April 10, 2014
Hoka One One held a teleconference today with Leo Manzano to talk about his new multi-year deal with the maximalist shoe brand. (For yesterday’s story on Manzano signing with Hoka One One click here).
From the very beginning, it was clear that the 2012 Olympic silver medallist was thrilled to have a shoe sponsor after going 16 months without one.
“I’ll begin by saying I feel very, very blessed by this amazing opportunity. I’m very grateful that Hoka stepped up and they believe in me,” said Manzano. “I think the future is going to be very bright for the both of us.”
“Having Hoka on my side has really relieved a lot of stress on my part and now I can just focus on what matters – my training. This is a big confidence boost. I know that now I can really work to my full potential,” said Manzano “My goals (for 2014) are to break my prs in the 1500, 800 and the mile. I’m excited.”
Manzano admitted that being without a sponsor was very tough on him. “Being without a sponsor, it’s very very difficult. After a while, you start to second guess yourself.”
“I think Hoka is going to bring a lot into the sport. They have very high values. They care about their athletes and their employees and I just think that’s phenomenal. I think we have a lot of values in the same sense,” said Manzano. “I think it’s good for the sport (to have more brands sponsoring elite runners). Competition makes you better.”
The surprising development from today’s conference was that Manzano revealed in addition to picking up a sponsor (Hoka One One) and agent (Hawi Keflezighi) in recent weeks, he’s also picked up a coach. In the last two weeks, he’s begun working with former Texas distance coach John Hayes. Hayes actually was the women’s distance coach at Texas when Manzano was a star at Texas, then went to Northern Arizona where he coached Manzano’s rival Lopez Lomong before returning to Texas to coach the men up through last spring when he wasn’t retained when the men’s and women’s programs were combined.
A few days after beating his Texas Relays meet and stadium record of 1:47.65 by running 1:47.34 on March 27, Manzano was back on the track a few days later doing a hard track workout. Hayes, whom Manzano described Hayes as someone he’s known for the “longest time” and described as a friend of his when he was at UT, just happened to be at the track and started to help Manzano get through the workout which Manzano said was really hard. The rest is history.
Manzano thinks Hayes is the perfect coach for him as he used to coach his rival, Lopez Lomong. “He was one of the only guys that knows how to beat me on the track. Ultimately it was the perfect fit for the both us.”
“John is phenomenal when it comes to details,” said Manzano. Manzano added that just the other day he was doing some 300s and “little did I know that I was clenching my jaw.” John came up to him and said, “Let’s fix this, run smoothly.”
Next thing you know, Manzano was feeling much better. “That’s all it took – (a little adjustment).”
Manzano added that he’s shared his training history with Hayes. “When I shared it with hm, he was very understanding and has a plan on how we’ll move forward.”
Manzano said the two work together and Hayes is great about asking Leo for input. ‘(He says), ‘This is what I think. What you do you think?’ We work very well together.”
Since joining Hayes, Manzano said the training has already ‘really picked up’.
“Training has really picked up . Not that it wasn’t (high) before but I feel it’s really on the level it needs to be. We work really well together,” said an upbeat Manzano. “We are going to shoot really high. We want to run fast -we want to perform and show our potential. And with this new partnership with Hoka, I think the sky is the limit.
How the deal went down – Manzano was surprised by how great the Hoka One One shoes felt
In terms of getting a deal with Hoka One One, Manzano said it came into being after he met Merhawi “Hawi” Keflezighi at a Running USA conference and “Hawi” later introduced him to Hoka One One president Jim Van Dine.
To his credit, Manzano admitted that when he first was introduced to a Hoka One One shoe, he had the same reaction that LetsRun.com had when we first saw the shoe last year. Is that for real? The shoe afterall is very tall.
“I’d already heard about the shoe. At first, it’s kind of you look at the shoe, and you’re not quite sure (what to think). Ultimately I was introduced to (Hoka One One President) Jim Van Dine through Hawi and when I tried the shoe, I was very, very surprised at to how light and responsive these shoes were. I was very, very surprised by how they felt. Once I ran in them, I knew it could be a perfect fit,” said Manzano.
Manzano said that he’s already wearing Hoka One One’s in practice. Earlier this morning, Manzano did an 8 mile tempo run in them at a 5:25 mile average and felt great in them. “One my tempo (this morning) when I was running downhill, there was very minimal amount of shock on my knees and back.”
In terms of flats and spikes, Hoka One One is developing them as we speak with Manzano playing a “key role” in their development. They likely will be out in July. Until then, Van Dine has told Manzano he can race in any shoe he wants to.
In terms of financials, LRC asked Manzano if he could comment on the size of the deal.
“I’m not allowed to talk specifics but I will say that I’m very satisfied with my compensation and at the end of the day it’s really going to be up to me to perform so that I do well (financially),” said Leo.
Manzano Feels Light Weight and Stress Free
The overall sentiment we took away from the call was Manzano is really excited about his future. He’s feeling great and really “light” and it’s not simply because when he runs he’s running in a super cushioned shoe. As Manzano explained:
“Stress can take a toll on your body. With John and this amazing opportunity with Hoka, I feel light weight. There is no stress. Now it’s just about performing.”
“It’s very, very difficult to coach yourself. Your mind starts playing games with yourself. Should I do more or less?
“You really need a coach to pay attention to look at how you are looking that day.”
Quick Take #1: Just weeks ago, he was coachless, sponsorless and agentless. Now he’s got all three. The uplifting life story of the immigrant who came to the US as a child with little, but found stardom at the University of Texas before winning America’s first Olympic 1500 medal in 34 years, had started to look like it was turning into a bit of a horror movie the last few months. Now, there’s reason to hope for a Disney type ending in Rio 2016.
In college coaching circles, there is a long adage, “Running, school, social life, pick two of the three,” with the assumption being you can only be good at two of the three. In the pro ranks, we think there should be a similar adage, “Coach, sponsor, agent,” you need two of the three.
Quick Take #2: Hayes and Manzano are a great fit. Both incredibly accomplished and yet amazingly discarded.
Quick Take #3: In terms of racing. Manzano said his recent Texas Relays meet record performance in the 800 was “kind of special moment” for himself as he was thrilled to do it on his own without a coach, sponsor or agent. As for the future, he’s running the BAA Mile as past of the Boston Marathon festivities next week.
He also is looking forward to USAs. When asked if he’d be going, he replied, “Of course, I’m never out of the USA championships. For me, it’s the bread and brutter. I love competing. It’s always a tactically savvy race.“
*Feb 2014: Hoka signs Magdalena Boulet, Mike Rutt, Nicole Schappert
*Jan 2014: Sage Canaday signs with Hoka