Make it happen

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“It’s easy to get stuck and not realize we’ve become a watered down, domesticated, anesthetized version of the person we were meant to be. We take our capabilities, this universe and our legs for granted. Sometimes we need a catalyst to get unstuck. So go somewhere and do something, see something, feel something new. Make it happen.” – HOKA Fan Melissa Rone

Family journeys

Screen-Shot-2017-02-09-at-12.29.05-PM“This year we will travel as a family to Iceland, Paris, The Netherlands, Japan, Boston, Chamonix, Chicago, New York, Missoula, Cuba, Las Vegas, and the Grand Canyon. My wife and I feel that seeing and experiencing the world and having these unique opportunities are going to help build our children into global citizens. It will shape their relationship with not only people in our community, but also through all cultures. We hope to expand their learning and thinking capabilities so they know there are many ways to live. We want them to see the world and that every person and culture is important and has value.” – HOKA Athlete Michael Wardian who just recently won the World Marathon Challenge — 7 marathons, on all 7 continents, in 7 consecutive days.

Mike’s favorite shoe is the Challenger ATR 3.

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Where’s Wardian: World Record Completion of All Marathon Majors

HOKA Athlete Mike Wardian has officially set the world record for fastest average pace running the marathon majors in a single year. His average time was just under 2 hours and 31 minutes.

Of course, we were impressed by his record, but we also knew he was full of stories from his travels to six different marathons all around the world. Here are Mike’s favorite moments from his journey.

Tokyo

“The memory for Tokyo that sticks out to me is going to the start line in such an orderly fashion. There were so many Japanese Volunteers to show you where to go and not go and you had to stay in your assigned location. It was all so calm and tame I didn’t even realize the race had started. I was in the 2nd group and had to wait more than a minute to cross the start line by shuffling.”

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Boston

“Boston is the marathon that got me into running. I did a blindfolded 5K for ‘Team with a Vision’ that weekend. It was definitely a highlight. Another was some kayaking with our boys in Concord the day before the race. I also remember at Mile 21 of the Boston Marathon getting some water from Pierce and Grant.”

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London

“I was really nervous about the London Marathon as it took years to get into and it was also only 6 days after the Boston Marathon. I had heard that they are super strict regarding ‘vests’, or singlets, so I had to scramble to get a ‘vest’ at last minute and almost missed the start of the race. Then I had a super tight flight out within 2 hours of finishing the race. I had to go right to airport without showering, which turned out great because I meet up with a new friend that works at the White House.”

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Berlin

“The Berlin Marathon was only a few weeks after the Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc where I had run for 28 hours, so I was really interested to see how my body would hold up. I was traveling without the family, so I decided to put out on social media that I was looking for a place to stay. I ended up sleeping on this cool guy Tobias’ couch. I was so happy to trust the internet to take care of me and I had quite the adventure. We walked all over Berlin before the marathon doing 23 miles on Friday and 18 miles on Saturday before the race, but I still ran really well. I also got to meet one of my heroes, Yuki Kawauchi, one of the best runners in the world but he races a lot and still works full time like me. Then I got to visit the US Embassy and that was a definitely highlight to share stories with fellow runners in the diplomatic service and to explore my role as a fitness ambassador for the State Department.”

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Chicago

“Chicago is an incredible city and Jennifer, the boys and I hadn’t visited in a while and so we really tried to take advantage of being there. We did a boat tour, learned all about the Cubs, so it was great to see them win the World Series. I also was able to do a really fun podcast called ‘Ten Junk Miles’ live after a group run at Fleet Feet. In addition, I mixed in a little business as we had a client in Chicago so right after the marathon finished I had an 1 hour meeting to discuss food aid.”

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NYC

“New York City was super emotional for me as I had been trying to complete the quest to be the fastest person to do all six of the Abbott World Marathon Majors for a number of years. Finally, it was here. I really wanted to make sure I could finish and finish well. I was confident but respectful of the distance. I couldn’t believe what an incredible city it was to run in. What was cool is that I won The Great New York Running Exposition 100 mile in June and it was my first time back in New York. The marathon runs on some of the same streets at the 100 miler and my mind was saying you are at mile 88 and it made my body so tired, but I was only at mile 8 of the marathon. It was crazy. The other memory was visiting the Statue of Liberty with family. We have all been to New York a lot but never visited the Statue of Liberty. It was incredible. We learned so much and now the Statue of Liberty is one of my favorite landmarks. I also was stoked to do two NY Times photo shoots and we had some of the best sushi ever.”

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…and then he finished it off with the Elvis Costume Marathon World Record.

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Quit Your Job and Travel

HOKA Athlete Jen Benna is known for dominating in the ultra world. She’s had podium finishes at almost every ultra she has run in the last 4 years, most recently including a 3rd place finish at Leadville Trail 100.

This year, Jen made a big change in her work, family life, and training. She took the leap to quit her full time job to focus on the more important things in life. The first step was packing her life into a camper and moving to Alaska for the first stop on her journey. Jen says the hardest part was making the decision to do it, and seems to have no regrets since. We sat down with Jen to learn more about this huge lifestyle change and the incredible positive impact it has had on her and her family.

ultra-lifeHOKA: What made you finally make the decision to quit your job and start traveling with your family?

Benna: I don’t think changing my lifestyle happened overnight. But certainly there were a few wakeup calls that pushed me to rethink what I was doing with my time, my life, my family and why. There’s always been a wanderlust in my blood. A desire to not stand still, to be in nature, in new places and to share them with my children and my husband. But as time went on, I was feeling so confined within a corporate job and only getting a few weeks of the year to travel. I kept thinking is this it? Is this all we get? I mean, I was so grateful to have a great job and to provide for my family, but I was getting a feeling that I needed to take a break. Then, my little brother passed away very tragically and we had been dealing with ongoing health issues after my daughter’s surgery and ICU for over a year. The stars really aligned and the universe was telling me- it’s time, it’s time to go. You can work your whole life, but you may never get another chance to go do something big like this anytime soon. My whole life had changed and I knew it was time. So we went.

HOKA: What was the biggest thing that held you back from doing something like this earlier? How did you get past it?

Benna: I think particularly in the US, in our culture, work is king. You go to school so you can get a job, to make money, to provide for yourself, for your family. I always bought into that. It was what defined me coming out of college. Work hard, find a great job, do something good and take the time you get for vacation and make the most of it. I have always had a strong work ethic and I never thought I could ever leave a job to do something that on the surface seemed so wild, so irresponsible, so different from our cultural norms. And to do it with a family? I never thought it was possible, even though I dreamed about it for years. 

I finally stopped caring what everyone thought. I knew my husband and I were resourceful, had saved enough to be frugal and that jobs could come in the future. But time would never come back to me. I could never get back my children’s youth and the time with them was worth sacrificing, living simply and stepping out of the comforts we got so used to.

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HOKA: What lifestyle changes were a part of this decision?

Benna: The most important thing we had to do was to decide it was possible. To change our mindset. Then the lifestyle changes could happen. To budget, to save, starting with basics such as not eating out very much or shopping only for necessities. The other major part was just getting used to not being on the phone, email or working so much. It was really hard at first. I wanted to check my phone, to call my co-workers, clients, etc. because I have worked almost continuously since I was 14 years old. Then I realized I can breathe, I can not feel guilty about being with my kids or not working. It took a complete mental overhaul. 

HOKA: What was your favorite part about Alaska?

Benna: Alaska was our choice because of how far out there, how wild it really is. We spent almost 4 months there minus my time training and racing in Leadville for the LT100. So it’s really hard to pick my favorite place, but a few moments really standout. Taking a 6 hour bus ride into the backcountry with just what we could carry on our backs to camp at Wonder Lake was a standout. As we camped out in subfreezing temps, I read my children Dr. Seuss in our tent, snuggled up, surrounded by blueberry bushes and the Alaska range. We loaded the kids into our running stroller and ran long distances amongst majestic moose, caribou, and grizzlies. Because of weather we had waited all summer to see Mt Denali and on the last day, the 20,320 foot peak came into view. I have never been so in awe in my life. Denali changed us. It seeps into your mind, it creates a desire to be near it, to stand on it, to respect the mountain. It capped off the most wonderful experience for our family.

I also ran the Historic 33 mile Chilkoot trail, which in the late 1890’s was the back breaking mountain crossing to the Klondike gold fields in Dawson City. Brave gold seekers traversed the “Golden Stair Case” on foot, by sled and hand made boats.  Many people perished on that trail and it brought a whole new perspective to running. I ran the trail in about 8:00 flat and without intention, later found that I had set a fastest known time on the trail for females. It was the most pure line through the mountains I have ever run. Combined with so much history and with only brutal wilderness surrounding, it was perhaps the highlight of my time running in Alaska.

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HOKA: Where will you be traveling next? How did you choose your locations?

Benna: After many short trips to Spain, we fell in love with the country, the people, the mountains and the culture. I think that’s where we will spend our late winter and spring.  

We have to be realistic about how many places we can travel with our two young kids. We have to figure in adequate time in each place to let the kids acclimate, to not feel rushed and to be rested. We don’t want to hurry. So less is more for us. If we get to know a few places really well and we feel like locals, then the goal is achieved. 

HOKA: How long do you plan on maintaining this lifestyle?

Benna: If I could find a way to support our family with this lifestyle I think we could do it for a long time. It’s nice to have a home base and to know it’s there when we need it, but I could see us traveling for many months of each year. Of course, the challenge is figuring out financially how to do that. So we know it might not last for a really long time and we are prepared for that. But in either case, we have gained a new perspective that puts family, health, marriage, travel and purpose over seeking endless financial riches. With these new priorities, our lifestyle will never be the same no matter how we end up supporting ourselves.

HOKA: What is the biggest challenge of this lifestyle? What is the biggest benefit?

Benna: The biggest challenge is being in new places and having to figure out your bearings. The logistics of traveling with kids so young (2 and 6) can be challenging. What might look to be a 4 hour drive can quickly turn into 8 with stops, temper tantrums, and food needs. Patience and letting go of control over that is the only way this life works. Being a great mom is always the priority- not the travel itinerary. 

The biggest benefit is the absolute freedom we have. We homeschool our older child and we do her school work from mountain vistas or from our camper or from picnic tables. There is no set place- no conformity. She is learning as much as in traditional schooling but we are adding in so much about what we are seeing and experiencing that its a robust education for her. We are so simple and inspired in what we see and do each day that at night we are absolutely spent. I have never felt my heart so full.

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HOKA: How has your training been influenced by this lifestyle?

Benna: Alaska in particular has reinvigorated my running in a way I can’t fully express. The mountains there are unlike anything we have in the lower 48. I once spent 5 hours to cover 15 miles with Geoff Roes and his Juneau running friends, only to have to glissade down several thousand foot snow fields in a whiteout, hoping we weren’t too close to the cliff face somewhere below us. I started to learn how to really run technical terrain and there weren’t a lot of runs that were without major views, clean and cold mountain air, lots of rain and the chance a grizzly could be really close by.

But in general, I was able to really put in the work this summer for Leadville more than I could before. I had hiccups, sure, but I could finally justify being out there more. I also was able to take more time for prehab, PT work and the little things that add up to putting forward your best foot come race day.

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HOKA: What is your next big race? What are your expectations for it?

Benna: I’m leaning towards jumping into the mix at the North Face Endurance Championship 50 in San Francisco this December with the intention that it will make me work hard for my real first A goal race next year- Transgrancanaria 125k in late February. I really don’t expect anything for TNF50 other than it will be really fast, always a deep field in one of my favorite places to run, the Marin Headlands. I think this summer and even Leadville taught me that I only race well when I am really in love with the course and the race. I loved Leadville with such a passion that finishing on the podium was just icing on the cake. So no more racing just to race. If I toe the line, I expect to compete with passion.

HOKA: How do you think this lifestyle will influence the people your children grow up to be?

Benna: Our young children are one of the major reasons we took a leap of faith to change our life. They are growing up so fast and I want to give them a basis of simplicity in such an overwhelmingly technology driven world. Not having any internet nor TV was a blessing this summer. Instead the kids enjoyed making friends, hiking and riding bikes at remote campgrounds. I understand that technology has it’s place in modern society but the foundation of who they are should be more simple than that. I want to give them mountains, camping, hiking, respecting our land as something that grounds them growing up. 

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HOKA: What does your daily life look like now?

Benna: My life is a lot more unstructured and less rushed than ever before. We prioritize my daughter’s learning, my running, good eating and resting more than we ever have before. I actually am reading books for fun now- which is something I never ever had time for. Sleep is really important and I think I am making up for the past 5 years of not really sleeping much. With two kids however, we are so busy I wonder how I was able to work full time, run so much and be a mom.  I am a happier person not being so stressed out.

HOKA: What advice do you have for someone considering to make a big change like this one?

Benna: To really think about life as if you have already lived it. Will not changing your life cause you regret? Will you always wonder- what if I listened to my heart and went for it? In the end, if the answer is yes, than you should make the changes that will allow you to follow your dreams and everything else will fall into place. 

A HOKA Runner’s Guide to Tempe, AZ

When you explore a place on foot, you see the things others do not. You discover the place locals go to grab a cup of coffee, the best place for a pint, and the best places to stop, stretch and breathe in some fresh air. At HOKA, we have runners all over the world who know their towns best. So we’ll be sharing HOKA runner’s favorite destinations in their hometown for visitors to get the local experience. We’ll begin with the towns many people travel to compete and watch IRONMAN races around the country. Our next stop is Tempe, Arizona, home to runner Sean McManus.

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HOKA: How long have you lived in the Tempe area? What’s special about this town?

McManus: I have lived in the Tempe area for 11 years now. I came out to Tempe from New Jersey to attend school at Arizona State University. I was immediately attracted to the Tempe area because of the weather, the diversity, the hundreds of miles of cycling and running trails, and the proximity to a major city which gives it both the urban and rural feel people are always looking for. In less than 5 miles I can jump on dirt trails, run around a lake, or immerse myself with 60,000 college students, all while living in a quiet community where everyone knows their neighbor. It’s hard to replicate that anywhere else in the world.

HOKA: What’s a good scenic or interesting place for a short run in your area? What’s your favorite run route?

McManus: The IRONMAN Arizona venue, Tempe Town Lake, is the perfect place for a quick run. You have uninterrupted pathways with great views of downtown Tempe, the Town Lake, iconic Camelback Mountain, and more. You can find loops ranging from 3 to 9 miles without ever retracing your steps. If you want to make it a longer day, you can easily connect to the Tempe/Scottsdale Greenbelt which features more greenscape (yes even in the desert) for miles and miles.

HOKA: What’s the best coffee or breakfast spot?

McManus: The best local coffee and breakfast spot in Tempe has to be NCounter. Conveniently located on Mill Ave in Downtown Tempe only steps away from the Ironman Arizona Expo, NCounter is a great place for a cup of coffee, a big plate of pancakes, omelettes, or even a healthier option at their juice and smoothie bar where they make everything fresh in front of you.

HOKA: Where should someone go to eat a post-race meal (or brew)?

McManus: Tempe features dozens of great restaurants and bars in the Mill Ave district, but the most iconic Tempe brewery still has to be Four Peaks. With 8 mainstay beers (I recommend the Kiltlifter Scottish Ale or Hop Knot IPA) many rotating seasonal beers, and a great festive atmosphere all-day long, this is the go-to place to celebrate your accomplishment of crossing the finish line or even as a spectathlete to wind down from a restless day. Other great options in Tempe are Pedal Haus Brewery (Cycling themed and Triathlete friendly!), The Handlebar (Also bike friendly!), and lastly Pita Jungle (Healthier Options).

HOKA: Where should someone go to get any last-minute running/racing gear … and why?

McManus: Voted one of the Top 50 Running Stores in America for the last 4 years, Sole Sports Running Zone in Tempe is the best place to get any and all of your running needs. They have an expert staff (their owner is a retired professional triathlete), great customer service, and a large selection of HOKA! Sole Sports hosts 3 group runs each week on Monday & Thursday nights at 6:30pm, and Saturdays at 7:00am. Each month Sole Sports puts together fun free events that attract 100-400 runners and have included pub runs, slip n slides, ice cream relays, and cross-country style races. Located next door to Sole Sports Running Zone in Tempe is Landis Cyclery, Arizona’s 100 year old full-service bike shop. They have great mechanics, a large selection of road, mountain, hybrid, and triathlon bikes, and do carry a small selection of swim gear as well. 6 miles north of Tempe, in Scottsdale, is Tribe Multisport, an award-winning triathlon shop for all the tri-geeks out there who want only the best gear, best bikes, and best equipment.

HOKA: Anything else to see/do/experience in this town in a short weekend trip?

McManus: Other than taking in all that Tempe Town Lake has to offer, visitors should definitely catch an ASU sporting event, climb “A” Mountain (not just “a mountain”), play some golf at ASU Karsten Golf Course, run and ride through Papago Park, visit the Phoenix Zoo & Botanical Gardens, or get your shopping fix at Tempe Marketplace or Scottsdale Fashion Square for some premium shopping experience.