Maty Mata is Running From Philadelphia to Harrisburg, Here's Why...

By Takia McClendon

A few months ago, we told you about a group of women running from New York City to Washington, D.C. to raise awareness for women's health issues and money for Planned Parenthood. That group, Run 4 All Women, has been busy creating local chapters, growing an ambassador program and continuing with their fundraising efforts. 

We had the chance to chat with Marielena "Maty" Mata, a Run 4 All Women ambassador based in Philadelphia to discuss the Pennsylvania chapter's run from Philadelphia to Harrisburg (Pennsylvania's capital) to raise awareness and funds for Planned Parenthood. 

What is Run 4 All Women and how did it get started?

Maty: Run 4 All Women started in January 2017 when a team of women, led by Alison Desir, ran from New York City to Washington D.C. to raise funds and awareness for women’s rights.  After generating national attention and raising over $100,000 for Planned Parenthood, the movement continues in grassroots activism, empowerment through fitness, community building, and advancing conversation around women's issues. 

What inspired you to get involved in the Run 4 All Women Ambassador program? 

Maty: After the elections, I felt hopeless but a few days later, I reached out to a group of running friends from the neighborhood to find ways to work together. We wanted to focus on women’s issues, community service and maintaining fitness as a key component of our efforts.  When we heard about the 4 Women Run For All Women run to Washington, D.C., we had to join.  

That Thursday night, as the crowd came over the Greys Ferry bridge to West Philly and Mary Reynolds (one of the leaders of Run 4 All Women) spoke to us about how much they had raised so far, for the first time since the election, I felt HOPE. We ran through Southwest Philly, a part of my city, my neighborhood, that I usually don't explore in my runs and finished at the Heinz Refuge. That night changed my life. Those 4 miles were the best 4 miles of my running career.  I knew then that I was ready to stop running for me and start running for others. When the call came for the Ambassador Program, there was no way I could not apply.

What does the program entail and what can we expect to see from ambassadors? 

Maty: Run 4 All Women has grown into a movement that included a national summit this past April, five state chapters and an official ambassador program.  During the summit, the ambassadors were challenged to put together local events to drive the mission forward and advance the conversation around women’s rights.  Our run from Philadelphia to Harrisburg is one of the five concurrent events that will take place in August.  There is also a virtual option, using Racery, for people to participate throughout the month of July.

What sparked your interest in running? How long have you been running? Has Run 4 All Women motivated you to take your running more seriously? If so, in what way? 

Maty: I started running in 2003 as part of an overhaul of my health. I had had two miscarriages after my first child and felt I needed to start taking better care of myself. As a working mom with a long commute and a tight budget, I had to find something that worked for me. Running fit easily into my schedule and did not require a gym membership. After losing 30 pounds and participating in a 5K, I successfully got pregnant but the running bug had started. After my second child was born, I went back to running and took my first stab at long distance running with the Broad Street Run. The rest, as they say, is history…

Run 4 All Women has given a different focus to my runs. Before Run4 All Women, running was all about me, time to myself, my health, my running goals. After Run 4 All Women, I am much more focused on how my running can help others. That journey has been very rewarding and in many ways, much more motivating.

Tell us about the details on the Run 4 All Women on the Pennsylvania run on August 12? 

Maty: Interestingly, the idea of running to Harrisburg was born the night we ran with Run 4 All Women, back in January.  As we were gathering and getting ready, my friend Nellie kept saying that we should organize a run to Harrisburg. Once I was chosen as an ambassador, I knew what we had to do. On August 12th, The New Jersey chapter will run from Princeton to Philly and meet us in City Hall as they “pass the baton” and send us off that afternoon, at 3 pm. The run itself is a 115-mile run from Philadelphia’s City Hall to the steps of Harrisburg ‘s Capitol. We will run through urban, suburban and rural landscapes, uniting our steps around the cause for Women’s rights. 

How many legs will you be running for the event? How many total miles? 

Maty: Kelly Volpe, my co-ambassador and I, are committed to cover at least half of the distance ourselves, relying on the rest of our core team to cover the remainder. As such, I plan to run 26-30 miles broken up into 4-5 segments. We want to show the world the importance of fitness as a tool for empowerment and raise $10,000 for Planned Parenthood in the process.

What does your training for this event look like? What are your goals for the run on August 12th?

Maty: In training for this event, I have focused on two aspects, running on tired legs and running in the heat. To run on tired legs, I took on my first run streak challenge and completed 37 days in a row, from Memorial Day to 4th of July, making sure that I had several tough workouts back to back to train my legs. The adjustment to the heat has been a key component of my training plan as well. I am a total wimp when it comes to heat running and usually focus on swimming and biking in the summer months (I also do triathlons). During the streak, I made sure to complete some of those runs in the middle of the day and bought a hydration pack for the long runs. I must admit that I was quite proud of myself after running 12 miles in 80+ degree weather.

What are you most excited about? What are you most nervous about?  

Maty: Putting together this event has been a great learning opportunity for me both as a runner as well as an activist. I have had a wonderful time meeting new people, exploring new routes for running (Ridley park is beautiful!) and learning how to use social media better. I’m looking forward to starting that run with all the Philly runners and exploring many of the places I have only seen from the car window in the past on foot. Having said that, there is that little voice that says “what are you doing? This is crazy!” 115 miles is a long distance and a large portion of it may be through areas of Pennsylvania where our message might not be welcome. That part scares me a little….

Fortunately, Kelly and I have a great partnership and the rest of the team has been amazingly supportive.  Also, the Run 4 All Women leaders in New York have provided so much guidance, I have no doubt that we will have a great time.

I can’t wait to meet all of you on August 12th at City Hall or at any point where you can join us in this journey to advance the conversation around women’s rights!

Click here to learn more about Run 4 All Women PA. 

Connect with the PA group on Facebook and follow co-ambassadors Maty and Kelly on Instagram. 

Takia McClendon is the co-founder of City Fit Girls. She's a shoe expert and manager at a running store in Philadelphia and a Certified Level 1 USATF Coach. Follow her online at @takiamcclendon. 

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