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Deaf inspiration could be U.S. best in Chicago Marathon

XVI Pan American Games - Day 16

XVI Pan American Games - Day 16

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Updated: December 5, 2012 1:53AM

Patrick Rizzo is certainly the local favorite on Sunday at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon. And he could challenge as the top American, too, if that matters in this day and age.

The Schaumburg native, now living in Boulder, Colo., was a seven-time NCAA Division III All-American at North Central.

In 2009, he finished 10th in Chicago with a 2:15:48. That year he also won the Chicago Half Marathon. Last year, he was a pacer in the Chicago Marathon. His personal best (2:13:42) came on Jan. 14 at the Olympic Trials.

The 29-year-old’s story is distinctive as he has begun being more open about his deafness, which began when he was 15 from an allergic reaction to metal poisoning from his braces.

This week he did a Q&A with the Sun-Times.

Question: Did you enjoy being a pacer last year?

Answer: Last year’s pacing was a blast! It’s always high-pressure to be a pacer versus just getting to race it. As pacer, I have to push through the rough patches where I can ride the tides of momentum when I’m racing for myself. Any time I get to race in Illinois is a treat for me though, pacer or otherwise.

Q: Do you have time
goals or a place goal for Chicago?

A: Obviously I have some goals in mind; specifically I want to improve on my personal best. There is never any shame in accomplishing something I’ve never done before, regardless of finishing place. If 20 people happen to beat me and I ran my best, there is no shame walking off the course with my head held high. I just want to make my family, friends, and sponsors proud of whatever effort I put out on Sunday.

Q: Or is being the top American most important?

A: I don’t think it is anymore. I think we’ve raised the bar of American distance running enough in the last few years that it no longer is “us against each other” but rather “me versus all” for everybody. We Americans still note who our top finisher was but we also don’t fear the East Africans or Japanese like we did even 5-10 years ago when I was getting into the sport. It’s great that we’ve elevated ourselves to a point where we don’t separate Americans from the rest of the race. We are mixing it up in the race with EVERYBODY, American and international!

Q: Who would you pick as men’s favorite overall? Your top challenger as an American?

A: There is a solid field assembled this year, arguably the best ever, certainly the deepest ever. I’ll pick [Tsegaye] Kebede or Wesley Korir as my two favorites to win. As far as top Americans, I can’t take anything away from Dathan Ritzenhein or Jimmy Grabow. Both had great races at the Trials in January and for Grabow, he’s just starting to find out if he’s a marathoner. According to his 2:12 debut in January, he’s a guy to worry about.

Q: Do you consider yourself an inspiration for others who are deaf or hearing-impaired?

A: Maybe I don’t give myself enough credit on that front or maybe it is because I’ve only recently become more open with my deafness but I don’t really consider myself to be a guy that anyone is pointing to and saying “I want to be like him!” I hope to get more involved in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community and maybe that will change my perspective on that. If anyone has any suggestions on groups, organizations, or schools where I could possibly influence others who are going through the same stresses that I went through, I’d love to become more involved. I have just recently, after 15 years deaf, come to terms with accepting that I’m never getting my hearing back and just letting people know that I AM deaf.

Q: What is your favorite part of the course?

A: I LOVE the ethnic neighborhoods of Pilsen, Little Italy, and Chinatown. It’s a great place to make a move and the crowd is right there to help!

Q: Since you came from around here, does that alter what you do in the days leading up to the Chicago Marathon? In other words, do you have a set routine, or does it vary with friends and family?

A: I approach my marathons as I do with my full-time job. It is work. I am going to be staying in town for a week after the marathon this time just because I am not sure if I’ll get home for Christmas this year. I try to take every opportunity to see my family when I can. I’m pretty close with all of my family members and with having a niece and two nephews, I try to be a part of their lives too. I don’t want to become the “uncle stranger.”

Q: How many people
will you expect to watch you on Sunday, that you know of? Is there a certain place where they watch?

A: I’ll have my whole family there as well as dozens of friends from North Central College and Schaumburg High School there. The Mizuno guys have been great the last couple times too. Nobody plans [as far as I know] where they’ll all be but I feel like they are there every time I look up! It’s really powerful and I can’t give enough credit and thanks to all of them for the support.

Q: Do you still follow
or pay attention to wrest-ling?

A: My brother coaches wrestling at West Aurora High School, so I still talk wrestling with him from time to time. I still keep in touch with some friends from my wrestling days too, so I get a match or two in a year just tussling around when I go home. I follow wrestling still, but not like I did when I was ON the mat more.

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