Excerpts from the nwherald.com:

Woodstock’s Matt Thuma has been a regular at the Crystal Lake Half Marathon since the 13.1-mile race became a staple of the running community. The 54-year-old Crystal Lake firefighter may not place among the top finishers, but that’s for a good reason.

Unlike other runners, Thuma, who got his start in long-distance races about 20 years ago, crosses the finish line wearing more than 42 pounds of gear: boots, a turnout coat and pants, gloves, a helmet and air tank. He tries to do three or four long-distance events a year, ran his 20th Crystal Lake Half Marathon Sunday morning. He’s done them all with his full PPE. 

Matt, who has been a firefighter/paramedic for 35 years, guesses that he has raced in about 50 marathons and other long-distance events since the start of 2000, both in and out of gear. The 2000 Chicago Marathon was the first in gear .

He first ran in full gear to bring awareness to the heightened risk of firefighters developing cancer in the line of duty. He has also run for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Lymphoma and Leukemia Society. Any money raised for this year’s Crystal Lake Half Marathon will go to support The Break teen center in Crystal Lake. Matt’s final race before the COVID-19 pandemic halted most running events was in Honolulu where two other firefighters ran the race in full gear. 

Thuma said the support he gets from other runners and spectators is a big part of what keeps him going.