By Jamie Lynn Connors
Matt Scarfo never ran a marathon.
That is, until last month. When he ran nine of them in a row.
On March 16, 2020, Scarfo’s Morristown gym Full-Time Fitness closed its doors for the first time since its opening in late 2010, because of the pandemic.
After spontaneously running 54 miles to Trenton on April 28, he wanted to embark on a longer journey of self-discovery. To bring awareness to the problems he was having as a non-essential business, he chose to run 250 miles, without any preparation or marathon training.
On May 23, he started running from his hometown of Blairstown to Washington D.C.
“My run was a proxy for a lot of the challenges people were going through and they were depending on me to finish it in a positive way,” Scarfo said.
Despite being in mental and physical pain, Scarfo promised his three children he’d run the entire way to D.C. Although he had gone through three sneakers and lost a good amount of toenails, thinking of his kids kept him motivated.
“I knew that I probably wasn’t going to die, and because of that I could keep going no matter how bad it hurt,” he said. “I knew that as long as I kept moving, I would get there.”
He arrived in nation’s capital on June 1, the day after protests and riots kicked off in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by police in Minneapolis.
“I made it to the White House, except that the world is on fire,” Scarfo said while on Facebook Live. “Something extraordinarily uneasy about being in front of the White House is smelling wet, burnt wood.”
Although impressed by a gathering of peaceful protestors, he said he felt sick as he saw small businesses with their windows shattered. Looking at the amount of damage in D.C. provided Scarfo with a unique perspective on his own small business.
“For these small businesses to have their livelihoods destroyed by something that is arguably preventable really made me feel for them more than I felt for myself,” he said. “I think that that was a great way to cap that experience.”
Although grateful that he would have a business — hopefully — to return to, a reopen date has not yet been announced. Regardless, Scarfo expects a larger crowd in the post-COVID environment.
“I think now more than ever, one-on-one and individual personal training is going to be really where we put our focus going forward,” he said.
Scarfo wants to get back to the gym as soon as possible. Although grateful for some grants, he only received one month’s income after filling out dozens of applications for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
However, he raised more than $7,000 through his GoFundMe drive.
“I couldn’t feel more blessed that somebody could offer me money for nothing in return, just so that I can feed my family and open my business,” he said.
Amazed that people would take time out of their days to donate to him, Scarfo wants to encourage others to continue supporting each other during these trying times.
People don’t have to go as far as running 250 miles or donating thousands of dollars, though.
“There’s a lot of people going through a lot of difficult moments right now for a lot of different reasons, whether it’s in New Jersey because of the unfair shutdown or if it’s D.C. [where] you’ve got homes and businesses that are burning,” he said.
“Regardless of why it is that we hurt and why it is that we’re in the situation that we’re in, we can all give a little bit more to the people around us, so that their lives become a little bit easier.”