Josh Izewski’s brilliant time of 1:03.38 to finish fourth overall in the 2021 Philadelphia Distance Run half-marathon would have been impressive enough in its own right.
But then later everyone finds out it was “just a training run’’ for the Chicago Marathon a few weeks later.
Scary to think what the Central Bucks East High School graduate would have run if the PDR happened to be his sole training target.
Izewski estimates he could have run sub-1:01, which would have been good enough to take first place and the $3,000 top prize. But when you compete in as many elite races as he has, it’s really no big deal.
If you want real headlines, it’s probably his 17th place finish (2:14.15) in the 2020 U.S. Men’s Olympic Marathon Trials or finishing 45th overall and second American in the 2016 World Triathlon Grand Final.
At 31, Izewski’s best times may still be in front of him. For example: Galen Rupp, who won those 2020 U.S. Trials, turns 36 in May.
“The plan was to treat it (the PDR) as a workout,’’ Izewski said in a Tuesday telephone conversation from his home in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. “I ran the pace I was going to use for Chicago. I was just happy to be able to come back to Philly and race in what is basically my hometown area. But I would like to come back and run it someday as a ‘headline’ race or something I’m peaking for.’’
Izewski was born in Illinois and moved with his family to Doylestown when he was age 7. His athletic career at CBE actually began with an emphasis on swimming; he didn’t take up running full time until his senior year when he won PIAA honors for indoor track in the 3,000 meters.
After a productive but slightly uneven running career at the University of Florida, Izewski already had two legs of the triathlon in his back pocket. So the transition to the third segment, the bicycle, wasn’t a big reach.
In recent years he’s branched out into coaching with the Garden State Track club. He’s also affiliated with the ZAP Endurance professional race team (a non-profit training center for post-collegiate, Olympic hopeful runners), which has a facility in Blowing Rock, hence the move south.
Josh’s dad, Ron, actually got him into running at a young age. Ron took his son to accompany him in one of the Bucks 5K Series races. The nine-year-old Josh ran alongside his dad for the first mile, then looked up at him.
“I was like, ‘can I run faster?’ And he’s like just go,’’ Josh said with a chuckle. “Stay with the group. At CBE, I did swimming and running until my senior year, then decided to commit to running. It kind of worked out well for me.’’
Izewski believes he could have done better at the Olympic Trials in Atlanta as well. He was injured for much of his training build-up to the event, pushing through a quadricep muscle problem as well as a bad case of the flu.
“Ten days before I had to get a cortisone shot (for inflammation) in my lower leg,’’ he explained. “It was a good race for the day but more like something where I took away the positives of how I executed. I ran a smart race rather than what I was capable of.’’
Coaching has been both rewarding and a way of giving back to the sport he loves. He works with some of the top athletes in the U.S. Northeast.
“It’s exciting to see people achieve their goals, improve and see the dedication they have even if they’ve been doing it twice as long as I have,’’ he said.
Izewski practices what he preaches.
“I tell them it (marked improvement) is not going to happen overnight,’’ he said. “It’s a week-to-week, month-to-month training cycle. It’s a slow process but if you keep consistent and keep doing what you’re doing, you will see results. Sometimes consistency is the hardest thing, especially during the COVID era.’’
One of his unique accomplshments was running and winning the Grandfather Mountain race near his home in Blowing Rock.
“It basically starts at about 3,000 feet,” Izewski said. “Over the next five miles it climbs about 400 feet per mile. You finish at the top of Grandfather Mountain. I would say it’s probably THE hardest race I’ve ever done because it’s not like you’re running, it’s like you’re on the squat (weight lifting) rack for 30 minutes. It feels like your muscles are going to rip through your skin.’’
Josh was able to make it home to Pennsylvania for the holidays to visit family, including his dad, his mom, Christine (a former nurse); along with his brother, Alex, and sister, Nicole. Alex, by the way, ran one year for Florida, then finished at Temple University. Recently he completed his first marathon in the 2:45 range.
For Josh, his post-running career goal is to pursue both a masters degree and Ph.D in physics. But he doesn’t want to begin a graduate school program until his running career starts to wind down.
“I would like to teach physics at some point,’’ he said, “but it’s a loose plan right now.’’
Coming up quickly on Izewski’s race calendar is the Houston Marathon, a fast course which has hosted the U.S. Marathon Trials in the past.
Then it’s off to Boston to challenge the world’s most famous marathon.
The goal at Houston is something in the 2:10 range, a time which would put him up among some of the fastest competitors in the country.
Those interested in possibly being coached by Josh can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It could take a little work but he just might get you to the top of Grandfather Mountain.
BCRR Winter Series Tyler Challenge 10K, 9 a.m., Tyler State Park, Newtown. Contact www.bcrrclub.com