Remembering Cliff Matthews

Cliff Matthews

Nova Scotia is a small province. Many runners that pound the sidewalks or quiet rural roads do so alone much of the time. Some runners search or stumble across a coach to guide them. Cliff Matthews was one of those.

I grew up running in Nova Scotia for many years and trained with alongside a well-known runner and friend, Louis Brill. When you run and race in a small, close-knit running community like Nova Scotia and the East Coast, you get to know the regulars and those who are pillars of the sport that so many of us love. Cliff was all of those.

The coaches who inspire, motivate and touch us are those who are more than the workouts, the advice and the race times they help us achieve. My own coach was like a father or older brother you trust and look up to. They care about the people in sweaty running shorts, the lives, the struggles that arrive each workout. Cliff touched his athletes and those around him in that way.

He left doing what he loved

Cliff spent his last days in a trip to the lands of dusty red earth. He was, of course, accompanying a runner. Denise Robson who was training in Kenya with Cliff, wrote from Iten:

I want you to all know that Cliff was very happy here and peaceful over the last two weeks and I will share stories with you when I return of how many Kenyan’s lives he touched in this short time. He truly was at home here and the Kenyans loved and appreciated him very much.

Cliff always believed in me even with all my self-doubt and because of him my confidence grew and I believed and was able to experience many amazing opportunities and meet so many wonderful people. I can’t thank Cliff enough for this.

Cliff is not coming back and the Kenyans have helped me understand that it is God’s will and I must be strong for him and find strength to carry on. Celebrate the memories I have and cherish those. Continue this journey and run smart, strong and proud in Boston for Cliff.

The world is big but our lives are short. Remember this and start living. It is as clear as thinking positive and paying it forward and knowing kindness exists.

I knew Cliff, but others knew him better and I have let their words paint you a picture of the man and the coach.

Louis Brill

“We had been friends for a long time both on and off the track. A gentleman and a very knowledgeable coach. A true student of the game. What I respected most about Cliff was his patience and caring, and he cared deeply about the people he coached. He always did. He coached to simply help people get better. He laughed easy and he laughed alot. He nurtured a love for running in everyone he coached and I swear he coached just about everyone! Cliff Matthews was a giver and what he gave so generously was his time. Whether fast or not so fast, Cliff’s track had a lane for everyone.”

Janet Hoyt-d’Eon

“Cliff used to take my watch at the beginning of every workout so I wouldn’t rely on it for pacing. I argued with him about that but I never won. He taught me to use and trust my internal sense of timing. He told me when the fitness is there, the time will follow, and he was right. One of the most supportive and encouraging coaches I have ever had the pleasure to work with, I went from a 40:00 personal best over 10K to 36:24 in a few short years running under Cliff’s guidance. In 1990, I set the women’s Dartmouth Natal record for 6 miles in 35:42 and that record stood for 16 years until it was broken by another one of Cliff’s runners, Denise Robson.

“I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to have known and been coached Cliff. He always made time for everyone and made you feel special. He will be greatly missed but never forgotten.”

Cliff MatthewsStacy Juckett

“The thing about Cliff – and I’ve had a few coaches in my life – is that he was so darn passionate about running and positive about his athlete’s ability. He made me feel I was a better runner and that I could live up to what he believed for me. Not to be dramatic but Cliff was so many people’s rock. He was at all the races. He was at the Commons. He was at the Sportsplex indoor track on nasty running days. He was a fixture and he always encouraged you. He was such a gifted coach that I simply hope that one day I can be as positive as he was. I took all his words as fact, pearls of wisdom. I just don’t know anyone else here that has that reach or his laugh. He always seemed to be quick to laugh.”

Steve Morley

“In the early ’90s, Cliff was a second father to me. He started not just coaching me but he would drive me everywhere. It actually got to be a source of amusement for my roommates at the time – Steve Irvine, Whitney Brennan, Randy Bullerwell, Todd Lepage all part of a super intense track shack.

“During the Micheline Marathon we were tracking Dave Ruggles, who Cliff also coached, and I never saw someone drive so passionately through the streets in Halifax to try to get in front of the runners, a trait I have tried to master as well. That was the word that described him best: passionate.”

Kari Ellen Graham

“I ran with him for 12 years. His name was a noun to me: ‘are you going to Cliff tonight?’

“He knew my VO2 max and threshold pace better than I did. I won’t forget his plastic-covered pace chart, his many layers of clothes, his easy smile, his laugh and his genuine interest in all of us. It always amazes me to hear praise from so many other runners. I feel like he spent so much time with my small circle of running friends. How did he have time to have such an impact on so many in the running community?

“He came to my wedding years ago, certainly not because he was a fan of weddings, nor of long drives, but because he cared about me. I am just so humbled to have been one of his runners.”

Cliff has pulled ahead. He is out in front of the pack. You can see his smooth stride that he always tried to get others to adapt.

Run on,  Cliff.

A memorial run has been organized in conjunction with the well-know Dartmouth Moose Run on March 29th.