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November 17, 2015 | Issue 1
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the morning shakeout by mario fraioli

Welcome to Issue 1 of The Morning Shakeout. Thank you for subscribing!

Here are five things I’m fired up about right now:

Shannon Rowbury’s ignorance 

It’s no surprise to most of you reading this that the sport of track and field has a doping problem of an indeterminate magnitude. (Hint: It’s not small.) Just last week, Russia’s athletics federation was suspended from international competition for the foreseeable future by the IAAF, prompting American Olympian Shannon Rowbury—whose own training group is under suspicion of shady practices—to post the following message to her Facebook page and Twitter account: Proud that IAAF World Athletics Club is dedicated to cleaning up our sport. Excited about the new leadership and hopeful that the future of Track & Field will be brighter!

Seriously, Shannon? Here’s my Tweet back to Rowbury. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m happy that cheaters are being suspended and results will (hopefully) be rectified, but for Rowbury to claim that the IAAF is dedicated to cleaning up the sport is an ignorant—if not irresponsible—comment for a current athlete to make. What about the new leadership is there to be excited about? Sebastian Coe, the “new” president of the IAAF, is the former right-hand man of now disgraced former president Lamine Diack, who just two weeks ago was arrested in France on charges of corruption and money laundering committed during his tenure as head of the organization. Coe, who was not particularly impressive or convincing in this recent interview with British journalist Jon Snow, claims he had no knowledge of any wrongdoing by his former boss, whom he praised to the high heavens upon taking over as president. How the hell did he not know any of this was happening during his last 7 years as vice president? To quote Snow: “I think you were asleep on the job.” Even if he were asleep, that kind of noise surely would have shaken Coe awake. He must have been in a coma. 

Here’s the bottom line: Regardless of what Rowbury or anyone else says, the IAAF in its current state is not dedicated to cleaning up our sport. Coe, the new boss, is the same as the old boss. He is solely dedicated to covering his organization’s ass following years of corruption that is only now coming to light. The only reason Russia was suspended is because the work of German journalist Hajo Seppelt prompted the Word Anti-Doping Agency to launch an independent investigation into widespread wrongdoing by that country. The IAAF—and Coe specifically—dismissed Seppelt’s reports questioning the integrity of the IAAF’s policing practices, calling it a “declaration of war on my sport.” Sadly, Russia isn’t the only country with a doping problem and the IAAF’s issues extend beyond covering up drug infractions. The entire organization needs to be demolished and rebuilt from the ground up—and until that happens, the future of the sport at the professional level will remain dark. 

The Battle(s) of Los Angeles 

Yes, the Olympic Trials Marathon in L.A. is still a little less than three months away, but I encourage you to read this extensive preview I wrote last week. Here’s the CliffsNotes version: These are going to be two extraordinarily difficult teams to make. There are a whole bunch of men hovering around the 2:10 mark, while there will be a slew of 2:26-2:28-type women trying to keep Shalane and Desi in sight for as long as possible. U.S. marathoning has had some great momentum in recent years and I believe 2016 is going to be a breakout year for many of the sport’s future stars. 

Tracksmith’s ode to Franklin Park

Does it get any better than cross-country in the fall? The short answer is no. Even though the rest of the world’s harriers typically race over hill and dale in the wintertime, September through December is when the sport really shines in the U.S., particularly for high schoolers, collegians and competitive club-level athletes. So, you can imagine my excitement last week when a link to this piece on Boston’s Franklin Park—which, in my biased New Englander’s opinion is the greatest cross-country course in the world—arrived in my inbox. If you’re current or former cross-country runner, athletics history buff or just want to get a better feel for what the sport of XC is all about, I suggest giving it a read. Franklin Park has hosted everything from open all-comer’s meets to world championships and countless events of varying importance in between. Personally, I’ve raced at “Franklin Pahk” dozens of times and in 2003, had two of the greatest races of my life there. To quote Pat Porter in the article, “This course had everything. Crummy footing, nasty hills and great competition. Now, what more could you ask?” My affinity for Franklin aside, the folks at Tracksmith are nailing the celebration of running’s culture, history and stories better than any endemic media brand right now, including the one that employs me. This is an important observation and consideration, as quality, authentic storytelling can easily get lost in a digital world that revolves around speed and volume to generate revenue. Now, I don’t know how well this is translating into sales of their expensive apparel, but that’s a different discussion for another day. 

The reasons why writers run

It should come as no surprise that this article from The Atlantic caught my eye given the melding of my personal and professional interests, and it’s been oddly satisfying for me to think about the parallels between running and writing in my own life. When I started running in high school, I wanted to win races, and in order to do so I knew I had to train hard. Training to race isn’t always fun, but I know it’s a necessary step toward achieving my constantly evolving goals. I approach writing in much the same way these days. In order to become a better writer and produce stuff people enjoy reading (like this newsletter, a magazine article or my next book), I need to practice regularly or I’ll get rusty. Like training for a race, writing is often a painstaking process that, while rewarding at times, isn’t always exciting. And no different than running, the writing process is perpetual in its very nature. Just as there will always be new races and fresh goals to keep runners excited and motivated, writers are always dreaming about the next article, book or project to pursue. Both running and writing—perhaps two of the most overly romanticized activities on the planet—are hard work. At the end of the day, you have to commit to waking up the next morning and getting it done. As Nick Ripatrazone so accurately puts it in his article, “Writers, like runners, often like the idea of their pursuit more so than the difficult work.”

A podcast on philosophy—yes, philosophy!

I’m fashionably late to the podcast party, but I’ve been on a massive listening kick the last 2-3 months, churning through episode after episode while driving, running and on walks to and from the coffee shop near my house. While two of my favorites—StartUp Podcast and Invisible Office Hours—are episodic in nature and provide opportunities to learn more about starting a business and understanding how not to be confined by conventional thinking, many of the ones I listen to are timeless one-off interviews with writers, media personalities, artists, coaches and other people I find interesting or inspiring. One of the best ones I’ve listened to lately was Tim Ferriss’ chat with Alain de Botton, a modern-day philosopher I’d never heard or prior to listening to the show. 

When I tell people I majored in philosophy as an undergrad, most wonder what you do with such a degree—as if the end goal of a college diploma should be some kind of well-defined career path. I’ve always felt that the lessons I’ve learned studying philosophy have given me the skills to navigate my way through life, regardless of whatever it is I’ve decided to pursue. Throughout the course of his 2-hour interview with Ferriss, de Botton covers a variety of topics, but one of the most relevant was his take on the shortcomings of modern-day philosophy. He contends that modern-day philosophy is too academic (I agree) and largely unapproachable for most people, which is why a majority of the population doesn’t find it to be useful or worthwhile. I like that through his own work, de Botton tries to bring philosophy back to its origins as “a type of therapy for the soul, a practical tool that can help you live and die well.”

Philosophy teaches you how to ask the right questions, contemplate different perspectives and drown out the inessential—skills I think we can all benefit from, regardless of what it is we “do” in life.

That’s it for the opening edition of The Morning Shakeout. I hope you enjoyed it.  

Please send me your silly questions, snarky comments, dopey concerns, unsolicited inquiries, high praise or general disdain regarding what you've read here by replying directly to this email, or simply harass me via Twitter

Until next week, 

Mario

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