Matt Grey has experienced his fair share of ups and downs in life.
Through it all, though, running has always been there for the 25-year-old Stewartstown native.
After dropping out of Slippery Rock University a few years ago and moving back into his parents' home, running eventually steered Grey to the Keystone Track Club, which led to a full-time job with Inside Track, a running specialty store with locations in Harrisburg and Lancaster.
In recent months the sport has taken the 2006 Kennard-Dale High School graduate to Minneapolis, Minn., where he lives with his twin brother, Jonathan, who now runs professionally for Team USA Minnesota.
"My brother and I had always been close," Matt said by phone last week. "We're identical twins. We hadn't been together for quite awhile. Before I moved out I hadn't seen my brother in over a year, maybe more."
Upon Matt's arrival in the Twin Cities, Jonathan pointed his brother to a full-time job with a running store in Minneapolis. Jonathan, who is working his way back into running shape following hip surgery a year ago, also helped Matt prepare for his most recent hurdle: competing in the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis on Oct. 6.
Matt Grey finished 37th out of 8,856 runners in the marathon with a personal-best time of 2 hours, 27 minutes, 17 seconds, finishing 36th among the 4,923 male runners, and 20th out of the 1,015 males ages 22 to 29.
The feat would be remarkable for any marathoner. For Grey, though, it's a bit more impressive when considering he didn't compete in any shorter races leading up to the marathon, something recommended for runners. Plus, it's only the second marathon in which he's ever competed.
"I was nervous. In the build-up for the past 21/2 months or so I didn't race elsewhere," Grey said. "This was the first time I had expectations of myself to do well."
Brothers: The Grey twins, who were born three months premature, were both accomplished high school runners. But it was Jonathan who had the higher marks. In the York-Adams League Meet in 2005, Jonathan set a new 3.1-mile cross country course record at John Rudy Park with a time of 15 minutes, 48.26 seconds. The mark still stands today.
Following high school, Jonathan and Matt went on to the University of Oklahoma for a stint. But things didn't go as planned there for the brothers and they headed their separate ways. Matt transferred to Slippery Rock and Jonathan went on to become a three-time All-American runner at NCAA Division I College of William and Mary in Virginia.
"College just didn't work out for me," Matt Grey said. "Yeah, I ended up 14th in the region and fifth in the (Pennsylvania State Athletic) Conference my last year in cross (country at Slippery Rock in 2009). But I did that on no training. I wasn't really running at all. If you don't have the right balance in your life, things can really cascade out of control."
Nine years after Matt and Jonathan first began running competitively, Matt feels like he has finally found that right balance. And following his performance two weeks ago, Matt has now joined Jonathan in a quest to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials. To qualify, men have to complete a marathon in 2:18 or faster or a half-marathon in 1:05 or faster.
"It (running) is what my body is built to do," Matt said. "It's a good way to relieve stress. I love just going out and getting lost. I'm pretty good at finding my own way back. And from the competitive side, it's always nice to challenge people."
-- Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.