Run for the Hill of it


Lucas Matison (`15) poses with two of his USA Junior Men's teammates.

Daniel Douty and Priscilla Bell

Looking up at the prodigious hill at the Dish, many Paly cross country runners dread the daunting slope they will be running up. Legs gradually grow heavier as the team pushes each other to run as hard as they can up the steep incline. However, one runner looks forward to the challenge that lies ahead: Lucas Matison (‘15), who was one of only four boys from the United States ages 16-19 invited to run in the World Mountain Running Championships (WMRC) in September.

Matison started running before high school, when he was not yet a Viking or living in Palo Alto.

“I used to live in San Carlos on top of this huge hill, so I was pretty much forced to run on hills all the time,” Matison said. “When I did cross country in middle school, my best races were always on the hilly courses.”

Matison transferred to Paly halfway through his sophomore year and joined the cross country team, but he was still able to continue finding hills to run up.

“In the last couple years, I’ve done cross country for high school, but during the off season, a couple days a week I would go out to the trails and literally run up a mountain as fast as I [could],” Matison said. “As painful as it sounds, it is one of the most accomplishing feelings in the world, and I got hooked on it.”

As he continued to run up hills and mountains, he caught the eye of David Roche, an accomplished mountain runner who has competed in many nationwide and worldwide competitions.

“When I run, I use this app called Strava, which records the statistics of my run and allows my followers to see my runs,” Matison said. “One of my followers is [Roche], who competed in the US Mountain Running Championships and qualified for the World [Mountain Running Championships]. After his race, he mentioned me to the junior team coach.”

The junior team coach, Paul Kirsch, then emailed Matison and asked for a running resumé. Matison was formally invited a couple days later, in early July.

“I was so surprised and honored when I found out I made it,” Matison said.

Once he knew he was going, Matison generally stuck to his same running routine of finding hills to run up to prepare for the race.

“Last summer, I did a lot of hard runs in the mountains, but I haven’t really changed up too many things regarding my training,” Matison said.

The race consisted of three different trails for the three different divisions: 11.7 kilometers for the Senior Men, 8.4 kilometers for the Senior Women and Junior Men and 3.8 kilometers for the Junior Women. The Senior Women and Junior Men trail that Matison ran on had its lowest point at 335 meters and its highest point at 800 meters. The race proved to be very difficult, even for an experienced runner like Matison. Matison left on Sept. 10 for Italy, and the race took place on Sept.r 14.

“Leading up to the race, I was really excited to represent my country and run alongside people from across the globe,” Matison said.

However, once he saw the course his outlook quickly changed. Before the race Matison admitted he was very nervous, and worried that he would finish close to last.

Thanks to a strong start, Matison was able to hold a spot towards the front of the pack, running with all of his teammates.

“I actually got a really good start. It felt really cool because we could work together to help push each other and block other guys behind us,” Matison said.

Matison continued to push and maintained a strong position, closer to the front than he ever expected he would be. He gave it his all for the final stretch of the race, and finished close to the front of the pack. Matison ended up finishing 18 out of the 70 competitors.

“I am incredibly happy with my race result,” Matison said.  “This race was by far the hardest race I’ve ever done, but also by far the most fun,” Matison said.

The race was also a great cultural experience for Matison, as he had to opportunity to travel to a new country and meet people from countries in all corners of the globe.

“It was so cool to meet people from countries all over the world. It has definitely widened my perspective,” Matison said.

Matison will continue to run cross country at Paly for the remainder of the year, and hopefully he will continue to add more great achievements to his running career. He has also been recruited by Western State Colorado University, and is considering continuing running cross country while he attends school there.