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December 27, 2016 | Issue 59
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Rosie Dog
We had to say goodbye to my sister-in-law's sweet Rosie on Sunday, a crappy start to Christmas if there ever was one. Rosie was my holiday running and writing buddy for the past 5 years. She'll be missed.

Good morning from the Gateway to the West, where I’ve been spending the past few days visiting family and generally laying low after a wildly exciting—and equally exhausting—second half of the year, which included a career change, a semi-major move to the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge, and an increased focus on improving and evolving the morning shakeout (more on that in a bit). Given all that, making time for deliberate periods of rest, a topic I’ve written about once or twice this year, is a current focus on mine.

I’ve got a sizable sampling of interestingness to share with you this week, but first I’d like to thank Tracksmith for sponsoring the morning shakeout in December. Their support, which has now extended two months, helps me bring this newsletter to you without cost and has also afforded me the opportunity to put more resources into it. On that front, the new website, logo and merch I alluded to in Issue 50 will all be rolling out next month (better late than never!), along with a fresh longform interview series featuring a few interesting cats who hang out near the intersection of running, writing, media and culture.

But for now, let’s work with what we’ve got. Enjoy!

All Haile The Shifter.

As an instantly obsessed newbie high school runner in the late 90s, I dove head first into the history of the sport, gobbling up everything I could about great champions such as Steve Prefontaine, Frank Shorter, Joan Benoit Samuelson, Kip Keino, Bill Rodgers, Paul Tergat, Lasse Viren, Steve Jones, Haile Gebrselassie and others. One of those “others” was Gebrselassie’s countryman and personal hero, Miruts Yifter of Ethiopia, whose finishing kick I tried to emulate in races, often unsuccessfully. His nickname, “Yifter the Shifter,” remains one of the greatest—and most apropos—nicknames in sports, as far as I’m concerned. The under-appreciated Yifter passed away last week at age 72, a sad loss for the world of Athletics. “Yifter won the 5,000 with his trademark, a burst of speed over the final 300 meters that makes it look as if he has suddenly jumped on a bicycle while the others in the race are still merely running,” the New York Times reported at the Olympics in 1980. “It is a move to which other runners usually have no answer, and today was no exception.” Watch him shift gears for yourself right here. It still gets me fired up! (Despite the fact I still don't have much of a kick.)

Create your own drama. 

Boston Marathon officials announced their American elite athlete lineup last week and my stoke meter instantly shot up a few levels. I’m sure the lid will blow off once the complete international fields are released sometime next month. As one might expect following an Olympic year, many of the country’s top stars are lining up for the world’s oldest annual marathon, including most of those who raced the long distance in Rio this past summer. Galen Rupp will make his highly anticipated Boston debut, 2014 champion Meb Keflezighi will race from Hopkinton to Boston for the last time, Jared Ward will probably PR his way to the podium, Shalane Flanagan will try once again to win her hometown road race, and Des Linden will do what she does so well—compete. So why is my stoke so much higher for this race than a sub-2 hour marathon attempt held in a vacuum? Quite simply, because the Boston Marathon is a racer’s race and there’s a history to it that makes a noteworthy performance significant. The runners write the script. As Toni Reavis recently wrote, “If the 2014 Boston Marathon had been a paced race, Meb Keflezighi would not have been the champion.” That’s what makes a race like Boston so beautiful, memorable and authentic. Whether the male winner run 2:01 or 2:10 is irrelevant; if the female champion crosses the line in 2:18 or 2:28, it doesn’t matter. The focus is on the race and the resulting drama that only pure competition can create. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out. 

+ Last week I asked readers if Nike’s Breaking2 project (or any of the other sub-2 hour marathon “projects” that are seemingly all the rage right now) is good for the sport of running. The request generated some thought-provoking responses from both sides of the fence, which I’ve compiled and published in the morning shakeout publication on Medium. You can still join the discussion by logging into Medium and leaving a response below the post. Thank you to all of those who took the time to write to me. I appreciate the dialogue and perspective, even if we’re in disagreement.

+ Alex Hutchinson of Runner’s World is one of a small handful of journalists who will have behind-the-scenes access to the Breaking2 project. He recently took issue with some of the criticisms of the chase for 1:59:59 and attempted to put the barrier-breaking attempt into context. “I think the respect the attempt deserves will depend on the details,” Hutchinson wrote last week. “If it’s downhill and on roller skates, then it’s nothing but a sideshow; but if it’s a legitimate attempt in all but a few minor details, then it’s potentially interesting.” I don’t necessarily disagree with that statement, but “the details”—and the degree to which they’re manipulated—will always be up for debate.

Lend me your ear.

I didn’t read nearly as many books as I would have liked in 2016—sadly, I only finished three— but holy hell did I listen to a lot of podcasts. One of the major reasons for that is I spend a lot of time in motion, whether it’s driving to coach a workout in the city, walking to the coffee shop or running easy miles on my own in the morning, and it’s just easier and more time effective to listen to something. I’ve tried audio books and they’re just not my jam. I much prefer listening to the dialogue of an interview and gleaning as many insights as possible from it. Here’s a quick roundup of my top-5 favorite podcast episodes that I listened to—and in most cases, re-listened to—in 2016:

1. Vern Gambetta on Finding Mastery with Michael Gervais. “The process for me is all about connecting the dots and it’s definitely not linear,” Gambetta says. “You might have A and B connected and you might jump to Z and then come back to M. It’s truly a journey….To me that’s what mastery is. It’s a constant journey. That’s what makes it really fun.”

2. Yvon Chouinard on How I Built This. “If I get an idea I immediately take a step forward and see how that feels,” Chouinard explains. “If it feels good, I take another step. If it feels bad I step back. It’s different than people with a scientific view where they think everything out to the nth degree before they make a move. So I learn by just doing.”

3. Rethinking Death on NPR’s TED Radio Hour. “I think that we ran 100 miles an hour until we hit the end,” author Amanda Bennett recalls of her relationship with her husband, particularly all that they did and experienced in the seven years between his cancer diagnosis and his death. “And I think that’s a heroic journey and I think we’ve got to have some conversation that says, ‘I’ve done everything well in my life, I’m now going to do this well too.’”

4. Lou Holtz on EntreLeadership. “If you get enough first downs, you’re going to end up in the end zone,” Holtz says about taking a process-oriented approach to preparing and competing. “You don’t need a great play to win, you need to eliminate the bad plays.”

5. Cal Fussman on the Tim Ferriss Show. “I didn’t even know what I was doing other than, ‘OK, you’ve got to figure out a way to make people trust you through your questions,’” Fussman, a New York Times bestselling author and a writer-at-large for Esquire Magazine, says about the art of interviewing. “And I no longer had to fill out a story, I didn’t need a who, what, when, where, and why. It was just pure curiosity and then it just zoned into this basic fact: people want to talk about their lives.”

Consistency counts!

One of Tracksmith’s first campaigns that totally resonated with me was the launch of No Days Off in 2014. It reminded of my more youthful competitive days when I would plan my training on an old wall calendar and put a big red X through a completed workout or planned rest day. The absence of a red “X” on the calendar would haunt me, while a series of them in succession brought me comfort and confidence. Well, Tracksmith is bringing No Days Off back for the third straight year and you can get your own wall calendar for FREE (you do have to pay the price of shipping) or purchase a sweet-looking desk calendar for 20 bucks. ”No Days Off started in 2014 as an internal project and it has turned into an annual tradition at Tracksmith," Matt Taylor, Tracksmith’s founder and CEO, wrote to me. "The concept is pretty simple: go for a run every day, rain (or snow) or shine. Whether it's 15 minutes or 15 miles, it's about keeping the engine running day after day after day.” My No Days Off calendar will begin taking up a spot on my desk next week to keep me honest and accountable as I prepare for the Boston Marathon in April. Show me how you’re committing to consistent training in 2017 by posting a photo to Instagram or Twitter and tagging it #2017nodaysoff. I’ll pick my two favorites, announce them here next week, and send each winner a No Days Off desk calendar from Tracksmith. Remember: No Days Off isn’t an invitation to slaughter yourself in training. It’s simply a reminder that every day—even a planned rest day—represents a meaningful step toward achieving your goals.

That’s a wrap on the morning shakeout for 2016. If you liked what you just read, it would make my day if you forwarded this email along to someone who might be interested in it or posted the web link to your preferred social media platform. And please continue to send me your honest feedback, off-the-cuff suggestions, silly questions, snarky comments, dopey concerns, high praise or general disdain regarding this weekly digital dispatch by shooting me a quick email or shouting in my general direction on Twitter. I appreciate it all (and will get back to you, even if it takes me a few days). 

Thanks for reading, 

Mario

P.S. I made a few appearances around the internet last week that might be of interest to you. This shoutout from Outside magazine was a nice surprise. I’m humbled and honored to be mentioned alongside folks I respect like Lauren Fleshman, Alexi Pappas, Tim Hutchings and Anne Mahlum. Tracksmith head of content Andy Waterman joined me and my wife a couple months ago for some hometown running on my favorite loop in Auburn, Massachusetts and this cool piece is what came of it. And finally, I joined Eric Schranz and Ethan Veneklasen last week on Ultrarunner Podcast to recap the year that was in American ultrarunning and look ahead to 2017. Check it out.

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