DEARBORN, Mich. – February is American Heart Month -- a time to raise awareness about heart disease and how we can prevent it.
It's a cold, rainy day on Belle Isle, but the weather isn't keeping Matt Laura from his daily run. It's been a part of his daily routine for the last two years. That wasn't always the case. Back in 2013, the 46-year-old father had congestive heart failure.
"Something just wasn't right, so I drove myself to the hospital," Laura said. "I don't remember driving to the hospital, but my car was there, and I knew I got there."
Laura was born with a prolapsed mitral valve and didn't know. He had to get open-heart surgery and rely on medication to regulate his cholesterol and blood pressure.
"As I got into my mid-30s I started to get tired, have not a lot of energy, not a lot of motivation. I started to gain a lot of weight," Laura said. "One day I was sitting in my office and I didn't know where I was or how to get to one part of the school to the other."
Laura, who's a choir teacher at Fordson High School in Dearborn, decided to make a change and started running.
"I've never been a runner ever. We had this running joke -- my students and I -- that if you see me running, get behind me because there's a pack of wild dogs," Laura said. "Something really bad is happening if I'm running."
Laura said his driveway is 200 feet long and he would use that as a measurement at first. It took three days for Laura to become more confident and comfortable with running. It took three weeks for him to get to running a mile.
He said running a mile was rewarding, so he kept pushing himself.
After finishing 14 5K runs, he moved onto 10K runs. Then he pushed himself for longer distances and has been doing half-marathons.
Laura is now 50 pounds lighter than he was when he started, and he doesn't need his heart medicine anymore. He said he barely recognizes himself when he looks at old photos.
He's now preparing for a full marathon and has his sights set on crossing the finish line at the Detroit Free Press/Chemical Bank Marathon in October.
"I want that 26.2 sticker for my car, and I don't know what happens when I get there," Laura said. "Maybe that's good enough, maybe it's not."
Laura said a person can't grow if they don't push themselves. After the marathon, he's considering training for an ultramarathon.
He said there's no stopping him.