AUSTIN (KXAN) — A marathon is the peak of fitness in the minds of many. Over 26 miles is quite the feat. For Matt Harmatuk, it’s nothing new.
“I went from being that dude that was hunched over with a Camelbak going, ‘What the hell am I doing?'” said Harmaruk, “to now, I’m just talking to everyone along the way and having a good time.”
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Harmatuk has run over 30 marathons and 13 full-distance Ironman triathlons. These massive races aren’t just to stay in shape for Harmatuk — it’s a therapeutic experience.
“You need to have some positive coping mechanism to deal with that,” said Harmatuk. “And for me, it’s running and triathlon. It’s getting away [and] having friends that have nothing to do with that community.”
Harmatuk has been an Austin police officer for 28 years. It’s a job he is passionate about, but knows the toll it can take with the stresses of being on the force.
After nearly three decades with APD, Harmatuk will be retiring from the department in February. He says there may never be a perfect time to leave, but he found a meaningful way to remember his career.
“I really didn’t know how to close this chapter in my book. And it just came to me one day that I run this marathon every year. What if I did the 28 miles for 28 years?”
The annual Austin Marathon will start at 7 a.m., Feb. 19. Harmatuk will not be running the normal 26.2 miles like the other participants. He’ll run an extra 1.8 miles for a total of 28 to honor 28 years with APD.
“I go back and forth,” Harmatuk said about what he envisions the emotions will be when he finishes the race. “I could go either way. I don’t know until you’re there. So it plays out both ways honestly. I think it’s going to be an emotional moment.”
Harmatuk said when he crosses the finish line, he is done as an officer. But just because he is wrapped up being a cop, it doesn’t mean he won’t be running anymore.
“Absolutely not,” Harmatuk said with a laugh and a smile. “I have a lot of built-up stuff I got to get rid of.”