If you haven’t heard of the Izzo Brothers, that’s about to change in 2019. They’re taking the running world by storm and using the sport to make an impact within their communities. This month, they each ran 100 miles during the Houston Marathon weekend -- 118 km on treadmills at the expo followed by the Houston Marathon (42.2 km) the next day. We got the opportunity to speak with Matt Izzo about how he and his two brothers embarked on their longest treadmill run to date to raise money for the Houston Marathon Foundation.
AfterShokz: What was your training like leading up to the Treadmill Challenge/Houston Marathon?
Matt: We place a significant focus on the amount of time we spend on our feet versus the actual mileage. This typically includes back-to-back long runs on the weekends, where the goal is always to finish a long run still feeling like we have a little more to give. We utilize walk breaks during our long runs (many times at a 3:1 ratio of 45 minutes of running and 15 minutes of walking). That allows the body to reset, gives us a chance to rehydrate/fuel fully, and then we can increase the time on our feet without straining our bodies too much.
AfterShokz: What was the most difficult part of the Treadmill Challenge?
Matt: We had a few hurdles to overcome which fell outside of a regular ultra race. The first was the starting time; this proved to be rather difficult because we had to start running at 1 a.m. Since the expo closed at 6 p.m. on Saturday, we had to have our miles completed by then. The night before we set alarms for 12:15 a.m. and got in bed around 8:30 p.m. With all the excitement, I think I got under 30 minutes of sleep.
When we began at 1 a.m., it was around 21 degrees in Houston, and they turned off the AC overnight in the building, so it was pretty hot in there. Luckily we planned ahead and brought several fans to cool us down. Eventually, the AC was turned on, and we were able to cool down a bit.
Other than that, it was just having our bodies align with running in place for so long. Leading up to this event the most extended mileage any of us had done on a treadmill was a 4-hour run (32-40 km). It was dark outside, and we were in a huge, empty convention centre with a lot of windows, there were reflections everywhere. Kilometres 16-40 were probably the most difficult as it felt a little dizzying bouncing up and down with all the lights. Once the sun came up and runners attending the expo started to show up around 8:30 am, things got much better for us.
AfterShokz: What was the feeling like after completing the Treadmill Challenge and Houston Marathon (161 km)?
Matt: I felt energized… followed by exhausted a few hours later! No matter how tired and broken down you may be, nothing picks you back up like a finish line. The announcer, Mark Purnell, saw that we were coming and gave us an epic finishing announcement which meant a lot to us. We were thrilled to have such a cool ending to a weekend filled with raising money for a fantastic cause, the Houston Marathon Foundation.
AfterShokz: What’s your recovery routine after running 161 km?
Matt: Directly after, it’s a big meal (we start talking about this before we even finish!), a much-needed nap, plenty of water, and some light foam rolling. The night is filled with a few celebratory drinks and reflecting on the last few days.
The following days after the finish we’ll place a focus on light active recovery. We really try and be conscious we aren’t sitting around too long, which isn’t hard as we all have young kids. Typically, 3-4 days after an ultra finish, will be a light, slow 30-minute recovery run.
AfterShokz: Tell us more about the Houston Marathon Foundation and their mission.
Matt: The Houston Marathon Foundation is everything good about running. They break their mission into 4 different categories: Youth initiatives, community development, athletes with disabilities, and elite US athlete development. Overall they do an unbelievable amount for the city of Houston’s running community and the staff is some of the most genuine, hard-working people we’ve ever met. It was an honour to help them on their mission this year.
AfterShokz: How long have you and your brothers been running together?
Matt: People are always surprised to hear that we didn’t grow up runners. My brothers ran a little bit in high school, but it was something that started to stick with us later in life, post-college. My older brother, Paul, was first to try out a half marathon, and within the year all of us were on board signing up for a race. Our first ultra race together was May 2013, the Keys 80 km. It was an extremely hot race that we ended up learning a lot from. Ever since then we have had the bug every few months to meet up and run a long distance race together.
AfterShokz: How do you train together when you all live in different locations?
Matt: The big key to our training is the motivation we provide each other. We continuously have a group text going with someone talking about a race they want to sign up for or describing how a recent training run went. Trust me, if you are sitting there sipping coffee, haven’t run yet for the day, and receive a text from your brother that he just completed a 32 km run, it makes you want to get up and go for a run. If we are signed up for a big race that we plan on running together, the training seems to come more naturally because nobody wants to be the one that holds the other up.
AfterShokz: What has been your biggest accomplishment in the sport of running?
Matt: Honestly, we don’t consider anything we do with the running itself an accomplishment. The fact that we are all healthy, capable, and have a life that allows us to train, is an absolute privilege. By allowing running to be our common bond and participating in races together, it forces the relationship between us to stay tight. On top of all this, we can give back to others through running which is a real driver for us. So to come full circle, I guess you could say raising money and inspiring others through running is our real accomplishment.
AfterShokz: How has running brought you and your brothers closer?
Matt: We’ve lived through a lot of highs and lows out on the trail together. A lot goes unsaid between us and hinges on a feeling we have. At the end of the day, it provides us with a level of respect and understanding between the three of us.
AfterShokz: How many ultramarathons have you completed? Are there more on the horizon?
Matt: The Houston 161 km was the 5th ultra we have completed together (dating back to our first 100 in Vermont, 2015). We have completed several other races including 14 80 km and 12 50ks between the 3 of us. As for what’s next, we put a lot of time and energy into training/planning for the Houston 100. We owe it to our families who have been so supportive, to dial it down for a few months and cut back on training hours. One of our biggest focuses for 2019 is to build speed and train for a fast marathon in the fall and hopefully be in attendance at Boston 2020.
AfterShokz: How has AfterShokz impacted the way you work out?
Matt: We’re all fathers, so being able to run with a stroller, and hear our children if they need something is so important. When the three of us are running together, it's amazing not to have to continually turn our music up/down or take an earbud out of one ear. I love being able to have a conversation while also listening to my music. It’s a beautiful thing when technology can seamlessly enhance your sporting experience rather than hinder it.
AfterShokz: What are your next goals in the running world?
Matt: We have joked around about wanting to do a 161 km treadmill run, around the world, on a jet. We know it sounds crazy, but seriously, do you know anyone with a plane we could borrow!? 😉As to some of our more down to earth goals (pun intended), we would like to run some of the iconic ultra races like the Western States or Leadville. These races have lotteries which makes it pretty difficult when there are three of us to all get in at once, but we will keep trying!
For more on the Izzo Brothers and the Houston Marathon, click here and here.