Running Past Limits


Sam Hartmann

Some people from Toms River, New Jersey become Major League Baseball players or join the local baseball teams, but Joseph Lazzaro had to work through these expectations with very unique circumstances. 

When Joe was just four-year-old, he needed a surgery on his intestines which prevented him from playing any contact sport. 

Growing up, Lazzaro spent his time pushing his limits to try as many sports as he was medically cleared for. In high school, he played for his tennis, basketball and swim teams. 

He was constantly being guided away from sports where contact was a risk. One common thread between his success in all of these sports was his endurance. His grit helped push him in every sport.

Lazzaro’s neighbor helped influence him in deciding to run track. He had been a wrestler for most of his life, but had decided to run track in high school. He helped Lazzaro realize that track does not require you to have a traditional background to join and succeed within the sport. 

His neighbor had run at Notre Dame and Monmouth, which pushed Lazzaro to have such a strong mindset with running. At the time, he had made it his goal to get recruited to run in college.

Originally, Lazzaro’s plan was to use cross country as a means to train for basketball. However, his coach had a different vision for him. His coach told Lazzaro that if he stayed with running, he was going to be great. 

Lazzaro was initially shocked by the idea because he had thought that his times were just okay during his first season. However, he made the decision to trust in his coach because he had already seen what the coach was capable of making an athlete run. 

After all, this was the same coach who had previous coached Lazzaro’s neighbor and he had seen how low his times dropped. 

Running became a passion of Lazzaro’s when people started to say that he could not run certain distances and make certain times. He thrives on to proving people wrong, which pushed him to work even harder to get recruited. In the end, Lazzaro proved them all wrong by earning a spot on a Division I cross country team. 

After working hard for four years of high school, Quinnipiac offered him a walk-on spot and he jumped at the opportunity to achieve his goal. 

High school had helped him prepare for the challenges he would have to face at the collegiate level. The athletic trainers helped him stay healthy and deal with any setbacks along the way. This past semester, his athletic trainer was his old captain from his first year here at Quinnipiac. The bond that they once had as teammates carried over into this past year of working together. 

Although Lazzaro also runs track, his passion is running cross country. Once most people hear that he runs long distance, they’ll ask if he has ever run a marathon. Lazzaro believes that he could still hit a great time if he trained for it. He even said that he has run 20 miles at a six minute pace, so he knows the drive and discipline a person needs to train and run a marathon.

Running a marathon is an aspiration of his, but nearing the end of his education Lazzaro is starting to think more about his future in the work force. Although running is his passion, Lazzaro is beginning to feel pulled in a bunch of different directions. 

He is hopeful to have enough time in the next few years to sneak a marathon in while he is still able to run it at a competitive pace. The always driven Lazzaro wants to run as low of a time as possible to make the best finish he can and just go for it.

Lazzaro is absolutely certain that he will be a lifelong runner. While he is still young, he does not want to just run – he wants to run competitively. His final season is running for the track team this spring, and instead of using it as a training period for cross country, Lazzaro and his coach have planned to use it as a training season for future road races. 

One thing that Lazzaro loves about getting the chance to run a road race unattached is the fact that he can still wear his Quinnipiac singlet.

 Like all runners do, Lazzaro is starting training by first running a 10k, then a half-marathon before finally getting the chance to run a full marathon. He is hoping this can all happen by early fall.

While talking about running, Lazzaro began to show how much he truly loves running long distance. For Lazzaro, he sees running as both being great for your health and that it lets you experience such a beautiful part of the country. 

He could disappear down a fall trail for 15 miles and be content because of his beautiful surroundings. He’s said that he will never forget some of those runs with his team, especially with the storybook surroundings. 

Coming from an area that is mainly flat and beaches, the hills around Hamden call to Lazzaro. When he first arrived, he looked around campus and said he could see himself making a home here for four years. 

Training at Quinnipiac became a lot different from what he was used to at home. He went from flat runs where time meant everything to having to know how to feel while running with the new addition of hills. Running with the hills has made Lazzaro develop a better mental state while running; there can be times where more and more hills just seem to keep appearing on the course.

After so many years of developing as a runner, Lazzaro is starting his goodbyes to his teammates. He was passed down some advice from his upperclassmen that he now wants to pass down to all of the underclassmen.

“It’s not necessarily the fastest person wins because you have that mentality a lot, like everything you got to go so hard, the competition you are facing is crazy,” Lazzaro said. “It’s more just consistency and staying healthy.” 

A long time ago, Lazarro’s high school coach had told him that you can be fast, but if you’re hurt, it can halt it all. Running has taught Lazzaro to be patient, and that is something you need to be a successful runner. The results are not going to come overnight – Lazzaro has worked for years to be at the level he is at now. 

Lazzaro’s final advice can be summed up in three points: Stay patient, stay on top of rehab, and stay healthy. 

“Running is the perfect sport to teach you life lessons,” Lazzaro said. 

He explained that it can push you to maximize your time between school and sports. From traveling nearly every weekend to training to taking extra classes, this experience has pushed Lazzaro to make the best of his time and experience here at Quinnipiac. 

“When you put ‘Quinnipiac’ on your chest, you hold yourself to a higher standard. When you put ‘Quinnipiac Cross Country’ on your chest, it’s an even higher standard. So rise to the challenge and face everything head on and realize that you’re probably going to make it out on the other side okay.”