A little more than three years ago now I wrote a blog post titled, “dreams really do come true.” I wrote it after we [aka Northern Arizona Elite] had signed a three-year sponsorship agreement with HOKA ONE ONE. I called it a “life-changing moment,” and compared it to other such moments I had experienced, moments that had changed my life for the better. But of course, you can’t actually know if something will change your life for the better in the moment itself. Only upon reflection, years later, can we say for certain what sent us on a certain path. As such I can now report, at least on this one, that I was 100% correct. These last three years have been among the happiest and most fulfilling of my life and I firmly believe will remain so forever.

And though at times this entire thing does indeed feel like a dream here we are again. The news was released today that we have signed another multi-year deal with HOKA that will take us through the 2020 Olympic cycle!!

I knew I wanted to write something meaningful to accompany this awesome news for a long time now and a million different ideas have gone through my mind about what to say. In the end though, I went back to one sentence from that post three years ago where I said, “And yes, dreams do come true, but only if you work your butt off for them and only if you surround yourself with bright, driven, loyal people who make you a better person just by being around them.”

And there it is. What the heck was I wasting all my time with before? The answer was easy. I want to use these lines below to say THANK YOU. To say thank you to all the wonderful people who have made this possible.

In no particular order:

Thank you to HOKA. Thanks to all the people who believed in us the first time around and thanks to all of you who came in later, gave us a chance when you didn’t have to and who are now entrusting us to represent your brand all over the world. And it’s not just the decision makers. Thanks to the innovative team for listening to our feedback on product and providing us with the best shoes on the planet. It’s easy to help sell something you believe in and we believe in these shoes. Thanks to the reps from all over the country for supporting us. It’s been a pleasure meeting you guys, seeing you at expos and believe me-we feel your cheers. Thanks to the marketing team for using us in campaigns and promoting us to HOKA fans everywhere. Believe it or not there are companies that don’t do that with their athletes and we appreciate every mention, every post, every pic and every video. And thanks, by name, to Lee Cox to Mike McManus and to Sunny Margerum-the three people most directly involved in what we do and what we mean to the company. It is such a pleasure being a part of your team. Sunny- I promise not to bug you too much with crazy requests over these next three years!!

Thank you to Flagstaff. And when I say thanks to Flagstaff I mean thanks to the people of Flagstaff. Thanks for giving us a chance and making us feel like the hometown team. It means a ton. From Team Run Flagstaff, to Run Flagstaff to the NAU Track and Cross Country teams there is so much to be proud of in Flag and we’re honored to be a part of what I believe is as good a running community as you’ll find anywhere. Being based in Flagstaff is one of our biggest selling points when we recruit athletes and a major reason we have the roster we do is because of how easy it is to fall in love with this town and the wonderful people here.

Thank you to Hypo2. Speaking of the people of Flagstaff we absolutely have to say thank you to Doctors AJ and Wes Gregg at Hypo2 Chiropractic. These two have worked with us since the very beginning and have not only kept us healthy but have brought us to a new level in terms of performance. We see them every single week for strength and conditioning sessions where they put us through the ringer and we come out better for it. And you know what? They care. They care about us as people and as athletes. We wouldn’t have this contract without our performances and we wouldn’t have those performances without these guys. AJ and Wes- we look forward to working with you, Sean, Dan, Monica, Bradley and the entire Hypo2 team well into the future.

Thank you to ALL of the athletes. Speaking only for myself here I want to say thanks to every athlete who has donned the HOKA NAZ Elite jersey over the past three years. You have all played a role in our success. As with any business, as in life, not every single relationship is going to work out perfectly. We have had athletes retire, move to another city, move to another team, etc. but I have learned things from each and every one of you. You have made me a better coach. You have made us a better program and I wish you all the success in the world. To our current athletes I say thank you for more reasons than I could possibly list but I’ll try a few. Thanks for believing in what we do and who we are. Thanks for pushing each other. Thanks for believing in each other. Thanks for inspiring each other. Thanks for inspiring me. Thanks for being tough. Thanks for training hard. Thanks for racing fearlessly. Thanks for sharing your journey. Without you, without your amazing performances and without your willingness to embrace our brand none of this would be possible.

Thank you to our Fans. We have the best fans in all of distance running! I really believe that. Your interaction with us on social media and in person at races all over the world is a constant source of inspiration. The content you see us put out there is because of you guys. We want you to get to know us. When we run well we want you to feel invested in that performance because you’ve been following all along. And you do! We can feel that. And in the context of this post I say thank you because your likes, your comments, your visits to our website, and the list goes on are all tangible evidence that the HOKA NAZ Elite fan base is growing. That increases our value. Without you we’re just a group of ten athletes and a coach. With you we are a true professional sports team. So thanks again and we will continue sharing this whole journey with you…. all the way to Tokyo!!

And of course, there are so many others. Thanks to our Board of Directors-you guys are invaluable and I look forward to working with you as we continue to try and be innovators in this industry. Thanks to my circle of coaching buddies who are always willing to talk training and share ideas. Thanks to the families and significant others of all our athletes–your roles are incredibly important and in so many ways you are a part of our team. Thanks to John Ball at Maximum Mobility who has helped so many of our athletes stay in one piece and come back from injuries better than ever. Thanks to everyone I’ve missed in this post and didn’t call out. If you care about us, if you follow us, if you help us in any small way you are a part of HOKA NAZ Elite.

But I will end with a couple of very personal notes. First-thank you to Josh Cox who, after just one conversation in 2014, agreed to work on our behalf to find Northern Arizona Elite a title sponsor. I don’t know if he knew what he was getting into because one conversation has now become thousands of conversations. Some have been tough, some have been long, some have been really late at night. I’d say most have been about business but many have been about baseball or beer or family or life. And I’ve enjoyed them all. I feel both fortunate and proud to call Josh a friend and as long as I am in this business I want him right by my side. Thanks Josh, thanks for coming through for us once again, and can’t wait for more adventures together.

Finally, thanks so very much to my wife Jen. I hope it’s not a secret that Jen is behind nearly every unique, creative or innovative thing we do. Our website? Jen built the entire thing. Our workout videos? Mostly Jen. Our new podcast studio? All Jen. Believe me I could go on. And those things are on top of booking much of our travel, balancing our finances, serving as the treasurer on our board, timing workouts when needed, designing much of our gear and this list goes on as well. We have never made a pitch to a sponsor or written a grant proposal without Jen’s creative influence. As such, much of our funding can be tied directly to her work. And when it comes to this contract, the impetus for this post, I can tell you that Jen’s business savvy was vital during the entire process. And I haven’t even mentioned she has to put up with me all darn day! That’s no easy task as most coaches’ wives could probably tell you. So thanks Jen, thanks for living this dream with me. Let’s keep on living it as long as we possibly can.


Time to Fly,

Ben Rosario
Head Coach

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