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Matt Long is keynote speaker for Runner's World half marathon

Gary Blockus

Gary Blockus

2:01 PM EDT, October 12, 2012

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Matt Long is 46 now, a few years older than when he triumphantly ran the New York City Marathon in 2008, finishing in 7 hours, 21 minutes.

And he's a few years older than he was after finishing his triumphant 2009 Lake Placid Ironman Triathlon in 16 hours, 58 minutes, a scant 2 minutes under the course cutoff time.

"That was all part of the physical and mental healing circle I needed to follow through on," Long said from the West Coast on Thursday.

That healing circle became necessary on Dec. 22, 2005, when a charter bus nearly crushed the former New York City fireman to death, fracturing his pelvis, ripping apart his abdomen, shattering his left leg so badly that it's held together by a titanium rod, and forcing him to go through 48 pints of blood during emergency surgeries following the accident.

Long's story was well chronicled in an inspirational story in Runner's World magazine in 2009.

Appropriately, Long is the keynote speaker for the first Runner's World Half Marathon and Running Festival. He will speak at 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20, in advance of the first-ever Runner's World Half Marathon that will take place throughout the streets of Bethlehem.

"Running was a passion," Long said. "I loved it. I enjoyed it."

In fact, Long was a budding marathoner and triathlete before the accident, and used his former prowess in those sports to give himself a goal during his rehabilitation. While he did his triumphant marathon and triathlon, the toll the accident took on his body has forced him to modify his workouts.

"A lot of the muscles didn't return to function because of nerve damage or the severity of the damage," he said. "I can run if I want to, but if I do more than three miles in 50 minutes, I can't do anything for two days because of the pain in my hips and back. Running is not my friend anymore."

Instead of ceasing physical activity, Long has switched gears to paralympic cycling and claimed a national title in it in 2011. While training to qualify for the 2012 London Paralympics, however, he broke an arm, which prevented him from qualifying.

"Amazingly, even with my leg length discrepancy, there are no alterations to my bike or equipment," he said. "I'm an indoor spin instructor trying to help keep people fit. I did anywhere from 12-20 hours on a bike each week."

Long said that the Runner's World article gave him some unwanted celebrity, but he's learned to embrace the why rather than the how.

"By no means do I believe I'm a celebrity," he said, "but among everyday runners, especially people who struggle to get out the door each day and commit to an every-day program, I've become a sense of inspiration, a role model. I was able to follow through on my commitment of trying to make a full recovery."

Entries are being accepted for the Runner's World Half Marathon and Running Festival until Monday. The event features seminars from Bart Yasso, Amby Burfoot, ultra-marathoner Dean Karnazes, newbie runner and writer Marc Parent, running films, live music as well as 5k and 10K races on Saturday and the half marathon on Sunday.

To register, go online to http://www.rwhalf.com.

Tickets for Long's speeches are $10 and can be reserved by going online to http://bit.ly/RWMattLong .

More information about Matt's speeches and the entire weekend schedule can be found online at http://www.runnersworld.com/rwhalf/schedule.html.

LGNC Run: The second annual Lehigh Gap Nature Center More or Less a 10K Trail Run and More than a 2-mile Scamper takes place Saturday from the center in Slatington. To register for the unique event, go online to http://www.lgnc10k.com.

The course covers the trails above the Delaware & Lehigh national Heritage Corridor and below the Appalachian Trail on the center's grounds.

New cycling training program: Bob Blaisdell, the director of community programs at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center, has announced a new Junior Performance Academy — Winter Training Program that will begin Nov. 12 and include a variety of training geared toward the 2013 racing season.

The academy program will include three six-week sessions with a week or two break between each session to allow for adaptation, building and recovery. The sessions themselves will include off-bike resistance training, flexibility training, trainer or roller workouts, and outdoor road and track sessions as weather permits.

Blaisdell is an exercise physiologist and USA Cycling certified coach, who is overseeing the program with VPCC executive Marty Nothstein, a three-time world champion, Olympic gold medalist and a graduate of the VPCC's community programs.

For more information, contact Blaisdell at 610-395-7000, extension 226, or email him at bob@thevelodrome.com

To register, go online to https://www.bikereg.com/Net/17542 .

Trot the trail: The second annual Trick-or-Treat Trot at the Trail to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society will take place Oct. 27 at the Ironton Rail-Trail. To register for the 5K run and fun walk, go online to http://www.trotatthetrail.com.

2013 St. Luke's half registration is open: Registration for the 2013 St. Luke's Half marathon and 5K is up and running. The event will take place April 28, 2013. To register, go online to http://stlukeshalfmarathon.com.