Athletes Of The Month: Ryan Blackwell and Melissa Pizarro


Ryan Blackwell

When Ryan Blackwell decided he wanted to lose some weight, he gradually got into the sport of running by jogging 1/4 mile at a time with steady increases. Jumping right in, he and his wife, Elizabeth, set some extended goals for their health and fitness, and started training for the Chicago Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon in July 2014.

Shortly after, they ran the Chicago Triathlon in August, and Ryan did his first full marathon that October. After several more races, the couple was “bit with the triathlon bug,” and made the Ironman their ultimate goal. Ryan completed the Ironman 70.3 Steelhead in Benton Harbor, Mich. in 2015, and soon the entire family of five was doing triathlons together. Ryan’s 2016 season has been busy as well, and is currently working towards getting the ultimate title of Ironman on Sept. 11.

Aside from competing, Ryan collects donated items and creates care packages for 75 to 125 homeless people in Chicago a week. On Sunday and Wednesday nights, Ryan and Elizabeth go out and distribute these items on the streets between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. “Not only is he killing his training for Ironman WI, he is setting an example of what true humanity is,” Elizabeth says about her husband.

Melissa Pizarro

Born and raised in Chicago, Melissa Pizzaro originally took up running to lose weight, and it ended up becoming her favorite hobby.

Pizarro began training for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in 2012, and throughout the course of that year she lost 80 pounds. Instantly, she was hooked, and began compet- ing in several Ultra-length races. The following June, Melissa competed in the Kettle Moraine 100 mile Ultra Marathon, and then the Potawami 150 in Pekin in April 2014, where she placed third female and seventh overall.

After having her daughter Emilia, however, Melissa struggled to continue with training, until Melissa was surprised with the registration of the Potawatomi Ultra Marathon as a gift. She only had about four months to train for the April 7, 2016 race due to some hip injuries, but she finished the 200 mile race in 66 hours and 53 minutes. Despite being the only female finisher, Melissa placed third overall.