Why We Run – Family and Giving Back to the Running Community

Every race goal we have accomplished has been through one of us having a crazy idea to set the bar higher, faster, and/or further. This cycle is how we have come to be – one of us runs, and the other runs further, then another runs faster, all the while we are supporting each other and trying get to the next level. Whether or not we are running the same race, we are all in it together.

While we are on this particular running journey together, each of us has started our journey at different times and for different reasons. Ultimately, running is what has brought us closer together as a family and is what keeps our bond strong. We’re so thankful to be a part of the running world because it is such a supportive group of like-minded people who lift each other up when we need it most. As a team, we strive to keep our mindset light, passionate and as positive as possible.  Collectively, we’ve run fifteen 100-mile races, fourteen 50-milers, seven 66Ks, five 50Ks, and 51 marathons.

How We Got Started – If We Can Do It, Anyone Can Do It!

Paul (oldest brother) – I signed up for my first marathon in 2010 and it was really just to do something active and to help me get in better shape post-college. I grew up watching my dad run, staying active, and playing any and all sports. I am competitive by nature, so I was attracted to running a race and seeing how I would fare once I put in the training. After the marathon, I told my brothers how much I enjoyed the entire journey of running a race – the training, the marathon and the post-run recovery. I was extremely happy when they decided to sign up for their first races.  I ran my first Houston marathon in 2011 and this year (2020) will be my 10th consecutive Houston marathon.

Matt (youngest brother) – October 4th, 2009: This was the day I declared I wanted to be a runner. I went to watch my Dad, a retired army general, run the Army Ten Miler in Washington, DC. I showed up with the simple intention to cheer on my old man, but I left with a decision that changed the trajectory of my life both mentally and physically. That day, while cheering on runners, I decided I would run the race next year. The idea seemed daunting, as I had just graduated college and was pushing 200 lbs. (about 60 lbs. heavier than what I am now) – but also thrilling.

After a year of training, a lot of mistakes and even more lessons, I took the course in the 2010 Army Ten Miler. The positivity I felt from fellow runners, mixed with all the energy I felt from the crowd that I was once in, had me instantly hooked. I wanted more. A year later, I built up the courage to run a marathon. And then, a couple years after that, I signed up for my first ultra race. My attitude from the very beginning hasn’t changed much, even though the distance has. I always try keep a positive mindset, to learn from every setback and to focus on moving ahead, one foot at a time.

Stephen (middle brother) – In my mid-twenties, I tried to start running a few times and it never stuck.  It seemed to always fizzle out after just a couple of weeks.  This was before either of my brothers started running.  Then, on a family vacation on Kiawah Island, SC in July 2012, I decided to go for a run with Matt.  I didn’t even have running shoes.  My brother Paul gave me a pair of his to use.  I could barely keep up and finish the 2-3 miles we set out to run.  I was exhausted!  It made me realize how out of shape I really was.  I wanted more though, and I ran a few more times in the days following.  My true running journey began shortly thereafter as I started on a work project in Washington, D.C., which was coincidentally right down the street from where Matt was living.  I began to join him every morning before work to run.  I was hooked.  I felt like I cracked the code.  I loved the energy.  I started to see my endurance increasing, I was starting to enjoy running more and more and I was looking forward to getting up to run.  I loved the other effects too; I was more alert throughout the day, I was eating better, and I could see my perspective and positivity changing all from the simple act of running.  A few weeks later, I signed up for my first full marathon.  As crazy as it may seem, before I even ran that race, we all decided to sign up for our first ultra-marathon (Key West 50-miler).  I ended up going from 0 miles to running a 50-mile race in the span of 10 months.  I was clearly hooked.

Passing Running onto the Next Generation

Our father was a huge motivation in our running. As a two-star army general, he would run every single day. Rain or shine, good or bad mood, tired or not, he was out there. He never tried to get us into running or even mentioned how much he loved it, it was just a part of him and his job. While he is retired, he is still channeling that mindset, pushing himself to run his first marathon at 64 years old. There is no doubt that much of our love for running comes from us growing up watching him in his Army running shirt logging miles week in and week out.

Now as fathers, a huge goal of ours is to pass down the importance of health and fitness to our kids.  Being active and involved in sports can lead to so many other positive avenues in your life. It allows you to gain respect for yourself and your body, which in turn allows you to respect others. It helps you to gain confidence, grow your perspective and connect with your community. And through life’s many ups and downs, you can always turn to running to clear your mind.

Giving Back to the Running Community

Running is a simple platform, yet so multifaceted. All you need is a pair of shoes and a clear path and you can run for hours. By adding friends and mentors to the mix, you have a full-on party and support group. The running community is also very close knit – you can always find someone ready to help pick you up (literally sometimes) and get you through to the next mile.

One common theme that we can all agree on is by spreading good vibes out into the universe, we can strengthen our youth who are the future. We can’t fix all of the world’s problems on our own, but what we can do, each and every day, is put positivity out into the universe by helping one another. Each and every day we can inspire someone or help motivate them, thus making a change in someone’s world. If we can change one person’s life direction, maybe they can change another, and we continue paying it forward.  The running community is constantly there for us, giving encouragement and positivity. It is a big hopeful family and we are so grateful to be a part of it.

The Houston Marathon Foundation helps so many kids as well as the entire Houston running community.  We each ran 73.8 miles on the treadmill on Saturday at the 2019 Houston Marathon EXPO to help raise money for the Houston Marathon Foundation!

Blog written by #houambassadors The Izzo Brothers