Run­ning Celebrity

Teenage Mu­tant Ninja Tur­tle Voice Ac­tor Matt Hill

Canadian Running - - DEPARTMENTS -

Eleven-thou­sand miles. That’s how far Matt Hill and Steph Tait, co-founders of Run for One Planet, a grass­roots en­vi­ron­men­tal aware­ness cam­paign, ran while spread­ing a mes­sage of sus­tain­able ad­vo­cacy. That’s long enough to reach from the west coast of B.C. to the east coast of New­found­land, to dip down to the south­ern­most bor­der of the United States, trace the U.S./Mex­ico bor­der and then reach back up to B.C. It’s long enough to run over 420 marathons, to burn over 3 mil­lion calo­ries and to in­spire count­less in­di­vid­u­als. One can only as­sume that as Cana­di­ans, Hill and Tait chose 11,000 miles as their dis­tance catch­phrase be­cause it rolls off the tongue a bit more eas­ily than their home­land met­ric value of “seven­teen-thou­sand, seven-hun­dred and two, point eight kilo­me­tres.”

Whether you count in miles or kilo­me­tres, heck, whether you’re a run­ner or not, Hill’s mantra res­onates: “I truly see life as a marathon, it’s a jour­ney that has to be taken one step at a time.”

Hail­ing from North Van­cou­ver, Hill re­mem­bers his run­ning jour­ney start­ing early – re­ally early. “I have this vivid mem­ory of my mom ac­ci­den­tally leav­ing the door open when I was a kid. I took off – I was out run­ning cir­cles around our cul-de-sac. I was three years old. That was when I first knew the power of a run.”

When Hill was 10, he watched Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope. Run­ning wasn’t the young Hill’s only in­ter­est though. “When I was 13, I snuck off to get an act­ing agent,” Hill re­calls. Thirty-six years later, Hill can credit a suc­cess­ful ca­reer as one of the most no­table voice-over ac­tors Canada has ever pro­duced to that act of parental de­fi­ance. Hill’s voice has lent per­son­al­ity to some of the icons of child­hood, in­clud­ing Raphael of Teenage Mu­tant Ninja Tur­tles and Ten­der­heart from Care Bears.

In the midst of a suc­cess­ful voice-act­ing ca­reer, Hill never for­got his dream of em­u­lat­ing his hero and us­ing his life to en­act change in the lives of oth­ers. His an­swer came to him at 28,000 feet, while on his way to a car­toon con­ven­tion, writ­ing down on a scrap of pa­per: “Run for one planet.”

Talk­ing about that mo­ment now, Hill says, “Here I was on this plane, know­ing that the planet is strug­gling un­der our weight. I wanted to do some­thing that wasn’t about point­ing fin­gers, but about en­cour­ag­ing small steps.”

For Hill, an eight-time Iron­man and ac­com­plished marathoner, tak­ing on such a phys­i­cal chal­lenge was daunt­ing, but not in­com­pre­hen­si­ble. His part­ner, Steph Tait, how­ever, agreed to the chal­lenge with the back­ground of a ca­sual 10k run­ner. “So we had a lot of train­ing to do,” Hill laughs.

The pair trained for two years be­fore get­ting the cam­paign un­der­way. Their prep in­cluded long runs, fo­cus­ing on keep­ing their heart rates down and al­ways leav­ing some­thing in the prover­bial tank. They kicked off their jour­ney at the 2008 Van­cou­ver Marathon. While ev­ery­one else stopped at the fin­ish line, Hill and Tait kept go­ing, run­ning an­other marathon the next day, and the next – for 369 days.

Hill and Tait vis­ited schools and com­mu­nity cen­tres along their route, giv­ing pre­sen­ta­tions on the 10 sus­tain­abil­ity tips that formed the cen­tral fo­cus of their cam­paign. These tips were de­signed to mo­bi­lize kids and res­onate with par­ents: eat lo­cal and or­ganic; turn off your car; elim­i­nate plas­tic bags; use green clean­ers; turn off the lights; turn off the taps; re­duce, re­use, re­cy­cle; com­post; bring your own bot­tle and teach your kids to re­spect the planet.

Hill was ini­tially hes­i­tant to mo­bi­lize the voices of the char­ac­ters he’d played to help spread the mes­sage. Af­ter he’d let slip Raphael’s sig­na­ture “Yo, yo, yo” a few times though, he knew that the en­thu­si­asm of chil­dren was the key to spread­ing the word.

“There were so many spe­cial mo­ments,” Hill says, “but I re­mem­ber get­ting an email from a dad in Hous­ton. It started with some­thing along the lines of, ‘I was ini­tially an­noyed at the per­son who’d got­ten my son all riled up about leav­ing our equip­ment on the farm run­ning while we were do­ing other things. But I sat down and I lis­tened to him and re­al­ized that it’s one thing I can do.’”

Hill cred­its Al Gore’s An In­con­ve­nient Truth as the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind the 10 tips. “The goal was to make our mes­sage ac­ces­si­ble. We wanted the kids to know that their ac­tions count,” says Hill.

Last May, Run for One Planet was awarded the Gov­er­nor Gen­eral ’s Mer­i­to­ri­ous Ser­vice Medal in recog­ni­tion of their con­tri­bu­tion to com­mu­nity well­ness. While the run it­self may be over, Hill’s mes­sage cer­tainly is not. He plans to tackle his first set of ul­tra­ma­rathon races this sum­mer.

“I’m go­ing to keep run­ning and I’m go­ing to keep telling kids that they can make a dif­fer­ence un­til the good lord takes me home,” Hill quips.— CF

“I have this vivid mem­ory of my mom ac­ci­den­tally leav­ing the door open when I was a kid. I took off – I was out run­ning cir­cles around our cul-de-sac.” “I wanted to do some­thing that wasn’t about point­ing fin­gers, but about en­cour­ag­ing small steps.”

LEFT Matt Hill and his part­ner Steph Tait sur­rounded by the shoes that car­ried them on their jour­ney

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