Matty Gregg ran across the country to raise money and his own political awareness 

  • Matty Gregg finished running across the country on Wednesday. The final leg of his journey went up South Main Street from the Common Man restaurant to the State House. Ray Duckler / Monitor staff

  • Matty Gregg finished running across the country on Wednesday, Aug, 7. The final leg of his journey went up South Main Street from the Common Man restaurant to the State House. Ray Duckler—Monitor staff

  • Matty Gregg finished running across the country on Wednesday, Aug, 7. The final leg of his journey went up South Main Street from the Common Man restaurant to the State House. —Courtesy

  • Matty Gregg finished running across the country on Wednesday. The final leg of his journey went up South Main Street from the Common Man restaurant to the State House. Courtesy

  • Matty Gregg finished running across the country on Wednesday, Aug, 7. The final leg of his journey went up South Main Street from the Common Man restaurant to the State House. —Courtesy

Monitor staff
Published: 8/8/2019 5:52:47 PM

No one believed that the running gods had been invited to Matty Gregg’s celebration Wednesday on the State House steps.

Not really.

But, man, the timing was too perfect to ignore the fuss happening overhead. A storm whipped through downtown just past 5 p.m., at nearly the precise moment that Gregg began thanking his supporters for joining him after his 5,000-mile cross-country run.

The clouds swelled. Thunder boomed. Lightning crackled. And Gregg, standing in the plaza near the steps, paused for a second and warned, “It’s about to rain.”

And with that, the crowd huddled near the front doors, covered by the overhang, near those huge columns that face Main Street and the statue of Daniel Webster.

Gregg’s adventure had officially ended with a bang, after a ceremonial one-mile run from the Common Man Restaurant to the State House, a flock of runners moving with him as one, Engine 4 from the Concord Fire Department trailing behind.

He ran – from his former home in California to New Hampshire – to raise money for the Firefighter Cancer Support Network, expressing concern over the high rates of fast-moving cancer that often attack firefighters. He ran in search of the political heartbeat of America, saying he might one day run for state office with a centrist platform that, in some ways, runs counter to the political persuasions of his second cousin, former GOP Governor and U.S. Senator Judd Gregg.

Along the way, he encountered golf ball-sized shin splints, dog bites, a cat adoption, the camaraderie created within the ultra-marathon and Tough Mudder communities, a few rough neighborhoods, an alligator and a snapping turtle, all during the most amazing road race he’s experienced in a life full of road races.

His path east led him to his old house in Nashua, the one in which he grew up and bought last year with plans to live in once again. It led him away from his life in Santa Clara, Calif., where he lived for 12 years and built a lucrative career as an engineer with Apple.

He’s resting now with his girlfriend, Alicia Herndon, whom he met during his run through New Mexico, one of 24 states on his route. At age 41, he’ll figure out his IT and political careers later.

“I trained for seven years,” Gregg told me. “At 33, I knew I would do it, but things were so successful at Apple, I waited. We had all of these projects underway.”

His love for the company and computers grew out of the tragic death of his biological father when Gregg was 9. His dad drank too much. In December of 1987, he wandered onto Daniel Webster Highway. He was struck by a car and killed.

The episode did more than convince Gregg not to drink.

“It led to my love of Apple,” Gregg said. “He was the catalyst because we got our first Mac that Christmas after he died, and I tried to fill a void by using it, and some things that are important, you don’t notice at the time, so in a sense, my dad’s death led to my success with Apple.”

His mother remarried David Gregg, a cousin of Judd’s, and David adopted Matty, giving him his politically famous surname.

Matty moved to New York City in the 1990s to work for Apple. His input on coding, graphic design and 3D animation led to his transfer to the corporate headquarters in California in 2007, shortly before the iPhone was introduced.

Gregg loved to run, pushing himself in various events as the cross-country run back to his home state never strayed far from his mind. He competed in 100-mile ultra marathons and Tough Mudder competitions. Big on raising money for charities like the Wounded Warrior Project, he was given the Obstacle Course Racing Humanitarian Award two years ago for helping others.

He didn’t want to talk about that. His 275-day, 5,000-mile run across the country was another matter. Gregg left California on Election Day 2018. He ran south toward Los Angeles, then east.

He hit snow and freezing temperatures in Arizona. He was bitten by a pair of dogs in New Mexico, where ranch owners never worried about leashes or boundaries. Gregg learned to use a high-pitched voice on dogs that appeared friendly, while his loud, baritone voice told mean dogs to stay away.

“That took me a while to figure out,” Gregg told me. “They’d follow me for maybe a mile. Most of the time they’d bark and then come up to me and ask me to pet them. None were foaming at the mouth.”

More danger followed. Gregg said an alligator and snapping turtle, both camouflaged, tried to sink their teeth into him. Both missed.

He said someone in West Atlanta, in a tough-looking neighborhood, ran alongside him and mentioned that he liked Gregg’s phone. Then three more individuals appeared on the other side of him.

“I put the afterburners on,” Gregg said. “They chased me for 10 feet and quit. I just increased my speed and got out of there.”

Good things happened as well. A kitten followed him, so Gregg claimed it and brought it here, to the Granite State.

He met fellow runner Alicia Herndon in New Mexico, set up by a mutual friend. They fell in love, and Gregg and Herndon are now relaxing together with her three children at the Gregg family home on Lake Squam.

And then there was the Camaraderie Gregg experienced, a bond, fostered by the internet, that connected runners who run and run and run.

And once word spread that a fellow ultra-marathoner and Tough Mudder competitor was doing his best Forest Gump impression, Gregg had plenty of company along the way. People ran with him, carried his water and snacks, drove an accompanying RV, offered couches and spare beds.

“I would sleep in the RV most of the time and ask for a shower the next day,” Gregg said. “I had at least 500 or 600 offers to stay at people’s homes.”

Elsewhere, Gregg saw firsthand the decline of Small Town USA, telling me that the innocent flavor of mom-and-pop stores had been replaced by corporate America.

“Every town in the south had Dollar General stores and nothing else,” Gregg said. “That was driving the mom-and-pop stores out of business. There are ways to fix things, and a lot of it has to do with infrastructure. I want to figure that out.”

It’s part of the political platform he one day might use to get elected. Gregg called himself liberal on social issues, conservative on fiscal matters. Referring to Judd Gregg, he told me, “I followed some of his voting and saw he was on the conservative side. But I always appreciated that he was fiscally conservative, even though that meant programs not going through that I thought were necessary.”

That’s talk for another time. These days, Gregg is adjusting to his departure, from the west coast and Apple. But he’ll keep running and keep raising money. This project netted him more than $100,000 for the Firefighter Cancer Support Network.

At the Common Man Wednesday, Russ Osgood, the state director for the network, got off his cell phone and said, “They’re on their way.”

A minute later, Engine 4 pulled into the parking lot and soon followed behind the 20 runners who had been waiting there. They ran the final mile together, No. 5,025. 

Reflecting on his journey, Gregg said, “The timing was perfect. There were tornadoes all around us, but for some reason they avoided us.”

Not the thunderstorm Wednesday, though.

And that was perfect timing, too.




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