I Run to Stay Healthy, I Race to Keep the Memory Alive

Honey Stinger Hive athlete Matthew Crooker found running as a way to choose a healthier lifestyle. He learned from his father’s health struggles and has taken a different path to honor him ever since. “I was declared ‘legally dead’ for two minutes.” Matthew has replayed these words of his father repeatedly in his daily life for over a decade. His father, Joe, suffered from three heart attacks throughout his son’s childhood and has since passed due to the third one in 2017. As an only child, Matthew knew he had to make a positive change for not only his own life but also to stay strong for his mother. Matthew lights up when describing his father, “He was a good man. His poor health decisions in his years before having a family caught up with him, but he did the best he could with the situation. After having his first heart attack when I was only 15 months old, he began doing some light exercise and attempting to eat better.” Matthew fondly describes leisurely riding bikes with his Dad throughout the hills of Cincinnati’s parks during his childhood to stay active. In his early 20s, Matthew found himself at 300 pounds and in need of some healthier direction. He picked up walking. Then, he found himself running. He has been running ever since and he has no intention to stop.

How has running changed your life over the past few years?

Before I took up running, I was a bowler and so was my dad. Ironically enough, he bowled a 299 and lost! Also, I was close to 300 pounds before I found an active, outside lifestyle. So, before I even thought about running, I started by walking. As I was doing my walking, I lost my dad, and was still during losing my weight. It was not until I had hit my goal of 180lbs. that I decided to take up running. Although I was primarily a bowler, and that was where my athletic abilities were, I used what my dad taught me about bowling, and incorporated those lessons into running in May of 2018. Believe it or not, the two share common parallels and it was easy to make quick progress within the sport of running. I compared spares in bowling to .2 miles in running. The local park my dad and I frequented a lot when I was a child, has mile markers on the ground that were .2 miles apart from each other. Therefore, it made it easier for me to hit daily goals. Once I had enough stamina to run a mile, I considered a mile a strike. And I continued that until I could run my first 5k in June 2018 at the Redlegs 5k in Cincinnati. Even after running my first 5k, I continued to use the same approach when I ran the New York City Marathon in 2019. To me, the NYC Marathon was my perfect game, the 300. Running from a personal standpoint has influenced me to help others when they need a pick me up.

When you train, how do you channel your Dad’s memory?

When I train, I have my full intention on becoming the best version of myself, while also maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Most importantly when it comes to when I run, I run to keep the weight off, but I race to keep the memory of my dad alive.

Tell us about your recent Marine Corps Marathon and how you channeled your Dad’s memory.

When I run, I know he is with me every step of the way. I know he is with me by the sunrise I saw when I ran my second ever marathon on October 18. Something he would always say when we were in the car was how nice the sky was when the sun would rise or set. The morning of the marathon was a true testament to him being with me, and I had the biggest smile on my face while I was running through Eden Park because of it. Overall, since his passing, I have had the urge to push myself to limits I have never experienced before, such as progressing from a 5k to a marathon. Particularly, I wanted to run a sub 4:00 marathon in my second marathon and I did just that. Follow Matthew's running journey: @runto5kandbeyond