Faces of Marathon Kids: Running Coach and RunTex Founder, Paul Carrozza

Paul Carrozza was instrumental in bringing Marathon Kids programming to Austin schools. Consider making a donation in his name to sustain the future of free physical activity programming for children.

Paul Carrozza founded RunTex in 1988, and for a solid quarter-century, the specialty running shop was a mainstay in the Austin running scene. Not just a place for runners of all ages and experience levels to buy running shoes and related gear, RunTex also organized and hosted races around town, led training groups and served as headquarters for numerous events, not to mention as a gathering spot for runners to socialize. It was also known among both beginner and experienced runners as the go-to spot for being fitted by salespeople who could analyze runners’ gaits and strides in order to match them with the perfect shoes.

The idea to launch a specialty running shop occurred naturally for Carrozza, “with my passion for running, community and the lifestyle of maintaining youthful fitness for a lifetime.” Back in those early days, Kay Morris was a member of the RunTex running group. Morris had not yet founded Marathon Kids, but her connection with Carrozza, RunTex and the Austin running community were among the seeds for her idea of a nonprofit with a mission of instilling in children a love of running and setting them on the path to a healthier future.

Planting the Seeds of Marathon Kids

The original RunTex store was located near downtown Austin, and was soon successful enough that Carrozza branched out to other locations. “Kay was a master at PR,” he says. “When we opened the North RunTex, she pitched the idea of doing Marathon Kids in the elementary schools nearby to help us promote the new store and connect with the local community.”

Carrozza loved the idea and wanted to take it even further. “We were just starting the Austin Marathon, and this was a perfect fit. I liked her idea so much, we pitched it to all the schools in AISD and then the surrounding school districts.”

And it worked. RunTex produced the Marathon Kids kick-off and final mile events, providing the water bottles, events, tee-shirts and finishers’ medals. “It was an instant hit, and the rest is history. We were the major funders and event producers for the first 10 years, working closely with the great PE teachers and, of course, the magical Kay.”

Shifting Gears and Returning to His Roots

Carrozza looks back fondly on the RunTex years. “We built a race with every company and every non-profit in town. We put water and Gatorade on Town Lake for 25 years.” He refers to the Austin running community as “a great community—like a giant Cheers,” referring to the classic television show about a bar “where everybody knows your name.”

After the store closed in 2013, Carrozza shifted career gears by returning to one of his longtime favorite running activities—coaching. He is the Cross Country and Track & Field coach at St. Stephen’s Episcopal School, which serves sixth- through twelfth-graders, and also has a training program for performance athletes of all ages called BornToRun. In addition, he runs a business and community consulting firm called Carrozza Athletics.

Born to Run, and a Runner for Life

He is still an avid runner, covering between four and eight miles a day with his wife, Sheila, and friends, or with the athletes he coaches. Since quarantine started in Austin in March due to the spread of COVID-19, his running routine has shifted a bit, but not much. These days, he runs alone or with family more often, and with smaller groups of friends. “Running is doing your part to slow the virus,” he says, referring to the mental and physical health benefits conferred by regular, moderate to vigorous exercise.

When asked what he does when running gets tough, Carrozza’s response is straightforward: “You push through to get the benefits of the hard work.” In his mind, dedication to running has the simple and obvious benefits of “a clear mind and strong body.” He believes that “the body is meant to work, and work hard, daily. We feel better when we do. When we don’t, we get weak, depressed and sick.”

For people who want to start running or are considering getting involved with Marathon Kids, whether by joining a run club or becoming a coach, Carrozza again draws from his roots by speaking to the importance of setting a specific goal, finding your community and setting off on the right foot: “Get a coach, join a team, get proper gear and train for something specific.”

To keep Marathon Kids free for all kids, please consider a donation to Paul’s 25th Anniversary Fundraiser.

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