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From Crash Victim To Elite Athlete: A NYC Firefighter’s Long Run to Wholeness

By February 20, 2015May 24th, 20195 Comments

“I’m not a challenged athlete, I’m an athlete with challenges…there’s a big difference.”

Matt Long

In 2005, New York City firefighter, avid marathoner and ironman athlete Matt Long hopped onto his bike to do what he did every day — ride from his East side Manhattan apartment north to the Randall’s Island fire academy where he helped train the city’s bravest. As he crossed 52nd Street, a 20-ton bus made a right turn from the middle lane. The bus didn’t just hit him, it dragged his body completely underneath, where Matt was then quite literally impaled by his bike.

After receiving 68 units of blood in the first 40 hours post-accident, Matt spent the next month in a coma.

When he woke up, the doctors told him he was facing a one percent chance of survival.

Matt had other plans.

After a 5-month hospital stint and 40 surgeries in under two years, he did more than survive. He finally came alive.

The story of Matt’s accident and his comeback quest to tackle the 2008 NYC marathon just 3 years after his accident was first chronicled in an extraordinary story in Runner’s World  by Charles Butler entitled A Second Life. That story was later adapted and expanded into Matt’s exceptionally inspiring memoir, The Long Run* , a work of co-authorship by Long and Butler (not to be confused with my buddy and RRP favorite Mishka Shubaly’s equally compelling Kindle Single, also entitled The Long Run*).

Today Matt will tell you not only does he not regret the accident, it is the one thing that has made him whole.

There are many words that can be used to describe Matt — firefighter, 9/11 first responder, ironman athlete, accomplished marathoner, advocate, bon vivant, husband and father. But one word will suffice: hero.

Matt is a man I hold in high regard as an incredible example of the resiliency not just of the physical body, but of the emotional body — the indomitable, boundless strength of the human spirit in selfless service to others.

Great guy. Great talk.

I sincerely hope you enjoy the exchange.

Peace + Plants,


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Production, music & sound design by Tyler Piatt. Additional production by Chris Swan. Graphic art by Shawn Patterson. Thanks boys!

*Disclosure: Books and products denoted with an asterisk are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.


Connect with Matt Long: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

*Disclosure: Books and products denoted with an asterisk are hyperlinked to an affiliate program. We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

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  • Tommy F says:

    Sh!t happens.. But it takes a whole lot of spirit to “MAKE SH!T HAPPEN”. Only when pushing through and growing past our struggles, are we able to express gratitude for them. Super inspiring story!

  • Pete L says:

    I listened to the audiobook last month. Really good listen! Inspirational.

  • Julia Hanlon of Running On Om says:


    Your ability to harness people’s stories in an authentic and REAL way continues to amaze me. Matt’s story was deeply powerful and made me laugh, cry, smile, and feel inspired to rethink my relationship with my running and life purpose– thank YOU!

    I also loved to hear him mention Phil Wharton as part of his recovery process. I had the honor of interviewing Phil for my Running On Om Podcast and think he may be someone great to consider for an RRP. Here is the link to my conversation with Phil:

    Many thanks!

  • “Hey, I’m from Brooklyn.” That line at the end of the podcast made me smile, I’m a Brooklyn girl and happen to have a special place in my heart for firefighters. My great uncle was a battalion chief in the NYFD and I have firefighter friends from NY to the West Coast where I’ve lived for a long time. I’m living in Spokane, WA which oddly enough is the small town he mentioned in the last few minutes of the podcast. Great interview, these conversations constantly inspire, can’t get enough. Thanks Rich and Matty!

  • Mick says:

    Just went back and listened to this podcast. Outstanding interview for whatever reason I kept glossing over it when choosing podcasts to listen to. Matt Long is an inspiration. His story reminded me of another individual that was struck by a bus in NYC named Jim MacLaren. Jim MacLaren went on to compete in Ironman competitions after losing a leg. Matt’s story struck me when he said that he had another accident because MacLaren had misfortune while competing in an Ironman. Rich great interview as always man. Love the the long form conversation.

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