May 3rd, 2012
06:32 AM ET

Struck by bus, former firefighter gets back in fighting form

Editor's note: In the Human Factor, CNN profiles survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle – injury, illness or other hardship – they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn't know they possessed. This week we meet Matt Long, who was riding a bike through New York City in December 2005 when he was hit by a bus. Long nearly died and underwent more than 40 operations. A self-described "fitness junkie," Long eventually triumphed three years later by racing in the New York City Marathon. 

I get asked quite often where I find my motivation. This past Monday, I had the pleasure of being invited to speak to the Mullica Hill Triathlon Club in Mullica Hill, New Jersey.  It’s meeting people like them that I use for my own inspiration.

The room was at full capacity - 200+ female triathletes of different abilities, all out there for the love of the sport. I can’t tell you when I've had a better audience.

Each member was racing or training for individual reasons, some finding more success than others, and some battling with their own adversity. At the same time they all had the same desire to push themselves to be better triathletes or even just healthier people.

When I speak to groups about what I went through and how I was able to overcome such odds, I always talk about how lucky I was to have such a tremendous support group: My family, my fellow FDNY members, and my Asphalt Green tri club. It was these people who kept me from giving up. They kept me from quitting the same way the ladies of the MHWTC keep each other motivated.

After the more formal talk, we spent time at the bar telling racing stories and sharing training advice. And for the night I forgot that I had ever been in an accident.

I couldn't wait to get home, jump in the pool or on the bike, or, better yet, sign up for another Ironman at Lake Placid. My dreams of one day running the Boston Marathon are bigger now because of the energy in that room.

As for now, I'm back in the saddle and anxiously waiting my road racing debut for the 2012 season on May 12 at the I Will/CRCA CRIT  race in Orchard Beach, New York.

This week's motivation comes form the hard-working, hard training ladies of MHWTC.

LONG MAY YOU RUN, GIRLS! See you on the road!

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Dawn Ware

    Wow Matt- We are honored that we touched you like you have touched us! Thanks you so much for your inspiratin. Please come back and visit us! It was so much fun!

    May 3, 2012 at 10:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Michelle Powell

    Thanks for the kind words! We were so thrilled to spend an evening with you. The women in the MHWTC have not only inspired me, but they have picked me during some of the most difficult times in my training (and life). I feel very fortunate and extremely proud to be part of this club – it is truly something special. Good luck with your training and come see us again soon! Take care, Michelle

    May 3, 2012 at 11:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Lisa Pilla

    Thanks so much for coming to speak to the MHWTC, your strength and determination are just amazing! I had to laugh when you spoke of the skin expanders, as a breast cancer survivor I've been down that road... No picnic. I am so impressed with the wonderful things you are able to do through your foundation.
    Good luck in your "crit"!

    May 3, 2012 at 11:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. jackielovestorun

    Matt - The feeling is completely mutual! Thanks again for sharing your story with our club. Your courage and determination are an inspiration! Wishing you fair skies, flat roads and the wind at your back - Jackie

    May 3, 2012 at 13:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. boadoj

    Sheesh suddenly the pain in my shoulder and leg that I was having went away after watching this.

    May 3, 2012 at 13:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Mike Staton

    I first read your story a few months back, I believe in Runners World. Continue on hitting those goals. I'm sure that the FDNY is behind you, as are other FF's that know your story. I have no room to complain about my pain and recovery from shoulder and knee surgeries, in comparison to you. Sure will be a nice day to see a FDNY truck at the Finish line of the Boston Marathon!

    May 3, 2012 at 14:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. aliciadifabio

    Dear Matt, I was in the MHWTC audience that night and never have I been so enthralled with a speaker such as you. You are funny, adorable, encouraging, strong, totally charming and sincere and a symbol of positivity to all of us going through our own unique challenges. It was a great night and I can't put your book down. Please know we all appreciated you coming out to speak with us despite a busy schedule. We are all so grateful and it meant so much to each one of us! I wish you all the best the world can offer! 🙂

    Alicia D, Mullica Hill

    May 4, 2012 at 09:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. wuzzup

    It is not the physical but the mental endurance and strength that's astounding. "Its not how big the dog in the fight...Its how big the fight in the dog". Matt Long is one, tough dog!

    May 5, 2012 at 21:56 | Report abuse | Reply
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