Matthew Masi-Phelps is Repeat Winner of Westwood Day 5K (Updated)
Of the 135 runners who crossed the finish line of Westwood Day’s 5K, Westwood native Matthew Masi-Phelps, a 27 year-old resident of New York, came out on top once again, with a finishing time of 17:53, beating his winning time in 2021 over the same course by well over a minute.
This year, Mr. Masi-Phelps's nearest competitor was 19-year old Westwood resident Noah Wilson, with a second-place time of 18:42. Starting outside Westwood’s Senior Center, this year’s 5K race again took runners through surrounding neighborhoods before finishing on the Westwood High School track.
With Mr. Masi-Phelps’s back-to back wins, it might be surprising for one to learn that he only took up running in 2021. Before that, the extent of his competitive running experience was participating in cross country at Thurston Middle School.
His mother, Mary Masi-Phelps, is not sure where her son gets the speed. “He doesn’t get the speed from me, but maybe he gets the endurance. I do like to walk a lot. I used to run in my earlier days, but never as fast as he runs,” she says.
“I started running last year and sort of caught the bug, as people say,” said Mr. Masi-Phelps, explaining how he got into running. “Been doing a lot of races, really just running most days."
While he wasn't a runner in the past, Mr. Masi-Phelps was athletic, playing both soccer and lacrosse in high school and then biking in college. But back then, he says, “I always would see marathon runners and think, ‘That’ll never be me.’” He would try to run a couple of miles and everything would hurt.
But when COVID hit, Mr. Masi-Phelps moved back in with his parents, and went on a bike ride every day, to which he attributes building up his fitness. Eventually, he switched to running. "So, I think COVID really got me into endurance sports,” he said.“For me, it’s just the 30 minutes or an hour each day to kind of clear my head,” he adds.
Mr. Masi-Phelps doesn’t have a coach, but he actively educates himself about running by reading books, watching videos, and following running influencers on social media.
“And I’ve also come to realize that most of my training has to be at a slower pace,” he reveals. You can’t just run every day as fast as you can. That’s a way to get injured. That’s the way to fall out of love with running. So, you really have to go out, and take most days slowly, and then it actually becomes enjoyable. It doesn’t hurt. Your lungs aren’t on fire. You can just go at a nice, easy pace. Occasionally, throw in a faster workout, but keeping most days easy keeps it a bit of fun,” he says.
“[I]f you really wanted to get into running, it’s all about just getting out most days and doing everything easy. Learn not to go out and kill yourself and do a PR [personal record] every day. You just have to go out at your own pace, and you can really improve and have fun," says Mr. Masi-Phelps.
Coming up for Mr. Masi-Phelps is the Boston Athletic Association Half Marathon in November. But his running goals include keeping it fun. Along with getting faster, he wants to travel and run to “cool” and scenic places.
“We’re pleased and proud,” said Mr. Masi-Phelps’s father, Bruce Masi-Phelps.
Congratulations to Matthew Masi-Phelps and thanks to him and his parents, Mary Masi-Phelps and Bruce Masi-Phelps, for speaking with Westwood Minute.
Updated 9/20/22. Editor's note: Westwood Minute is in now in touch with Galina Yatsenko for an interview, as the fastest woman of Saturday's race. Thanks to reader Jen R. who passed along the invitation! Just letting readers know that there's no need for further help in making that connection.
Typographical errors have been corrected.