Do you like running? And how about skateboarding? Then you should definitely read this next interview. Don is the kind of guy who really likes sports, but his true passion is skateboarding – and it’s because of skateboarding that he rediscovered running and today he has ran 16 marathons and dozens of races.
Although we’ve talked a lot about his achievements in running, the source of this whole story comes from one of his biggest aspirations, pro skater, actor and entrepreneur – Paul Rodriguez. For those who don’t know P-Rod, as he is known, besides having countless X-Games medals, magazine covers, tv shows and his own brand, he’s also part of a select group of nike athletes which includes Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, with at least 10 models in his own signature sneaker line.
Even though it is rare nowadays to find a PRod Nike SBs in good conditions, Nike has honoured all its iconic models from his line with a “What The’ Dunk – a model that, for Don represents not only all of his favourite models, but also Paul Rodriguez’s history, and a little of his own history too.
“It’s a pleasure, I’m Ricardo Rui Amorim, better known by everyone as Don Amorin and I’m 29 years old. I’m a marketing coordinator at Nike, in an area called Field Marketing. My role is to look into some categories and specific sports, and to understand how a consumer looks at it and what is its perception of our experiences, products and brand messages. So, I’m in charge of this area both in sports – running and football, and lifestyle – a part of Nike Sportswear and Nike Women.
It’s something I really like doing; I’ve been working in sports marketing for nearly 10 years. I started by working with Gatorade and ESPN, with social media, then I went to Puma and worked in sport marketing. I have a strong connection with sports, it has always been part of my life.
And I love to run, I have 16 marathons in my curriculum, and many other races, in total I believe I’ve done more than 100 races. But I’ve been running since I was a child. I started to skateboard between prep and high school, and later on, when I went to college, I got injured while skating, and my physician told me: “start running for 5 minutes just to warm up”. Then I remembered what the whole running thing was like. After that, I really got back into running, but I had to choose between my two favourite sports: running or skateboarding, because doing both wouldn’t work. I would skate 3 times a week, then I would get hurt and wouldn’t be able to run, or participate in the races. So, I had to choose. I dedicated a lot of my time to running, and put my board aside for a while, but it’s always been my passion. It’s my favourite sport.”
“It was dope that we’d go there to ‘do our skaten’ and it was basically to show your new tricks, what you learned that week. When someone pulled up saying they wanted to ‘do some skaten’ it meant they had a new trick add to the game (laughs).”
Where did your interest in skateboarding come from and when did you start to skate? When did it happen?
donI started riding street really, with some friends of mine. There was a skating park near my house, the Red Beach. It was so cool to ride there, but what I really just like skating in the street. We used to go to Parque da Juventude (Juventude Park), near Carandiru in the North of São Paulo to skate there, where they had just opened ETEC , the floor was super smooth, and it was less crowded than in the park. Nowadays a lot of people skate there too, but no one knows that it was me and my crew who first skated that spot. That’s really cool.
We have a lot of pictures of the people who skated with us back then – there are pictures of Emicida, who used to skate there, with Qualy from Haikaiss, who used to skate with us. It’s awesome, we have an amazing history at Parque da Juventude. You know those unknown heroes (laughs), who conquered that spot for people to skate? That was us. That’s a very cool story. As soon as we’d come in, the security guard would come after us saying “you can’t skate here” and kick us out. And since it is a huge area, we’d just go around to the other side, then the guard would come again and chase after us, then we’d move back to the other side, and he’d come running to tell us off. We would spend the whole day like that, it was so funny (laughs). That was around 2008, it was a fantastic time.
It was also a time when a lot of things were beginning to trend around the skate community, like Game of Skate, which we called “burro” over here, and then the Barrics created the Battle of Berrics, which became very popular.
We played around with our skateboards, it was like a warmup for us. We’d get to the park and be like “Yo, what’s up? Let’s do a little skaten’?”. Our warmups was where we built that little rivalry amongst the friends. It was a way to learn more about skateboarding and to keep the guys close. This was a moment in my life when many friends were finishing school, some were already working, I was already working, so I could only skate with them on the weekends. It was dope that we’d go there to ‘do our skaten’ and it was basically to show your new tricks, what you learned that week. When someone pulled up saying they wanted to ‘do some skaten’ it meant they had a new trick add to the game (laughs).
It was also a time when brands were keeping a close eye on Brazilian skateboarding. I remember that at that time I went to events from brands like DVS, Etnies’ and Nike SB’s, there was at least one event per year. There wasn’t even much talk about having skateboarding as an Olympic sport. And today we look at skateboarding in the Olympics and see what a great achievement it is for sport – because it’s an amazing sport that doesn’t get much value here in Brazil. If you look at the best skaters we have from Brazil, they are all living abroad. Leticia Bufoni, Kelvin Hoefler, Felipe Gustavo, they start to build a career and move abroad, because they don’t have any structure here, and brands and sponsors are way stronger over there.
Not to mention the competitions they got over there – there’s Tampa AM, Tampa Pro, Street League, which is the biggest skate competitions out there, and opened the doors for skateboarding to be in the Olympics. Then you realise that the best skaters from Brazil are not even living in Brazil. It’s sad and cool at the same time, because you’re giving hope to kids who found themselves in skateboarding, but it’s so difficult to get there.
I’ve been skating since 2006 and I’ve seen a bunch of people try to go pro, it’s a very tough path because the investment in the sport here in Brazil sucks. But now we have some hope, with the Olympics, we’ve opened the doors and brands are looking carefully, because it’s not a sport of misfits and thugs anymore as we were called back in the day.
We’d walk into “Americanas”, or any other store to buy water, and security would come after us. Just because we carried our boards with us, they assumed we were going to break and steal stuff. It’s fucked up. So now they’ll have look at the skaters in a different way, because it’s no that sport for thugs, it’s actually a very hard sport, by the way.
You mentioned that you already had a connection with running before you started skateboarding. How did running come into your life?
donIt was a long way. As I mentioned before I studied at SESI, which is an amazing school and is a big reference in sports. Some units are called like school-clubs – there’s the school, and the structure of a club inside of it – they have pools, courts, racetracks, gymnasiums and a lot of other things. My routine was going to school in the morning and to sports school in the afternoon. I used to play basketball, football – which I love, by the way. I’m a crazy Palmeiras fan – and then I started to run, because I did athletics in school.
When I was about to leave SESI in the 8th grade, I started to skateboard and left the running aside. So, I spent almost my whole high school and the beginning of college skateboarding, but then I got injured, I strained my thigh. It hurt a lot, it was the worst thing ever. I couldn’t stand up, nor move my leg, it was just like when a football player gets hurt and holds his leg crying “ouch, ouch, ouch” (laughs). I had to start doing physiotherapy and that’s when the therapist said, “if you don’t want your leg to hurt so much, go for a light 5 minute jog before you skate”. So, I would go down to Parque da Juventude, go for a quick run, and then I would skate.
And at which moment you started to run for real, like doing trials and doing long distance races?
donThere’s a race here in São Paulo called “Maratona de Revezamento Pão de Açúcar” Pão de Açúcar relay marathon, in which you can team up in groups of two, four or five people. It’s a 42km relay race, so if you’re in two, each one will run 21km, if you’re in a group of four, each one will run about 10km each, and so on. At that time, I worked at PWC and as they paid the entrance fee, we organised a bunch of employee teams. Then I thought to myself: “Well, I’m already running to warm up and I remembered how cool it was to race in high school, I’m going to sign up in one of the teams”.
I thought it would be the same as running for athletics in school, which was to sprint 100 or 200 metres, but in this competition, I was going to run 5km in a group of 5 people, it’s a lot. Man, when they gave me the wristband I started to run as fast as I could, I was giving my best, wasting all my energy. Then I thought to myself “I must be almost done with the 5km, right?”. When I looked at the sign and saw 1km I thought “that’s not possible (laughs). I did all this, and it was only 1km?”. I swear I almost died that day, I suffered throughout those other 4km. I did my first 5km in 35 minutes. It was so cool though; I loved the experience. When you’re an amateur, you run these smaller races where you get a medal, there’s a team and the crowd is cheering you on and it’s this amazing vibe. I enjoyed myself so much that I started to look for other races.
Then, a friend of mine who had been running for a while said: “There’s the São Silvestre Will happen at the end of the year, it’s 15km”. I was immediately down for it. That’s how I went from zero to 15km in 4 months. In September I competed in the Pão de Açúcar race, I ran for 5km; in October there was a 8km Palmeiras farewell race for Marcos, I suffered to finish that one too. I had barely managed the 5km and in the next month I decided to run 8km. Then later on I also did the 10 km Christmas race, which happens in the center of São Paulo. And then 15 km at São Silvestre, on the 31st of December. All that happened in 2012.
Then 2013 came and I thought “man, this running thing is cool, my goal for this year is to run 21km; I want to run half a marathon”. I started to practice and to dedicate myself to running, I organised a calendar to run a race every other week. Usually they happen on Sundays, right? And man, in São Paulo there are 2 to 3 races happening every Sunday, it’s a huge variety for you to choose from. I had planned to run 12 races a year, but by the end of 2013 I had run in about 20. Then I decided to compete in the Asics Golden Run here in São Paulo, my first half marathon, which was one of the fastest 21km races there were. My goal was to make it in 1h50. In my first 10km race I did in 58min, my first 5km race I did in 35min, I was improving. Then for the half marathon I thought I’d make it in 1h50 but ended up completing it in 1h37!
In 2014 I decided to double the previous goal and run 42km in a marathon. At the time I had just started working at Ideal, an agency that manages social media for Gatorade and ESPN and I was taking care of both accounts. One day we had an interview with one of Gatorade sports press companies, MPR – Marcos Paulo Reis Press. And when I got there, I told him about my “athletic history” (laughs), and he said to me “dude, do you want to train with us? I’ll give you a scholarship and you can come and practice with us”. It’s the most expensive advisory and with the best coaches there are in Brazil! I accepted straight away.
As soon as I started to practise, I told Caio, my former coach: I want to run 42km, and he said “man, forget it, you’re too young, you’ve only raced 3 half marathons, you’ve been running for 2 years, you barely even know what running is”. I was young back then, 22 or 23 years old, and I insisted on saying “no, I want to run the marathon”. No one could convince me otherwise. My goal was to complete the Rio marathon, which happened in July. I started to practice and then came the famous first marathon injury – I began to have spreadsheets, proper training for the 42km, I wasn’t used to the amount of kilometres I had to make per week, nor with the intensity of the training. I had to practise 4 times a week, it was a lot. The first injury I had from skating was because I didn’t warm up; and the first injury I got from running was because I didn’t stretch. I had an iliotibial tract injury, it was an inflammation in which I couldn’t bend my leg, or do anything really. I did physiotherapy, infiltration and a bunch of other stuff to try to make the tract better – this was all one month before the marathon, and I didn’t run, or practise for the whole month of July. Still I thought “I have the basics; I don’t think I’ll lose”.
My coach’s idea was for me to complete my first marathon in 3h30. He said, “you can make it, but don’t focus on the time, the important thing is for you to finish the 42km”. Then the day came, and we went to Rio de Janeiro, my coach asked me “are you ready?”, and I said “yes, now it’s up to God”. The marathon starts at Recreio dos Bandeirante and finishes at Aterro do Flamengo, and my hotel was in Aterro, at the finish line. I started to run, it was an awful day in Rio de Janeiro, it was pouring rain. First kilometre was alright, the second and third as well, then in the fourth I started to feel a little something. In the fifth kilometre I felt a discomfort but I told myself “Man, it’s nothing, keep on moving, the body is warming up, I spent a month without practice, it’s going to be alright”. In the seventh kilometre it got stuck, my left leg wouldn’t bend for anything, and with it came an unbearable pain. Still, I kept going.
“Then I went crazy, and started signing up for a bunch of marathons. I Did Chicago, Berlin, Amsterdam, Porto, Boston – I got the Boston index, which is one of the hardest races in the world. To take participate you must run 42km in a certain amount of time according to your age, for my age group was 3h05. I spent around 2 years trying to achieve the Boston index. This marathon was amazing, one of the best experiences I’ve ever had as an amateur athlete. I loved the vibe of the city and the cheering of the crowd.“
When I arrived at km 10, my coach was nearby and told me I was within what he had planned. Then he asked me if I was okay, and I said yes – I was lying of course. He said, “alright then I’ll meet you at the 21 mark”. Man, when I got to the 15th km I wanted to stop and get a taxi back to the hotel. Uber didn’t exist at that time, and I didn’t have money or anything in my pockets, all I had was my phone. Then I thought “I can’t take a cab back to the hotel, the only way is to run to the finish line”. So, I did, my left leg wouldn’t bend and so I pushed the right one harder to compensate. I passed through km 21 literally crying in pain, and my coach insisted I stop but I told him I wouldn’t. We agreed to meet at the 30km mark and I kept on moving. When I got to the 30th km I was walking, crying and with no energy left. I looked at my coach and said “Caio, I’m going to stop”, but he said, “no fucking way, you came this far, you’ve done 30km, now you’ll finish the other 12 km left”. I was dragging myself and crying but I made the 12km and completed the marathon in 4h27.
I came back to São Paulo and did more physiotherapy, went to the doctor and all. Then what happened? In October there was the São Paulo marathon and I signed up without my coach’s consent – I wanted to deliver the race he had asked for. So, I recovered and tried to do it the right. This marathon could be done in either 25km – these people would run with a blue number; or 42km – with an orange number. When my coach saw me coming with a different colour in my chest he said, “what are you doing with an orange number?” I answered, “giving back the marathon I owe you”. And he said, “stop it, you just recovered from an injury!” Obviously, I did not stop. And again – I was a young kid who thought it was made of iron. Months later after my disaster in Rio, I completed my second marathon in 3h47. So, I started to enjoy the 42km.
I kept on practising, did other marathons, and when the Rio race came again in 2015, I surprised myself by finishing it in 3h13, less than my initial goal of 3h30.
Then I went crazy, and started signing up for a bunch of marathons. I Did Chicago, Berlin, Amsterdam, Porto, Boston – I got the Boston index, which is one of the hardest races in the world. To take participate you must run 42km in a certain amount of time according to your age, for my age group was 3h05. I spent around 2 years trying to achieve the Boston index. This marathon was amazing, one of the best experiences I’ve ever had as an amateur athlete. I loved the vibe of the city and the cheering of the crowd. It was very nice. My best marathon was in 2019 in Buenos Aires, which I completed in 2h49. Now my next target is to get to 2h45. Then the pandemic came, but that’s basically my journey in running so far. Now I can do a bit more of skating and the running, I have found a nice balance between them both.
“And man, I’ve been through some big companies, worked with Gatorade, ESPN, P&G, Puma, and today I’m working at Nike – Thank Gog Nike is strong in diversity – but if you look at these big companies, leadership roles, and these kinds of position, you won’t find a single Black person.”
And nowadays you’re working for Nike, the company that encourages you to do sports. How was your trajectory for you to get to the position you’re in today?
donI remember as a child, I was raised by my grandparents, my white grandmother and my Indigenous grandfather. My grandma would always tell me to dedicate myself more. Most Black people have heard this already, that you must do twice as much for you to stand out. When someone does something okay, everyone will be like “this is fantastic!” While a black person must do twice or three times as much to receive the same reward. You grow up with that mentality and therefore will always give your best, especially when you hear people saying “that coloured kid isn’t going anywhere, he won’t be anybody”. I’ve always tried to prove them wrong. Something that Diegão once said is “man, we’re Black and look at where we are. We must look back to encourage and help bring people like us to get to where we are.” This is great because that’s exactly it. And man, I’ve been through some big companies, worked with Gatorade, ESPN, P&G, Puma, and today I’m working at Nike – Thank Gog Nike is strong in diversity – but if you look at these big companies, leadership roles, and these kinds of position, you won’t find a single Black person. Unfortunately, in our society people will be judged by the colour of their skin rather than for its qualifications or professionalism.
I open my doors to everyone. I even posted on LinkedIn a while ago that I wanted to set up a chat with college students who are feeling kind of lost, not knowing what to do with their lives, especially people in communication, to help and guide them. I had a great dream of working for Nike, but – I’m a Umbandista, and what my religion has taught me is to have patience. We never know what tomorrow may bring. To get the things we want, we must trail our journey and follow our path. It was tough to get to Nike, because I had to go through several other companies, and I got to a point in my life where I was okay with my situation. Though I’d never make it to Nike, they would never look at me, and that’s where I am today, thank God. It was through the journey I built that I managed to get to Nike.
Sometimes we get too fanatic about a goal, and we stop looking at other opportunities around. I had a very good experience when I worked at Puma, also had a great experience when I worked at Octagon, they opened their doors when I came back to Brazil to work with Nike. I created a very good resume while working with other brands that have made it possible for me to work at Nike. And I wanted to show this to both these young and black teens, that we are going to work extremely hard, but if we set a goal, we’ll make it someday. We’ll achieve that goal and we won’t give up.
I’m very grateful today for my journey and all the problems I had to face, because we learn from our mistakes. And I had to make many to get the experience I have today. No one gains experience just by getting everything right. When people ask, “What do I have to do to get to Nike?”, I tell them it’s not easy, but seize each opportunity you have. At some point you will stand out, they’ll look at you, the opportunity will knock on your door.
There will always be an opportunity but keep an eye on other places as well. Because sometimes the path you’re on and what you want, are not the right way to go, sometimes another unexpected path might lead you to your final goal. We don’t know about tomorrow, nor what’s in store for us. In the end, when I look back, I see that everything I’ve done has led me here. Therefore, I’m very grateful for the journey I made.
“We can’t talk about sneakers without talking about the influence of sports. We look at the Air Jordan 1, 3, 4, 5, and they’re fashion icons, but mainly, sports icons. This has started on the basketball court. So did the Air Force. People talk about the Nike Dunk,it was also out as a basketball shoe, but it really got famous because of Skateboarding. So, many of the shoes that are trending, and that people love, come from sports.“
Now let’s talk about sneakers. We imagine you must have a good amount of sneakers, and we know that choosing only one is not easy. So, out of all your collection, why did you choose to talk about this Nike SB Dunk Low ‘What The PRod’?
donWe can’t talk about sneakers without talking about the influence of sports. We look at the Air Jordan 1, 3, 4, 5, and they’re fashion icons, but mainly, sports icons. This has started on the basketball court. So did the Air Force. People talk about the Nike Dunk,it was also out as a basketball shoe, but it really got famous because of Skateboarding. So, many of the shoes that are trending, and that people love, come from sports. Would these sneakers be this big if they were not related to these athletes, or if they weren’t related to these sports?
Since I’ve always loved sports, basketball and especially skateboarding, I have a strong connection with sneakers. At the time I was working for Puma, they launched a collection with Diamond and damn… I still have these sneakers today, I think it’s one of the few sneakers from Puma that I didn’t get rid of, because I’m so passionate about them, it was the Diamond Puma Suedes. Everyone who’s an oldschool skater knows about Nick Diamond and everything he’s done for Skateboard culture, it’s fucking awesome.
I have a big passion for the SB collection, especially the Paul Rodriguez line. Back when I used to skate, there was a clear difference between skate styles – you were either “gangsta” or “punk”. Who was the gangsta’s biggest reference? TX, Paul Rodriguez, Luan. And who was the punk’s reference? Chris Cole, Salabanzi… These guys were inspirations. To me, it was all about Paul Rodriguez, he’s insane, a dope reference. I would look at the way he skated, with his oversized t-shirt and pants and those amazing big fat SBs. That was another difference between the gangstas and the punks, the puffy sneakers versus the vulcanised.
Indeed, Paul Rodriguez has always had that extra finesse, he has his own personal style, which even made him transcend a little from the skate scene. His line has always been such a huge success, have you ever had a PRod?
donMy very first Paul Rodriguez was the 2.5, a kind of a hybrid with a fat tongue. They released the 1 and the 2, and then in between the 2 and the 3, they released the 2.5. My second one was the Paul Rodriguez 3 ’5 de maio’ – he has Mexican heritage, so every model he had with Nike so far, has had the ‘5 de maio’ theme, a specific colourway to celebrate this Mexico and this date. They were green, red and white.
I’ve always really liked him, and I wanted to have the sneakers my idol wore – besides the Paul Rodriguez 2.5, I had all of them from the 3 until the 8. And it was funny, because around 2007, the Dunk – which today everyone is going crazy for – could be found at Central Surf, Overboard, and some smaller stores at mall, no one really cared about those sneakers. So, it’s funny to think that at that time there wasn’t much hype, the people that bought these shoes had always the same story: he skates, he’s starting to work, doesn’t have much money and so he’s going to look for some stuff at an outlet. I remember when I bought my Paul Rodriguez 2.5 at the outlet and when I met my friends, I was all like “look at my Paul Rodriguez!”, and thought I was skating just like him.
“When I wear them, I get that feeling “bro, should I skate with them or not? Because I need to share this moment”. It is iconic to me, and it brings back all those memories – the broken arm, my friends at Parque da Juventude, my trip to Los Angeles, the memory of meeting Paul Rodriguez here in Brazil.”
And you didn't feel bad to skate in sneakers like those?
DonNot at all! I bought these sneakers to skate and wore them as much as possible, I would put hot glue, duct tape so it would last longer and when it was completely worn out, I’d get a new one. In 2012 while I was studying in Los Angeles, I went to an outlet and bought the 4 and the 5. I was in love with them. Got them out of the box, packed them in my suitcase and brought them back to Brazil. I wore them to go out, then when they started to wear out, I used them for skateboarding.
In 2014 Paul Rodriguez came to Brazil at the La Ruta Panamericana, which was an event Nike did at ‘Campo de Marte’. I’ve always really liked writing, and at that time I had a skateboard blog, where I talked about what was going on. The Nike SB press crew contacted me and said “there will be an event. Do you want to cover it?”, of course I said yes. I thought I was only going there to film, but then they told me I could also get inside the VIP area. As soon as I came in, guess who I bumped into? Paul Rodriguez! Just like that! Bro. I was wearing a New Era cap, with an SP stamped on it which looked like Paul Rodriguez’s logo, so I told him “Bro, for the love of God, can you sign this!”. We took a picture together; I was completely emotional. Man, I think it was one of the happiest days of my life.
When Nike launched the Dunk ‘What The PRod’ they hadn’t released a silhouette with Paul Rodriguez for a long time, they had stopped at the 10. In 2019 they released a Dunk High SB, which was inspired by boxing, wrestling and everything else, and I obviously bought it, because I am such a big fan. When they announced the ‘What The PRod’, I told myself “I need these sneakers”. It means a lot to me, not only because of his history in skateboarding, but also the influence Paul Rodriguez had on me with skateboarding; it consolidates all the sneakers I don’t have anymore because I skated on them till they wore out. It’s an affectionate memory within a sneaker. Although it’s new, being released in 2021, it brings me a lot of memories from the time I skateted. When I put them on my feet, man… I don’t even know how to explain the feeling.
You know that Paul Rodriguez video with Primitive? Showing the development of the “What The PRod” and him skating? I swear I cried watching that video. Because Paul Rodriguez didn’t skate for a long time and there were no video parts of him for years, this one was made exactly for this sneaker. When I wear them, I get that feeling “bro, should I skate with them or not? Because I need to share this moment”. It is iconic to me, and it brings back all those memories – the broken arm, my friends at Parque da Juventude, my trip to Los Angeles, the memory of meeting Paul Rodriguez here in Brazil. He influenced me in everything, as a skater, as a person, as a passion, and the Nike brand too… It’s one of my passions thanks to Paul Rodriguez.
Do you still have any of these old PRods represented in this Dunk?
donI don’t have them anymore because I used to skate with them. But last month I found a guy selling a Paul Rodriguez 5 that he had barely used for R$150. I immediately said, “It’s mine!”, and bought them right away. This 5 I want to skate with again, so I don’t have to use the Dunks. I don’t want to skate with them, but it became my beater… I use them wherever I go.
And do you have any other favourite silhouette, or model that you also love?
donI like them all, It’s very difficult. My sneakers always have a story, a sports connection behind them. For example, I got the Air Jordan IV ‘University Blue’, not only because of the colour, but because it’s the UNC colourway – which is Jordan’s university, it’s currently one of my favourites as well. So is the Dunk x Atmos ‘Elephant Print. Not only because it resembles the Atmos Air Max 1, but because it also looks like the Diamond Dunk.
Some people say “oh, for you to be a real sneakerhead, I must have a Travis Scott, must have an Air Jordan…” No, you don’t! All you need to have is a sneaker you like. It’s about the sneakers that you like, and the passion you have for it.