ROCK SPRINGS — Rain, sleet, snow or sunshine, you’ll find Matt Hanson running up White Mountain every morning. The eight mile run has now become a ritual that takes place daily at 4:00 a.m. for Hanson.
Hanson, who works as a school counselor at Eastside Elementary, has Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The Wisconsin native has faced his fair share of battles with ADHD, but has learned how to cope with it and use it to inspire others.
Hanson was diagnosed with ADHD at a young age. His parents eventually stuck him in a swimming pool to combat his hyperactivity. From age six, Hanson swam competitively all the way through high school.
During his middle school days, Hanson struggled to concentrate and focus in class. His ADHD was an enormous obstacle as a teenager and it wasn’t until high school when he started participating in sports that he found a way to cope with the disorder.
Along with swimming Hanson played football and track in high school. One day he made the connection between sports and his new found ability to focus.
“I’ve definitely wrestled with it (ADHD) my whole life,” Hanson said. “The thing that works for me is to exercise, work out and keep myself tired enough to where my brain can’t use that energy to cause a disruption. If I don’t wake up every morning and run up and down White Mountain my brain just doesn’t work.”
Hanson’s workout routine includes a run in the morning and then another mile or two later in the day with weightlifting at Iron Cowboy CrossFit.
A Competitive Spirit
After deciding to end his swimming career and focus on his academics in college, Hanson hungered for another way to feed his competitive spirit. Initially he had no interest in running due to the fact that he was a gym rat through college. However, his sister introduced him to a Tough Mudder race that Hanson ended up falling head over heels in love with.
With little to no training, Hanson entered The World’s Toughest Mudder race in New Jersey — a race that features nearly 2,000 runners. Hanson finished the race placing seventh overall.
“That’s what got me started,” Hanson said. “I missed competing so much.”
The newfound love has resulted in Hanson’s participation in over 85 marathons that are at least 26.2-100 mile races in the last seven years. Throughout those years, Hanson has run in races across the United States and in Canada, usually finding himself near the top finishers.
Connecting ADHD, running and being a counselor together is what makes Hanson’s story so incredible.
Back in college, Hanson originally was going to be a school teacher. After some thought, he recalled having great teachers in school but realized that there was no school counselor. This changed his mind to pursue a career as a school counselor instead.
“I remember thinking in middle school that maybe if someone could have helped me or led me to the reason why I needed to study or why things are important, maybe I wouldn’t have struggled so much in school. I know the struggles I had and wanted to be that piece for other students,” Hanson said.
Caring for and showing each child their importance and potential is at the heart of what Hanson does, whether it be at school or during mile 90 of a race.
“I see these kids struggling every day. When I get deep into races I think about so and so in sixth grade that’s not giving up. Then I think, who am I to give up in this race? I try to show kids that if they are willing to try hard they can do the same thing I did,” Hanson said.
Leading by example pushes Hanson to be the best he can be. One important lesson that Hanson has learned is that everyone has their own fights they are fighting. Despite his own fight with ADHD, he wouldn’t trade it for the world.
“ADHD for me has more positives than negatives such as increased creativity, energy and drive,” Hanson said. “I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Hanson’s experiences and support from the community have led him to find joy in life and help others along the way.