While longtime HOKA fans are probably familiar with him, Leo “The Lion” Manzano was one of the first professional track athletes HOKA sponsored in 2014. Beyond his stellar accolades on the track as an 800m and 1500m athlete, Leo exemplified the importance of hard work and commitment before his retirement from the sport in 2019. As athletes are already logging miles for the HOKA Summer Mile Club, we sat down with Leo to hear more about his own training as a high school summer athlete.
Hi all – Leo Manzano here! I’ve been running for a total of 20 years, 11 of which were professional, and I’ve been a HOKA ONE ONE athlete since 2014. Throughout my time as an athlete, some of my greatest accomplishments were running a 3:50 mile, 3:30 in the 1500m and winning the silver medal in the 2012 London Olympics. As I look back at these accomplishments, I credit a lot of it to the strong foundations I built as a young athlete in high school.
There was a lot of hard work that we did behind all the success and as the saying goes, “it takes a village to raise a child,” and I am so grateful for my high school coaches, Coach Futrell and Coach Fletcher. They were actually football coaches, but were so passionate about track and field that when I arrived to Marble Falls High School, they went the extra mile to learn how to train a mid-distance runner. I attribute my success and longevity to the sport to the way they coached me.
I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to train or to be coached as long as it is beneficial to you. The big debate is over quality or quantity, and for me it was all about quality. To give you a better understanding of what training looked like throughout high school, I would have to run back-to-back races with a mile, then 30-40 minutes later jump in the 4x400m. I would always be so tired and in so much pain after running the mile, but finding out how to push through the fatigue and pain was what helped me become faster and stronger. With that being said, I would come back to the 4x400m and close in 49-51 seconds!
Another aspect of training was the amount of miles I ran each week. While some coaches swear by training mid- or long-distance runners with 60-80 miles per week, I ran at most 30-40 miles. With fewer miles to run each week, this taught me how to bring a higher level of intensity and focus to each training session.
One of my favorite high school memories was running workouts of 5-6 X (400m + 200m), running the 400m in about 60-65 seconds, 30 seconds of rest, then running 200m between 26-30 seconds with 3-5 minute rest between sets. It was brutal and taught me how to push through a lot of pain. Looking back, this type of quality-over-quantity training helped me become a better competitor with overall faster times and better closing speeds. I was able to run the 800m in 1:51, 1600m in 4:06, 3200m in 9:07 and won 9 State Championships throughout my high school career.
There was a lot of hard work that went into building these strong foundations in high school, and I wish I incorporated more fun into it like the HOKA ONE ONE Summer Mile Club. Runners can log in their miles and have chances to win awesome HOKA gear such as hats, shirts, shoes and more! Nonetheless, my high school career taught me so much (on and off the track) about discipline and accountability, and I am so grateful for all the opportunities it brought and all the people that helped me along the way.