“You have to look at it like a business. What do you want the culture of your team to be? Focus on that and make sure that the people you’re working with are bought into what you’re doing. Because I’m telling you right now, you could raise Bill Bowerman from the dead and he could write your schedule, but if you don’t have the people that you’re working with believing in you, and believing in each other, and believing in what they’re doing, it’s not going to work.”
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It was a blast to sit down with Ben Rosario, the founder and head coach of HOKA Northern Arizona Elite, for this week’s episode of the podcast.
The 38-year-old Rosario, who started the team in 2014, has had a long and varied career in the running industry. As an athlete, he ran for the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, qualified for two U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, and finished second at the U.S. Marathon Championships in 2005. He moved back to his hometown of St. Louis that earlier that year, where he first worked as the special events director for that city’s marathon, and then went on to co-found Big River Running Company. After selling his share of the business in early 2012 and moving to Flagstaff shortly thereafter, Rosario worked as the marketing director for McMillan Running and also did some work as an elite athlete coordinator and race director back in his hometown of St. Louis. Through it all, Rosario has coached other runners at all levels, leading him to his current role with HOKA NAZ Elite, “a professional sports team whose mission is to recruit, develop and produce distance runners to compete at the very highest level of international athletics.”
We covered a lot of bases over the course of this conversation: Rosario’s career path, and the route he took to get where he is today; how he got into coaching and the influence different coaches have had on his own development as an athlete, coach, and person; what race weekend looks like for him when he’s got athletes competing; the origins of NAZ Elite and how he sees the group evolving in the coming years; how he measures his team’s impact beyond race results; what NAZ Elite is doing to make themselves relatable to average runners; the benefits of group training for all levels of runners; the importance of rest and recovery after a marathon and what that looks like for his athletes; how he furthers his own education as a coach and his advice for young coaches; what’s exciting him about the sport right now, and a lot more.
Related links, references, and resources:
— Follow Ben on Instagram and Twitter.
— Check out Northern Arizona Elite’s website and see what they’re up to on Instagram and Twitter.
— Take a peek at NAZ Elite’s training logs on Final Surge.
— “Being the leader of a group or an organization is where I thrive,” Rosario told the blog, Run Culture. “I need the stress that comes with responsibility. So following my passion, combined with learning who I am as a person, led me to where I am today.”
— Visiting NAZ Elite Before The 2016 Olympic Trials: “I think it’s about belief. We try to structure our group so that it’s very high level. Everybody is really, really good. So the bar is very high,” Rosario told Martin Fritz Huber for Outside magazine. “It keeps you on your toes and you’re never satisfied because there’s always someone looking to best you.”
— Listen: Ben was a recent guest on Lindsey Hein’s I’ll Have Another podcast and last fall he spoke with Carrie Tollefson on the C Tolle Run Show.
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Music and editing for this episode of the morning shakeout podcast by John Summerford at BaresRecords.com