By Layne Saliba
DCN Regional Staff
Matthew Crumpton wears a suit and tie to work every day, but he skips the tie on Fridays. That’s what he said he’s comfortable in and has always done.
In the same way, Crumpton, emergency preparedness manager for the Northeast Georgia Health System, is only comfortable if he gets a run in every day.
And he means every day. In almost the past nine years, Crumpton has logged 21,800-plus miles during his uninterrupted daily run, and he has no plans on breaking his streak anytime soon.
“I think it's just become kind of part of who I am,” Crumpton said. “It defines a portion of my day (and) structure that's always consistent.”
It started on a whim with his then-seventh-grade son but persisted through different cities, states, countries and even a few trips to the emergency room.
“I've always been a runner,” Crumpton said. “I was in the military, captain of the track team in high school, et cetera.”
The willpower to stay so committed to something, Crumpton said, goes back to his time in the military. As an Army Ranger, he said he was always pushed to go further than everyone else. In order to pass the Army’s physical fitness test, soldiers have to hit certain marks, but the Rangers have to do better — have to be stronger, faster.
“The Rangers take it a step above,” Crumpton said. “I was really the fastest person at headquarters.”
Years after his military service, though, Crumpton’s son, Wes, asked him to go on a run. It was a normal request as they’d gone on runs before while training for wrestling season, so Matthew went along.
“When we got done, I said I wanted to do it every day,” Wes Crumpton said. “Well, that lasted about two weeks for me and nine years for him.”
They ran from their home in Clermont to Concord Baptist Church and back.
Matthew didn’t go for a run with his son to stay in shape and definitely didn’t have any plans to run for so many consecutive days. It was just a way for him to be with his son since he traveled so much for work.
“It gave us good bonding time,” Matthew said. “I traveled 150 nights a year, so when I was home it gave us something to do.”
But he remembers that specific run on Aug. 2, 2010, because it marked the beginning of what would turn into a downright impressive streak.
It started out small, just a few miles a day, about 30 miles each week. And once Matthew got used to that, he started doing a few local 5K races.
“That kind of got the bug going,” Matthew said.
Next thing he knew, he was signed up to do a half marathon in Athens with some friends from work, and that’s when the real training began.
It paid off as he finished that race in 2 hours, 10 minutes.
“He’s always been a really determined person,” Wes said. “If he sets his mind to something, he’s going to do it.”
The bug continued to grow and Matthew decided to run another half marathon, this time with his sister, Susan Alexander, in Nashville. That race was a few months away, so he figured he’d have plenty of time to train even more.
“I started cranking the training volume up,” Matthew said. “I did 50 miles a week, 60 miles a week, training runs of half marathon distance.”
As part of his training, he decided to sign up for a half marathon the month before the race in Nashville. But when Matthew got to the event, he decided to change it to the full marathon.
“My goal was 4 hours, and I ran it in 4 hours, 3 minutes and I was so mad at myself,” Matthew said after finishing three minutes short of his goal.
So, he “kicked the training up” and again switched up to the full marathon with his sister in Nashville.
In that race, he finished in 3 hours, 58 minutes.
Then came more marathons.
“Once you get a streak going,” Alexander said, “like he would tell me often, ‘Just keep it going. You’ve got to keep it going.’”
During a later race in Chickamauga, Matthew finished in 3 hours, 42 minutes on a badly sprained ankle. He again ran it with Alexander.
But he didn’t just stop at 26.2. It was actually about 34 miles. After he completed his race, he made his way back to his sister at mile 18 and finished the rest with her.
“He’s definitely inspiring,” Alexander said. “If you can do that, you can do anything.”
Then he wanted to take it a step further, so he signed up and completed a trail marathon in 4 hours, 30 minutes — exactly the time he wanted to beat.
Next up was a 50K race, so he signed up for one in Senoia.
Everything was going fine in that race — he was actually in first place for most of it — but he was getting to the aid stations before they had everything set up. So, he skipped out on the peanut butter sandwiches he would have had to wait for them to make and went for a handful of Twizzlers in his car as he passed by it.
“My deal is 12 Twizzlers a day for seven days before a big race,” Matthew said. “That's carb loading. And it's fat-free, too, right?”
He finished that race in 9 hours, 35 minutes, and took some time to recover once he got home. He still maintained his streak, but made sure to take it easy.
But that streak was put in jeopardy when he realized he had appendicitis. He knew he had it, but he avoided it and did everything he could to not go to the hospital.
But at 3 a.m. one morning, he woke up and couldn’t breathe. So, he went for a short 1.3-mile run, drove to Atlanta to take care of some work and then stopped by the emergency room in Gainesville on his way home to have his appendix removed.
“I said, ‘I've got two questions for you,’” Matthew remembered. ‘“No. 1, can I be out by Monday so I can get my rental car on Tuesday? And they were like, ‘Yeah.’ So I say, ‘OK, No. 2, I've ran for 1,000 days in a row, can I run tomorrow?’ And the doctor said as long as it doesn't hurt too bad. So I said, ‘OK, let's go.’”
After surgery, Matthew was still in the hospital and had to make sure he didn’t break his streak. So, he went outside and got in his 1.1-mile run for the day around the building.
For him, that’s the minimum required. He said he has to “ambulate unassisted” for at least a mile.
He did the same thing a few years later when he had hernia surgery. He ran the day before, the morning of the surgery and every day after.
Matthew said he’s run in Maryland, Washington D.C., Denver and all over Georgia. His favorite place, though, was when he was in Abu Dhabi for work. He experienced the capital of the United Arab Emirates in a way he couldn’t have in a car.
“All the different places that I've traveled to, whether it be here in Georgia or for national classes or conferences, I'm running and learning those cities in a different way,” Matthew said. “Because a lot of places you go, you have a car and you just drive around or get a taxi from the airport to the hotel and then you're stuck. So that's a cool part of my running.”
Even all the places he’s seen wasn’t enough, he still had something else on his bucket list. He said he’s always wanted to do a 100-mile race. So first, he checked off a 100K.
And then in March of 2018, he finally went for that 100-mile race.
“I thought I did pretty good training,” Matthew said. “I was running from Clermont to Gainesville and back at least every other Saturday or Sunday, which is 26 miles.”
But by mile 73 of 100, he said his thighs started “burning like you’ve never felt before.”
And that’s when his phone rang.
“This was 3 o’clock in the morning and Cathy Sanford, who was the chief operating officer at Chestatee Regional, called me and was like, ‘We need to evacuate our hospital,’” Crumpton said.
For the next 13 miles, he made phone calls and got everything organized — while still making his way through the 100-mile race — after she told him a tanker truck carrying liquid oxygen had flipped near the hospital.
Even while working, Matthew completed the race.
“It took me 28 hours, 32 minutes of not sitting, not sleeping,” Matthew said.
He’s run quite a few other races in between and since and said he finally found the “sweet spot” a few years ago.
He tries to stay consistent with 200 miles each month, running about 60 miles each week with one light week of 35 miles for recovery in between.
He’s almost run the circumference of the earth, from Georgia to Georgia. He has less than 100 miles left to accomplish that.
“He’s crazy, but I’m proud of him,” Wes said.
It’s not about how far he’s run or how many races he’s completed, though. He said running is simply a way he processes his day. For however many miles he decided to run that day, it’s his time — and time no one can take away.
“I don't have any intentions of stopping,” Matthew said.