad, he was kind of setting the pace and leading the way. So I didn’t have to think at all I just had to follow my dad,” he continued adding that as that time of the night he wasn’t able to hold a conversation, he was just struggling not to close his eyes.
His mother and younger brother James met him at rest stations along the way.
“Just when you are feeling low, just to have someone there can really change your motivation,” said Matt.
His family did just that. They kept his mind off the pain and took him through to the end.
• To donate, go to gofundme.com/owenhosford.