RunWashington’s Fall Marathoners: Meet Matt Deters

Matt Deters Photo: Cheryl Young
Matt Deters at the 2015 Cherry Blossom race. Photo: Cheryl Young

In the months leading up to 2015’s Fall marathons, RunWashington will follow several local runners as they prepare for their races. We’ll chart their progress as they train their legs, lungs and minds for the challenges they’ll race on race day. Each week, we’ll catch up with our runners and see how they’re doing. Matt Deters is an Arlingtonian who resumed running seriously a few years ago and has improved rapidly. Given his druthers, he’d already have retired from the marathon, but he’s giving it another shot.


Matt Deters has already run his perfect marathon…almost.  And as anyone who cares about running knows, almost doesn’t matter.

Last spring was a great season for Matt Deters.  He consistently peeled off intense, competitive speed, tempo and long run workouts with his Capital Area Runners (CAR) teammates.  He posted a 1:09:45 at the Shamrock Half and a 48:45 at the truncated Cherry Blossom 9.39 miler.

Teammate Greg Mariano has observed Matt’s improvement leading up to last spring’s season.  “It seemed like it came out of nowhere.  Obviously it didn’t – he was putting in the miles and working hard, but, in the fall I was lapping him in tempo runs and by the spring we were running together.”

Deters was primed for a great race when he showed up to April’s Glass City marathon in Toledo, Ohio.  He was ready to reach his goal of 2:30.  His previous PR was a 2:50, and he was prepped to blow it out of the water. The goal is a personal one – just something the 30 year old Arlington resident thinks he can do but won’t be easy “running is almost always arbitrary,” he says, when, like him, you’re fast but not at the Olympic level.

Deters was well on the way to his mark, hitting 5:40s consistently all the way to the 21 mile point.  He pushed the pace, passing the fifth place runner.  A little more than 2.5 miles after taking a right at the direction of a course marshal, he realized he was supposed to have been pointed left.

Mariano was also on the course that day, and was also misdirected, by a bike escort in his case, though he didn’t go as far off course as Deters and did end up with a third place finish.  Mariano describes his own mood as agitated, but, of Matt, he laughs and said, “his attitude was better than mine.”

“Life is really ironic sometimes,” Deters said he remembers thinking to himself at the time. Three days later, he signed up for November’s Philadelphia marathon.

Deters is looking forward to achieving his goal this fall by following the same plan as he did this spring with his CAR teammates.  “I have a great group of guys to train with,” he says.  Teammates Greg Mariano and Doug Smith are training for California International two weeks after Philly, so their training schedules will coincide.

Another bonus of choosing Philly – it’s a big city race, so, he said,  “I won’t get lost.”

Deters credits running with CAR as the impetus for a turning point in his training.  Meeting three days a week for tempo runs, long runs, and hill or interval training, the men he races with are a good group, and they push him to work harder.

Greg Mariano agreed. “We have a really good group dynamic, we really want to succeed as a team, and we train like that,” he said. “Even though we compete against each other, it’s more supportive than competitive.”

Running has been a part of Deters’ life since he was in middle school.  “I was the fat kid,” he said simply, growing up in his small town of Ottowa, Ohio, “(he was) made fun of, last picked for kickball, all those clichés were true.”

In the seventh grade, he joined Weight Watchers with his mom, lost weight, and grew.  He started sneaking out to the track at night to run in the dark because he was embarrassed to be seen exercising.  The next year, one of his friends forged his name on the sign-up sheet for the track team.  He didn’t want to do it at first, but stuck with it.

Deter went from one of the lower performing athletes on the team to winning league and districts in the 1600 meters his junior year.  His first battle with injury came in high school, when a bout with the plantar fasciitis he still has to fend off periodically sidelined him.

He ran as a walk-on at Ohio University his freshman year, but when he transferred to Bowling Green University he needed “time to work and drink,” as he put it.  Driving for UPS and going to school kept him busy.

Shortly after college, when he was 24, Deters got back into running.  He was enjoying reconnecting with “that positive vibe you get from running.”  Then he took a fall so severe it sheared the cartilage off his femur, and ended up needing surgery to repair micro fractures around his knee.

Two years later, he ran the Marine Corps marathon just shy of three hours.  “It was terrible, I hit the wall and everything.” At the time, he was putting in 40-50 miles a week.  He says he really got back into running in 2013 when he joined CAR.

He says it’s a whole different ballgame, pointing to teammates as a motivating factor in his training, “you have those guys at a workout right by you and they’re just pushing it,” it makes him work harder, Deters asserts.  He also credits teammate Susanna Sullivan with introducing him to pool running, which he began using as a recovery tool, but now features prominently in his training.

In addition to three workouts a week with his team, Deters gets his miles in most days to and from work.  He treks from Arlington to Foggy Bottom on his running commute, does a core workout and has nine miles under his belt by the time he assumes his post at his office in financial assistance at GWU.

He likes commuting via running because “it saves so much time, and it forces you to do it – there’s no way you’re not putting in the miles.”

Between now and his 14 week training cycle that will start in August, Deters is working on speed, doing 5ks and finessing his turnover.  He’ll also get ready to bump his current mileage of 70-80 miles per week to anywhere from 90-105 miles.  He’ll continue with his core and foam rolling routines and, hopefully, recreate a Glass City-caliber performance for a full 26.2.


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