My name is Levi Rizk. I run ultramarathons. I am of Egyptian background and am a Coptic Orthodox Christian, who lived half my life in Egypt and half my life in the US. I spent some time in California, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Florida before moving to Virginia in 2013. I am married to Mandy Rizk, and we have one daughter who was born in September of 2014. I took my first job as a family physician in Virginia, and we have been here ever since. As a child, I was in Egypt, and this limited my exposure to sports. I never would consider myself athletic, which will help you understand me better as I explain the rest of my story.
Before I start explaining this running thing. I have a disclaimer. There is nothing special about me. I am a regular person, just like you or anyone for that matter. I didn’t even know anything about running until 10 years ago or so. I didn’t grow up being athletic. Growing up in Egypt, the resources were simply just not available, nor did anything like running exist that I knew of at least. As you will see the more I explain, this simply is that God has given me the ability to do something only He can do and I know He only allows me to do it for His glory and purpose.
I have only been running for a little over 10 years now and like I said, I didn’t know much about running when I first started. In fact, the only time I ran, was when I was in trouble at home. I didn’t know what a marathon meant until I was over 20. I ran my first marathon a year later. Since then, the journey progressed to multiple marathons, and a few years later I learned about ultramarathons. In a nutshell, an ultra is any distance that goes beyond the 26.2 miles typically run in a marathon. I never imagined I could do, or be a part of, anything like that. I hate saying how many races I’ve done, or talking about it in general. I always have this fear that I’m making this about me, and my wife is always reminding me that by hiding what God has done or is doing, it is the same as bragging about it. He has the ability to do anything in us when we are willing, but if I don’t share it, I am keeping it all for myself and my glory, just as if I was broadcasting it for my own benefit. It’s much harder for me to share this than if no one in the whole world knew I did it.
In fact when I met my wife, no one knew about my running, and I had been doing ultramarathons for years at that point. She didn’t know that no one knew and started asking people who love me what they thought about it. She was in for a huge surprise when they didn’t even know I ran. It is very easy for me to isolate myself and make this just about me, and not what God is doing. Over time, God has shown me how to be vulnerable and share what He has enabled me to do. I’ve learned that keeping this to myself is another form of pride. It is much easier to do that.
I have encountered so many failures over my years of running and little by little I have grown to learn from each of them. When I do these races it is like the race of a life, only it is intensified over the race period, which is usually 24-48 hours. I realized that in life we are all running a race. Everyone has a different pace, but we are all running toward God or away from Him and these races cause me to intensify that run toward Him. Every time I do a race, even if I’ve done it before, it is the hardest physical, mental and spiritual thing I have encountered to that point in my life. It changes me every time and although I learn about myself a little more each time; I learn more about God, who He is and what He can do in me more than anything else. These races don’t allow me to put limits on God; each race I do is a testimony to His strength in me and I see it as an act of faith each time because I know I can’t finish it without Him.
This September, I will be embarking on my greatest challenge yet: a run across America in just under 100 days. I will be running over 3,000 miles and over 40 miles/day for 3 consecutive months. This will be unlike anything I have ever attempted before. Truthfully, I don’t know if my body can hold up to such an extreme and grueling task but there is only one way to find out. At the end of the day, this run an this campaign is NOT about me. It’s about the work that God is doing through an organization I believe in. The HOPE Association has dedicated their mission to meeting some of the greatest needs in our community and through their dedication to children in need, thousands of children will find hope and healing who otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to find it.
That’s what this campaign is about. It’s about the inspiration of a nobody like myself inspired to accomplish something so much bigger than myself for His glory and His work. It’s about the knowledge that my irrelevant passion for running can be used for such an amazing work and it is my hope that my passion may inspire your passion and together, we can meet people’s greatest needs using our God-given greatest passions.