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January 26, 2016 | Issue 11
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the morning shakeout by mario fraioli
Morning shakeout with my wife in snowy St. Louis over the weekend. instagram.com/mariofraioli

Good morning! Here’s what’s been shakin’ around in my head over the past week:

Ryan Hall is a jogger.

Those are his words, not mine. “If someone asked me, ‘Do you run?’ I’d have to think about it,” Ryan Hall told me last week. “I would say I jog. Now I can relate to those people who don’t want to call themselves a runner. I’m more in that jogger category now, I think.” 

This was one of the interesting answers the recently retired Hall had for a number of questions I threw his way last Tuesday afternoon. I shamelessly suggest that you check out the interview if you haven’t already done so. 

In a matter of months, Hall has made the transformation from runner into jogger, at least in his own mind. Did he really lose his “identity” that quickly? By his own accounts, he’s not running as much these days and his body type has changed, which is seemingly enough to change his perception of himself and the activity he’s spent most of his life doing on a level that few of us can only begin to comprehend. 

“When that’s your definition of being a runner [“flying through the forest, just totally in the flow”], going out now and running 4 miles three days a week, I don’t really feel like a runner,” Hall said. “It’s funny, oftentimes I’ll just wear normal ASICS baggy pants and a sweatshirt. I don’t put on my running shorts anymore because it just doesn’t feel right. I’m like, “I’m not really running here.”

On some level, I can relate. And I’m sure many of you reading this understand where Hall is coming from, too. I know when I’m not racing, training hard or all that fit in general—which, coincidentally enough, happens to be the case right now—I’ll put on my “fat shorts” and go “jog” until I’ve turned the corner back toward what I consider “real running,” i.e., long runs, weekly speed workouts and lining up to test myself at the occasional race. Fundamentally, it’s only my self-perception that changes. Translated: When you’re used to running at a certain level for most of your life, as Hall was (and I have been), it can be hard to identify with the runner you used to be when you’re no longer there. 

That said (and my own self-wallowing aside), as long as I’m able to put one foot in front of the other faster than I can walk, I’ll call myself a runner. Why? Because the act of doing so—even if I’m not doing it as much, as regularly or as fast as I once did—still has meaning behind it. And as long as my running means something to me, I’ll proudly identify as a runner to anyone who asks. I think Ryan, who told me that he’ll always run to some extent, will eventually come to realize that “runner” is still a major part of his identity—even if “flying through the forest, just totally in the flow” isn’t what it used to be.  

What makes a runner? Do you identify as one? Why or why not? Share your thoughts by Tweeting at me or replying to this email. 

Get off your ass and show up. 

Gay Talese is a legend in the magazine writing world. I’ve read his book, A Writer’s Life (which bored the hell out of me, for what it’s worth) but his longer magazine pieces—most of which appeared in The New Yorker and Esquire—have brought me, along with many others, the most enjoyment. This month-and-a-half-old piece in Vanity Fair by Rachel Tashjian celebrates the 50-year anniversary of Talese's legendary Esquire profile, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” and contains invaluable advice for aspiring writers and journalists. Sinatra wouldn’t allow Talese to interview him for the piece, so ol’ Gay went and did what any good journalist in pursuit of a story would do in such a situation: He observed Sinatra from a distance and interviewed every person with an association to Frank who was willing to talk to him. It reminded me of the approach Matt Fitzgerald had to take in order to tell one of endurance sports’ greatest stories, Iron War

“That’s one thing about journalism: you have to show up,” Talese said. “But we had a kind of patience about waiting. We were going to get what we wanted. I don’t think this new generation has the patience or even knowledge of how to get things. . . .You have to get off your ass. Make something happen with your personality, with your goddamn style, your charm, your beautiful clothes, your reassurance, your salesman huckster-ist licorice. Know how to get something and not break hearts or be offensive."

Quick Splits

Love what you do. “I am one of those people who theoretically does what they love…But I would also be lying if I said my job wasn’t ‘work,’ because it’s only great sometimes. A lot of it, like everyone else’s job, including yours, is bullshit I’d love to not have to do.” This quote isn’t mine, but I very well could have written it. That’s not to be taken as a criticism of my job title or my employer—it’s not at all—but as a truth of having a “job” in general, regardless of your field or profession. I’m in a fortunate position where I “do what I love” in an industry I’m passionate about, but it’s not always interviewing athletes, covering events, testing out running shoes, writing features and producing video series. There are also notes to compile, numbers to hit, weekends to work, late assignments to chase, pages to cut, contributors to pay and various fires to put out. That’s why it’s called work, and to make the most of it, you’ve got to learn to love what you do. The lesson: Embrace the bullshit with the cool shit. 

+ An eye for emotion. If you haven’t heard of Emily Maye, you’ve likely come across her photography in a magazine or catalogue you subscribe to, or somewhere on the world wide web. She’s shot a lot over the past year-plus for Tracksmith, which is where I first encountered her work. Check out her Instagram feed or poke around her website for an unmatched look at the raw emotion and drama of sport.

+ The power of conviction. “I was completely and utterly astounded. And I remember thinking, I was ashamed that I had doubted this individual because she turned out to have a remarkable discovery.” These are the words of Harvard geneticist Robert Green after learning that Jill Viles, a 39-year-old mother from Iowa who has muscular dystrophy and can’t walk, has the same genetic condition as Olympic hurdler Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, who won silver at the London Games and still competes at the top of her sport. Viles, who essentially used Google images to make this seemingly unrelated connection, has spent almost her entire life seeing things doctors couldn’t see—including diagnosing her dad (correctly) with a rare type of muscular dystrophy called Emery-Dreifuss—and trying to convince people. especially doctors and scientists, that they should take her seriously. Nothing else I write here will do justice to this story, so listen to the NPR podcast here (it starts about 5 minutes in) and/or read this lengthy ProPublica piece by David Epstein.

That’s it for this week’s newsletter. Please share your thoughts by replying directly to this email, or feel free to shame me publicly on the Twitter

Thanks for reading,

Mario

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