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Leo Manzano: ‘Running is what I do for a living and I absolutely love it’

Hi Leo! What have you been up to recently? I just landed in Stockholm, actually!

Ah, so you’ve escaped London? [Manzano ran in last week’s Anniversary Games]Yes, I was based out in Teddington. I’ve been out there; it’s been one of my training locations since 2009. I come out almost every year, and run in Bushy Park, Richmond Park and I train at St Marys. I got into Europe about three weeks ago, and raced in Monaco – it was a pretty fair race, I achieved the A standard for the World Championships, so that qualifies me to participate in Beijing. Then I raced in London, and felt a lot better. I’m not sure if you saw the race?

Yes, I did. Amazing race from Kiprop. Yes, it was a very tactical race, a really fun one actually. The crowd was amazing.

So where is your favourite place to run? Man, you made this one really hard on me! I really enjoy running in Monaco, but every time I run in London – or England –I’ve had great performances. So, for example, in 2010 I ran my fastest mile ever, that was 3min and 50sec. Also in 2011, I won the Emsley Carr mile, in 3min 51sec. Then, in 2012, there was a silver medal at the Olympics in London. So I’ve had incredible races in England.

How about for training? When I’m in Europe, I do really enjoy the Teddington area. It’s really conducive to training and focussing. All the parks, St Marys … it’s very convenient to be there.

Do you remember your first ever race? Yes. I remember this one race in particular, I ran cross country in middle school. I was in seventh grade and we’d been training and they put me on the JV squad – in the US, that’s kind of a high-school team. I was a seventh grader, competing against the high schoolers. And lo and behold, I ended up winning the race – I think it was a 5k. That’s my first memory of racing.

When people ask you for a training tip, what do you tell them? I do get a lot of requests for tips. One of the best things that I like to say is I think it’s great to have someone to guide you. So I ask if they have a coach. Coaches are just amazing. I tell them to refer to a coach before trying anything, because everyone’s body is different. Have a coach, talk to a coach or find a coach. Then I can pass on the knowledge that I’ve gained throughout my career – whether it’s drills, stretching or injury prevention. But they get more guidance talking to the coach.

Do you ever struggle with motivation? [laughs] Yes, I think we all struggle with motivation. But something that has really helped me is my supporters. The people that follow me and encourage me. I post comments on Facebook, I give updates and on Twitter and Instagram. And I get a lot of support and words of encouragement. People tell me that I inspire them, and that motivates me, that gets me fired up to push forward and continue.

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Do you ever listen to music when you run? I don’t, actually. I like to just be in a zone, or enjoy the outdoors. I also like to be kind of in my head, in a sense. That’s usually when I can think about the day, reflect, be on my own. If I ever have a certain situation that I need to think about, I put on my shoes and go for a run and think if through and usually by the end of the run I’ll have an answer, or feel a lot better about it.

What’s the worst thing about running? The worst thing … you know, I honestly really couldn’t think of anything bad about running. I’ve enjoyed everything.Running has given me so many opportunities – including the opportunity to go to college, to travel the world, to see all kinds of things, to go to the Olympics. So it’s been a blessing. I don’t see anything bad with running.

What’s the best thing? Running has given me so much. I was the first person in my family to go to college, the first person I knew to graduate from college, go to the Oylmpics. This is my career now. From my perspective I believe I have a dream job, this is what I do for a living and I absolutely love it. So this is so good for me! On top of that, of course, there are so many health benefits – even mental health benefits.

What would you eat for breakfast on the morning of a race or a hard training session? Depending on how soon I have that session. For example, if I get up and I have a workout in about an hour, I would eat something fairly light. Maybe a Greek yoghurt, a banana, maybe half a bar. Nothing too extreme; I don’t like to be too full when I’m working out or racing. If I’m in a race, I usually eat approximately four and a half to five hours before the race. Again, it’s nothing too heavy – maybe a sandwich, some fruit. I try to stay away from greasy food and all that.

Say you’ve had a great race and you’ve got some time off. What do you indulge in? One of my favourite things to do is just to have a Coke! I absolutely love it. So, after a hard race, I’ll have a Coke.

Ever tried barefoot running? I do on occasion, I feel like it’s good for your feet. Maybe 10,15 or 20 minutes, but usually after the end of a run. Otherwise I would also be in my Hokas! It’s actually quite therapeutic though, running on grass.

In my badly scheduled fantasy Diamond League, Mo and Usain are running at the same time. Who would you watch? They are both great runners. Honestly, I would probably have to watch Bolt. He’s just such a competitor. Since I’ve been competing, he’s always been winner. Obviously I know that he works hard, he’s so focussed. Then, when you watch him compete, he makes it look so easy. And he’s still going! It feels like he’s been at it for a while now.

Who’s the greatest ever runner? Again, I would have to say Usain. It’s a really hard question, there are so many great runners. But in my opinion he’s done so much for the sport. He’s quite the personality, and, you know … he’s the fastest man in the world!

So you think he’ll beat Gatlin in Beijing? Yeah, I think he looks so smooth. It’s interesting; I guess you always have people who will doubt, but he went out there [at the Anniversary Games] and competed and showed everyone that he was still there.

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Leo Manzano is sponsored by Hoka One One. The new Clifton 2 is available now, RRP £100.


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