Running is like Traveling the Oregon Trail- Patrick Rizzo

I knew about Patrick Rizzo a long time before we actually met, and not in the way you might think. Yes, he is a VERY fast marathoner, and has been an elite for many years, but I did not know him because of his times, but his personality. He is a character. One of the funniest people you will ever meet. He is one of those people who gives you a stomach ache because you are laughing SO hard, you know those belly laughs, an evening with him, and I had more of those than I did all year.

He came up to me at the Chicago Marathon Press Conference years ago and I could finally put a name to a face, but it was only at dinner that night where I really got to see this awesome person for myself. We had even more time to get to know one another at the Bix7, which was fun! His personality comes out in this post, but if you want to see it more, make sure you check out his blog.

This is a picture from dinner at the Chicago Marathon. Patrick is on the right, and Alexi was feeding her "brother" as part of our dysfunctional family we made up that day....long story!
This is a picture from dinner at the Chicago Marathon. Patrick is on the right, and Alexi was feeding her “brother” as part of our dysfunctional family we made up that day….long story!

Introducing: Rizzo!

Patrick Rizzo is a 2:13 marathoner who placed 13th at the 2012 Olympic trials and 26th at the 2008 Olympic trials in the marathon. He qualified for the 2016 Olympic trials with a 2:15:53 last year at the Houston Marathon. He’s been top-10 in US Championships in events ranging from 8km to marathon in his career spanning from 2006 to current.

Pat is from Schaumburg, Illinois and is a graduate of North Central College (IL, 2005) where he was a 7x All-American in cross-country and track and field. Rizzo now lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Patrick Rizzo

Let me begin by thanking Tina for hosting my blog here, I hope you enjoy the content and get something from it. I host my own blog on RunnerSpace if you want to learn more about me.

The life of a runner isn’t smooth and easy.  I’d liken it to traveling the Oregon Trail in the 19th centurt via Conestoga wagon. Things get in the way, like dysentery, loss of an ox, and your wagon sometimes sinks if you don’t cross at bridges (and Tommy dies with it!).

And don’t forget that all we really want to do anyway is hunt, hunt, and hunt. Still it is important to keep progress in mind and remember that some stops to hunt along the way are more fruitful while others end in snakebites.

We all know what our point “A” is and sometimes we even think we know how far point “B” is from there.

Sometimes we’re right and sometimes point “B” moves. Example: when I first decided to quit my coaching job in 2006 to pursue running as a career and move to Michigan as part of the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, I expected this to be a short endeavor. I expected that my talent would limit me, and I’d make it one Olympic trials, and go back to coaching.

I’m now preparing for my 3rd Olympic trials with no end in sight.

Point “B” for me has always been a frame-of-mind point. I’ve arrived at my end point when I HAVE to go for a run when I wake up instead of GETTING to go for a run.

Don’t read this wrong. We all have days here or there when the mercury dips too deeply or rises too high for our desires and we contemplate our sanity attempting to go achieve anything of quality. Sometimes, we even succumb to our intuition that today just might be a better day to rest and tomorrow a better quality day.

It’s what you do on the tomorrow and how you approach that day you put off that often answers the question of whether or not your heart is still in it. Some call those days delayed “getting soft” and others call it “getting wiser.” But either way, did you still itch a little too much while you stayed in instead of braving the element?

That answers the question of your fire’s intensity.

My path on the “Oregon Trail” of running has been dotted with cholera, typhoid, snakebite, and some unsuccessful hunts. People judge the hunts from the outside. What are my races like? What must I be doing wrong? How am I approaching those races? What changed since I spent a year shredding my personal bests weekly to now?

The answers aren’t always so simple.

Sometimes training gains come long before it translates properly to racing. Sometimes something external like a death in the family can ruin, emotionally and mentally, a great training block to a key race. Sometimes it is even just that your body hasn’t recovered from the training you put in.

There are a million things that need to go right for a race to go perfectly, especially a marathon, when you add factors like wind and weather, fueling in the long and short-term.

My last 18 months have had a lot of “failures” and a small list of successes. I moved to a new home at a higher altitude, leaving behind my training group and coach; I lost my long-term sponsor in January; I changed work locations, going back to a longer commute as a result; I got engaged (YAY!); I even decided to race and travel less.

Some of those things helped me and some hurt. I still have been adjusting to the self-coached approach. I even have people now that I consult about my training and get sound feedback from.

I have routes mapped out now from home for flat, hilly, long, and tempo runs. I work out with people in the area when I can. I have a better work-run balance than I did 6 months ago and have a very understanding (understatement of the year) fiancée that deals well with my running needs as well.

The financial hit from losing my sponsor are still there, but I’m dealing with them and have a solid support from some local reps that have kept shoes on my feet to train in.

I have gotten a lot of my old roadblocks dealt with lately and have put together about 3 months of solid training since L.A. Marathon this spring.

Racing just didn’t reflect that yet.

I have a lot of time still left before the trials in February and I’m sure that I’ll have a hundred more hurdles thrown at me. For now, I am just taking my workouts and weeks one at a time and looking forward to every day I get to go run in beautiful Colorado. Perspective and growth have gotten me through 9 years in this sport successfully and they’ll get me through my rough racing patch now.

My wagon hasn’t sunken; it just took on a little water is all.

[bctt tweet=”Running is like the Oregon Trail? Yep! Loved this from @RunPRizzo on @tinamuir blog!” via=”no”]

Isn’t he awesome? For more Rizzo-ness, Follow his blog on

elite runner, funny running stories

Related Posts


  • It’s always great to read how, even though you are an Olympic trials runner (read: faster then I will ever dream to be!) you struggle just much, if not more, as someone running say a 7:30 pace 🙂 I loved the analogy of the Oregon Trail b/c yes, sometimes you get a snakebite out there and you just have to suck out the venom and keep going.
    Best of luck to you and thanks for filling in for Tina!

  • I think it is always interesting to read about male elite runners and what they eat. I cannot imagine how hard it was to lose a sponsor but you’ll be able to bounce back from it. It’s awesome you got engaged and good luck with wedding planning (not that the male really does a lot.) 🙂

  • The Oregon Trail game pretty much defined my childhood, so I love that you have brought it back for this. Damn river crossings. But I agree–it takes study, determination, mistakes and accidents, and a lot of pointless luck to be successful. Great post!

  • I love his Patrick’s analogy of the Oregon Trail – some circumstances we control, while others are completely at the whimsy of fate, but the ultimate decider is our reaction to them. Best of luck to you, Patrick – both in running and in wedding planning!

  • Best of luck to you in your training for February and a huge congrats on your engagement! It was a treat to read about your journey. I am so intrigued by elite runners. Thanks so much for sharing!!

  • It’s always interesting to hear how runners at any speed face some of the same challenges!

  • It’s great to read about your story and hard to believe that someone who runs a 2.13 marathon has had such difficulties to deal with in terms of sponsorship. You sound like you’re a tough guy and will no doubt accomplish great things. Best of luck and l look forward to following your progress 🙂

Comments are closed.