Teaching isn’t easy, but the rewards are many, making it the perfect fit for Matt McRae, who has spent over eight years as an educator, the past three as a physical education instructor at the Forestdale School.
“It’s the greatest job in the world,” he said. “I get to teach kids not just how to play, but not to be afraid to try different things and to be lifelong learners, not just academically, but athletically in terms of embracing a healthy lifestyle.”
Later this month, McRae will embody that philosophy as he participates in his first traditional Ruck4HIT with RideAway Ruck Squad. “I’m a physical education teacher so I see a lot of the current trends, especially with American home life and kids not necessarily being active,” he said. “I want to influence kids to be out there and be active and have a healthy lifestyle and be able to challenge themselves. Anything that challenges me physically and mentally, I always encourage other people to try those things.”
McRae was originally going to participate in the 5th Annual Ruck4HIT in 2020, but the pandemic delayed that until this year. While he still competed in the event the past two years with his colleagues at RideAway Adventures — McRae manages the company’s Sandwich location where he leads kayak and SUP tours and lessons during the summer — the virtual and hybrid formats didn’t offer him the full Ruck4HIT experience.
A former all-academic defensive back at Framingham State University who later went on to play semi-professional football with the Taunton Gladiators, USA Eagles Football Club, and the Györ Sharks in Hungary, the race is well-suited for the diminutive McRae who was often seen wearing shorts in below-freezing temperatures during training sessions this winter. “I think it is a football mindset, in those extreme environments, of being able to push aside all the other stuff,” he said. “It’s that mental mindset to focus on exactly what you’re there to do. I’m sure there’s an overlap with the military.”
Armed with two years’ worth of training, McRae feels better prepared, not only physically, but mentally as to what he can expect when he puts on a rucksack on Friday, April 29 and sets out to run anywhere from 20 to 30 miles over the course of 36 hours. “When I first agreed to do the ruck two years ago, I didn’t know what I was going to be doing so as I was approaching it, I was getting really nervous,” he admitted. “I’ve been able to digest it and learn more about the people participating in it and about the event itself. Now I feel like I have a better strategy leading up to it.”
It has also allowed him to realize what the race means for the people that Heroes In Transition’s serves. He has cousins who are serving in the Marines and the Navy and both of his grandfathers served in the Army. And his team has individuals who have served, including its captain Wayne MacDonald, a Marine veteran.
“To be a part of the Ruck4HIT and Heroes In Transition, especially having been around this for three years has opened my eyes to how many people are those heroes who have served our country and made far greater sacrifices than anything I’ve ever done,” he said. “The more I’ve been involved with this community, the more I’ve realized the importance of the work that Heroes does. It has been cool and something that I don’t think I would have experienced if I had done the [traditional] ruck that first year. I think it’s allowed me to have a greater appreciation for this event.”