Matt Gabrielson was Running
The Team USA Minnesota stalwart ends a long career on his porch
by The Trailer
MINNEAPOLIS – It was the last Thursday in August, a half-hour past sunset, and Matt Gabrielson was running.
Finishing 10 miles, he ended at his home, shirtless, fit. The previous Sunday he’d hammered out a 22-miler, averaging just under 6-minute pace, and a week before that, 20 miles under 5:20s, with the last 5 under 5:00. All this was focused on October 6 and the Twin Cities Marathon, where he hoped to run a minute better than his 2:13:28 best.
Waiting for him on the porch was his wife, Julie, holding their daughter, Doris Mae, who was born in February, shortly after the 2012 Olympic team trials marathon, where he had dropped out at 18 miles.
Watching his wife and daughter, the sweat beading on his shoulders, Gabrielson took stock: he was 34, he was a perpetual threat on the USA Running Circuit, he’d been on four U.S. world teams.
He sat down next to his wife on the porch.
He said, “I have this feeling I don’t want to do this anymore.”
And that, he says, was it.
Ask Gabrielson if the trials marathon is the root of all this, and he admits, “It wore me down.” But then he moved on.
His daughter was born, he resumed training and racing, and just as it always was, some days were better, some worse.
Gabrielson ran 14:20 for 5K in May off zero speed work—he was pleased. He was 11th at the 2012 USA Half Marathon Championships in June—he was disappointed. “I may have run faster for the last 6 miles of Grandma’s Marathon in 2011 [his marathon PR] than I did for this half marathon on the same exact course,” he wrote.
But he kept running.
“I was all in,” he says. “I was really, really excited about the prospect of trying to gun for the win at Twin Cities, just like Jason Hartmann did a couple years ago , and running 2:12. I was going to run the 20K [USA 20K Championships, Sept. 3], had my plane ticket booked.”
But after the talk with his wife on the porch, he felt what he describes as “a huge relief,” which even now he finds difficult to explain. “I just think I was ready to close the book on it, and start focusing on some new things,” he says.
For now, Gabrielson will turn his attention to the girls cross country team he coaches at Edina high school in Edina, Minn., outside of Minneapolis. Last year, his first as head coach, he led the girls to eighth at state, their first appearance in 12 years.
“I have a lot more confidence in my coaching than I do in my own running,” he says. “I think it’s just because maybe I feel like I have more experience than anybody else. Whether they’ve been coaching for 20 or 30 years, I’ve seen the sport at all levels. The lessons I’ve learned are totally applicable.”
Looking back on it, Gabrielson is satisfied with how it’s ended: “I don’t think that there could be any more fitting way: in running shorts, with shaved legs, sitting down with my wife and daughter there.
“Once in a while, it’s like, Ah, man, I should have just kept doing this. But then I’ll talk to Andrew [Carlson], and he’ll tell me about this workout that himself and Antonio [Vega] and this new guy Jon Peterson did. When I hear that, I’m just like, there’s no way I would want to do that right now.
“I came from absolutely nothing, and while I wasn’t an Olympian, I think I made a lot out of a little. I feel very fortunate to have done things the way I’ve done them.”