On entering Dr. Lou Manza’s office, it immediately becomes obvious that he is a man of many interests. The news articles, books, and knickknacks from a multitude of places attest to this. One such item stood out right away, a picture of a man crossing a finish line, similar, but not identical, to the man sitting behind the desk. The Manza sitting in his swivel chair has come a long way since the photograph, shedding the pounds as the practice of running marathons became more and more commonplace.
Manza, chair and professor of psychology at LVC, became involved in races in 1999 out of a desire to lead a healthier lifestyle. Initially, he had not intended to run any marathons, but as his training continued and he became more physically fit, the idea of running competitively became more and more plausible.
“I remember getting up to seven or eight miles one day and thinking, ‘I can do nine miles next week, and 10 in two weeks, and maybe I can eventually do a marathon,’” said Manza.
Manza had previously run cross-country in high school, preferring endurance races to sprints, but had abandoned running while in college. His father, who also competed in marathons, was one of his major influences. When he started running again, it quickly became a major hobby, and as of 2015, Manza has run in almost 50 marathons and ultramarathons, switching to the latter out of a desire for a greater challenge. He has also competed in 24-hour races. As a psychology professor, he has found ways to steel himself mentally for his lengthy and often grueling races.
“I kind of try to disassociate a lot,” he said. “For the 24 hour races, you’re talking to people and listening to podcasts and audiobooks.”
In his time at LVC, Manza has studied the psychology that enables individuals to persist. Though his research is often primarily focused on academic motivation and work ethic, he posits that the determination that helps an athlete push onward is just the same as that of a busy student.
In 2007, arthritis prevented Manza from running any more races. However, he still competes while walking, something that has not changed his exercise routine one bit.
“The cadence is different and you’re slowing down, but nothing really changes,” he said.
Whether he’s exercising for one or six hours, Manza manages to balance his training with work and family. While he no longer needs to take care of his three adult sons, he still ensures that there is plenty of time in his day by finishing his workouts before 6 a.m. Seven days a week, he strives to keep himself in peak physical condition in order to participate in five to six ultramarathons a year.
“You have to be persistent with it,” Manza said. “You have to be committed even when you don’t feel like doing it.”
Dr. Manza may not run the way he used to, but there’s no sign that he’s slowing down.