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.
Wondering what Leo’s favorite shoes are now? For daily training, he loves the Hupana; for faster efforts, he wears the Rincon; and for long runs, Leo puts on the Cavu 3.
While the words Hakone Ekiden may not mean much to the average American (even to the devout runner), it’s tantamount to the Superbowl in Japan. An ekiden (駅伝) is a long-distance running multistage relay race popular in Japan that garners nationwide viewership in the millions. What is it about the ekiden that inspires a nation to run long distances? We sat down with Ryo Miyata, an ekiden runner from Reitaku University, to explain just what makes this event so captivating, the importance of the sash, and what he’s learned along the way.
HOKA: First of all, what is an ekiden? What kind of competition is it? Compared to other forms of road running, what’s different about an ekiden?
Ryo: In an ekiden, a runner relays their team’s sash to the next runner, forming a chain for the run. In other races (like a marathon), the runner likely runs for their own interests alone. In an ekiden, the runner can’t afford to do this, because you can’t help but be aware that you are running the race for others. Members who didn’t make the team, or for the next runner, and so forth. I think that’s the biggest appeal of this race called ekiden: the competition calls for that kind of mental preparation.
HOKA: For the overseas audience, ekiden in Japan appears to be an inspiring competition. What is it about the ekiden that brings such inspiration to the audience, compared to other competitions?
Ryo: I think it comes down to that moment of passing the sash to the next runner. It’s the real appeal of the competition: just look at the faces [of the runners]. The runner comes and passes the sash to the next runner, and at that point, he might give a good pat [of encouragement] on his back or [the next runner] might say a word of appreciation [back]. The audience notices such interactions, making that moment obviously a touching a scene, which I’d say is the biggest appeal.
HOKA: Tell us about your teammates.
Ryo: Well, we spend time together while we practice, obviously, and we focus seriously during practice. Other than that, we do spend the whole day – meals, baths, and so on – pretty much together. We know one another very well, and even when we are not practicing, we hang out with our teammates, too. So through this dorm life, you do get to have relationships that are much deeper than those with other friends, I think.
HOKA: Compared to a half marathon, is there anything different in the ekiden in terms of what goes through the runners’ minds while running?
Ryo: So, that’s again what I mentioned earlier about ekiden. With an esteemed competition such as a half marathon, I feel there is not much of this mentality to “run for others,” but in contrast, an ekiden is truly a team sport. It is a sport in which the performance [of the team] depends upon how each runner has managed to bring out his best. There is of course that aspect of running for my own interest too, but there is also this wish to run in a way that is worthy of my team, my teammates, and various other people who have supported me all this time.
HOKA: How do you continue when it becomes painful?
Ryo: So that’s when this sash that I am wearing [plays a role.] You reach and grab it, and you remember: This sash reminds you of where it has been. It is the same sash that has been passed on from all the previous runners. It is soaked in the sweat of your teammates: a testament to the efforts that they have already put in. A sash carries our wishes. I am wearing it now, and since I am the one carrying this sash here, I am now the one responsible to run for the team. And that is how we encourage ourselves when things get painful. Think of the other teammates. Remind yourself of them, through this sash. That is how I try to deal with rough situations.
HOKA: In a deeper sense, what is the sash?
Ryo: For me, a sash represents a commitment. Something that you wear and that which gives a determination toward how I must run even a second faster for my teammates. What do you call it? — something that activates a switch of sorts. It’s become something that flips that switch inside of me.
HOKA: Have you always wanted to become an ekiden runner?
Ryo: I was in the first grade when I started running track and field, and it was then that I watched the Hakone Ekiden on TV and saw this serious expression on one runner as he was handing off the sash. I realized he really was thinking about the team rather than himself and running earnestly with them in mind. I began to think it was cool, and that is how I started to see the Hakone Ekiden as a goal for myself.
HOKA: How did you feel when you participated in the race?
Ryo: I was nervous, of course, but it was also the moment that my dream since middle school had come true, and I was so happy about that. When things got tough, I really felt it, and thought that I was running the ekiden of my dreams. I felt I was in a dream.
HOKA: Do you have a mantra, or something that you repeat to yourself when you’re in pain?
Ryo: There’s a phrase that my high school coach told me: “return the favors through your run.” I so wanted to run the kind of race which would stir inspirations and encouragement for people who had supported me and cheered for me. I had that strong longing, so I repeated that phrase over and over in my head even when the situation got rough. In the largest ekiden, the cheers that you get from the audience is extraordinary, beyond what you get from other marathons and races. You are constantly showered with cheers from the roadside audience right from the beginning, calling out the name of the school or even your name.
HOKA: What have you learned competing in ekidens at Reitaku University?
Ryo: What I learned the most here is how to think and act on my own. What I mean is…when you get into a depressed state when, say, you’ve sustained some injury and are unable to run for a long time, it becomes necessary to think and act on your own. What can I do in this situation? What kind of practice I can still do now in order to get back to the race in the future? That, I think, is the kind of skill that would be called for even after you graduate, as you become a part of the workforce outside the world of track and field. I think that skill, learned about thinking and doing things independently, will prove useful in my life going forward.
Brandon Dugi is an outdoor adventure photographer and endurance athlete based out of LeChee, Arizona, a small community on the Navajo Nation bordering Page, Arizona.
I want to educate the world about the Navajo Nation and how it has been affected by COVID-19.
Growing up on the reservation as a child, I recognized the hardship my grandparents endured with the lack of running water and electricity. It was a difficult way of life, but I saw how tough they were and how it made them stronger as people. Seeing them struggle day by day I couldn’t imagine that it could get worse.
Then COVID-19 took place, and the Navajo Nation was hit hard. Covering three states including Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, it now has the highest infection rate in the country. Here is why it is so bad:
First off, 1 of 5 Native Americans has diabetes and there is a high prevalence of obesity underlying the conditions making COVID-19 dangerous.
Second, 30 percent of the homes on the reservation are still living with no running water and electricity. This makes it hard to meet centers of disease control health guidelines as it is not possible to wash your hands frequently.
Lastly, we are not getting the funds needed from the Federal Government and are having to wait weeks on end to receive any support that is addressing this crisis. These lack of funds and large delays, are big factors that are exacerbating the situation.
Fighting a disease that has a big impact on the elderly is hard for our Nation to endure. To the native people, our elders are our teachers, our protectors, our providers, our language and our way of life. We want to protect them as much as we can. If we don’t have them then who are we as a people?! Our history as Native Americans may be shattering but our hearts are strong, and we are coming together as one to help each other as much as we can.
If you’ve made your way to this post, it means you want to learn more about how you can become an ally to BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) around you. Below is a curated list of resources our team has found helpful, to guide us on our journey of allyship and anti-racism. This guide is a compilation of resources from authors, experts and allies committed to uplifting the BIPOC community. This is not a comprehensive list, but it is a starting point. We are always looking to grow this list, and encourage you to seek more information for yourselves.
We humbly recognize this is just the start. But we are committed to doing our part. Because we know we fly higher when we fly together. It’s time to do better. It’s Time to Fly – together.
It is important that you seek more information for yourself to continue learning about allyship, anti-racism and how you can show up for BIPOC. Listen to, and elevate, BIPOC voices and let them guide the conversation. Let them call you in. This is not you getting “called out.”
Remember the goal is progress, not perfection. You will make mistakes and you will fail because you are trying. It is important to remember we must always keep trying. It is the right thing to do and it will save lives.
David Melly is a middle- and long-distance runner from Boston, MA. He is a graduate of Cornell University, currently competes for Tracksmith’s Hare AC, and has personal bests of 4:06 (1 mile), 14:15 (5000), 8:51 (steeplechase), 65:14 (HM), and 2:21:59 (marathon). David is also the host of the Run Your Mouth podcast and a staff writer for Citius Mag. We asked David to tell us, in his own words, the importance of running in his life.
Why do we run?
It’s the age-old question. And if you don’t have a good answer, you won’t last long in the sport. We all have goals: Whether it’s breaking 4 minutes in the mile or breaking 4 hours in the marathon, cutting your time in half or just completing your first race. But goals, while important, are transient and arbitrary by nature: they don’t drive us the way purpose does. Some of us have something specific to prove, some of us are trying to test the limits of the human body, and some of us are looking for a sense of belonging, of community. The reasons we run are bigger and deeper than just the goals we set for ourselves.
Running is different now. I’m not just talking about needing to wear a mask when you leave the house or rescheduling your marathon buildup to 2021. Running has taken on a different significance to all of us in our challenging new reality: when we’re cooped up at home, anxious about the future, or overwhelmed with the sheer volume of information we’re receiving, the best thing we can do is just get out the door and move.
These past few months, I’ve surprised myself by how much comfort I’ve found in the routine of a training week. I’ve always been a goal- and race-oriented person and I never thought I enjoyed training for the sake of training, but it turns out the value of just running in its simplest, purest form has been more than enough for me lately. Sure, I’d like a little more clarity about what the future looks like and I have a lot of unfinished business at almost every race distance, but for the moment, the chance to choose running over not running has been more than motivating enough.
The reality of the world these past few months have also caused all of us to think carefully about what is most important to us. The limits created by the pandemic have, in one way or another, led to a forced evaluation of who and what we value most and how we express our values.
Who I am and why I run have always been inextricably linked. When I first started running seriously in high school, the desire to prove myself as an athlete almost certainly stemmed from my internal struggles with being gay. When I got to college, I was the first gay runner my team had ever seen. That wasn’t always easy or comfortable, but it was absolutely formative to the athlete I became and the things I accomplished. I’ve never been a shy person, and since graduating college, I’ve had the chance to talk and write more about my experience as a gay athlete, which has ultimately become an even bigger part of my “brand.”
I (and many other queer runners I’ve talked to) have always wrestled with the idea of being labeled a “gay runner.” Do I want that to be the “thing” I’m known for? Is it problematic to claim to be “more than” a gay runner? Is wanting to bring other interests, traits, accomplishments at the forefront of my story a subtle expression of self-loathing? Am I talking too much about being gay? Too little?
Yes, no, maybe. There’s no right answer to any of those questions, and one of the happy side-effects about having an identity that in some way exists outside the norm means that I’ve gotten very good at self-reflection and self-assessment. I’ve spent plenty of time thinking about what role I want to play in the running community and in the queer community, and I’m not always sure what the right answer is (or if there even is one).
Here’s what I am sure about: being a gay runner is important to me. And in this day and age, when we’ve been forced to sort through what is and is not important, often in increasingly uncomfortable and unexpected ways, I owe it to myself and to everyone and everything I care about to embrace the things I value most.
That’s where Pride Month comes in.
For me, being a gay runner is never just about showing up. It’s about competing, winning, and striving for excellence. To get the most out of my body, sure, but also to say: I’m here, I belong, I’ve earned my place. To steal a quote from Steve Martin, I want to be so good they can’t ignore me.
Ultimately, celebration of Pride is about claiming visibility and capturing space in a world that wants to erase queer people: not just our existence, but our history, our diversity, and our sense of self.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what that means for me: I’m an “out and proud” gay athlete and person, but I’m also white, male, cisgender, able-bodied, and often straight-passing. I live and run in a community where it’s not dangerous to be me. So when I think about what I personally can do to represent my little slice of the LGBTQ community in a way that makes the world a better place, a lot of it does come down to being visible and vocal.
Sometimes that means being visibly queer — holding your partner’s hand in public, racing in a pair of rainbow socks, going to a parade in a crop top. These small gestures aren’t radical, but for a lot of people they’re meaningful. Nothing brings me more joy than getting messages from young queer runners from all over who either don’t feel safe coming out or haven’t found the right opportunity yet, but who see a little of themselves in my story.
In a lot of ways, I find myself falling into the role of ally and cheerleader, and that’s important too. In many ways, I’ve been fortunate that the world accommodates me relatively easily. Trans athletes are constantly fighting battles just to compete. Bisexual folks have to constantly justify their orientation as “real.” And there are so many people whose gender, sexuality, or identity doesn’t fall into a neatly-labeled category and whose path doesn’t have any clarity at all. If I can make anything resembling a difference in this world, I want my legacy to be: if there’s space for me, there’s space for you.
When I think about why I’m still getting out the door every day with no formal races on the schedule or clear plan for the future, the answer is surprisingly simple: it’s not just who I am; it’s a big part of how I factor into the world beyond my front door. The sport of running is beautiful because we get to both share in a common pursuit far bigger than ourselves and selfishly reap the benefits of our membership.
As runners, we all participate in the grand give and take, even if for the moment we have to do it 6 feet apart. Even the most solitary among us has to admit that running the Boston Marathon is better than running a 26-mile time trial, that the joy of community is what brings us in, keeps us in the sport for years longer than most athletes, and makes the sport far bigger than race day. We owe it to ourselves and each other to make space in that community to welcome and to celebrate everyone, and that’s what Pride is about.
Running may be different now, but the reasons we run never change.