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May 3, 2016 | Issue 25
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the morning shakeout by mario fraioli
the morning shakeout
I accidentally snapped this photo while fumbling around with my phone on a run this past Saturday in the Marin Headlands north of San Francisco. But I kind of like how it turned out, so I'm sharing it exclusively with readers of the morning shakeout. For more intentional images from my adventures both on the run and off, check out instagram.com/mariofraioli

Good morning! Here are a few things I want to share and discuss with you this week:

Fight for what you know is right. 

My wife and I watched Concussion on Friday night and I’ve been raving about the film ever since. It was incredible on many levels. Dr. Bennet Omalu, the pathologist who discovered the debilitating condition known as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) in former NFL players who had committed suicide as a result of repeated trauma to the brain over the course of their careers, is a fascinating character who fought for what he knew was right despite the NFL’s best efforts to dismiss his work and keep him silent. The film showed firsthand how self-serving a sport's governing body can be when someone threatens the best interests of its key stakeholders who stand to lose a lot of money and power if the wrongdoing in question is exposed, much less confirmed. In Concussion, Omalu was told by an NFL official that he was a fraud and his work threatened to kill the game of football. The dialogue in that scene reminded me a lot of the rhetoric we’ve heard lately in track and field: Someone blows a whistle about wrongdoing they see within the sport, whether it’s cheating, corruption or some combination of the two, and a person of power within the sport’s governance gets defensive, immediately dismisses the whistleblower’s credibility and says he or she is trying to destroy the sport. “It is a declaration of war on my sport,” Sebastian Coe of the IAAF said when it was reported that his organization failed to act on hundreds of suspicious blood tests over a 10-year period. Coe also attacked “these so-called experts” and, much like the NFL did in Omalu’s case, touted the credibility of his organization’s own panel of scientists who he insisted tested all the samples in question. The similarities in the two situations are staggering: The NFL’s brass knew about the debilitating effects of multiple concussions on its players for years and looked the other way much in the same way track and field’s biggest stakeholders kept quiet while doping and corruption issues ran (and continue to run) rampant through the sport. Money, greed and power rule the roost. Whistleblowers are undermined, encouraged to keep quiet and their safety is threatened. For the sake of track and field, I can only hope that more Omalus emerge and expose what’s really going on behind the scenes despite the best efforts of the IAAF and other involved parties to keep the truth seekers quiet.

How expensive are your ethics?

“The argument comes down to, am I going to kill a story because an advertiser said so? I don’t think any story is too small to be treated ethically,” VeloNews editor-in-chief John Bradley recently told The Columbia Journalism Review. A few weeks back, I commended Bradley for his decision to run a story about a leaked Shimano product despite the brand’s threat to pull all advertising with VN if the piece got published. Check out the CJR piece which sheds more light on the battle of ethics vs. advertisers in enthusiast media and explains just how competitive the race is for advertising dollars amongst niche titles.

“Just make it work!”

In last week’s newsletter I gave a shoutout to ultrarunner Zach Miller, whose kamikaze racing style you can’t help but respect and admire. And although it wasn’t planned, I’m giving him another mention this week after listening in to some of his interview last night on Ginger Runner Live. How can you not like a guy who lives 6 miles up the side of a mountain in the backcountry of Colorado where he works as a camp caretaker, scrubbing dishes, shoveling out composting toilets and rescuing guests in the middle of snowstorms while also training to be one of the best long-distance racers in the world? “You just make it work,” Miller tells host (and morning shakeout subscriber) Ethan Newberry on the show. And prior to taking on his current gig two years ago, Miller lived and worked on a cruise ship where he would train on treadmills and in the stairwells when he wasn’t logging hours in the boat’s printing department. So, if you’re having trouble getting out the door for your workout this week, watch or listen in to Miller’s interview and leave your excuses on the front porch.

#SayTwoWords

I get a lot of questions from people who follow my Instagram account about the aforementioned hashtag, as I’ve been using it in the captions of almost all my posts in recent months. So what the hell does it mean and where did it originate from? Quite simply, #saytwowords is a creative constraint: I get two words—and only two words—to describe the scene in the photo or get my point across. Limiting myself to a two-word caption forces me to really think about what it is I want to write. The idea, as far as I know, is the brainchild of my close friend and training partner Chris Denucci, who shared it with me on a run one morning. As a writer and editor who thrives on word counts and deadlines, I was naturally drawn to the idea of #saytwowords and have since made it a regular practice when I post. I encourage you to give #saytwowords a shot next time you post a photo to Instagram—it can be fun, challenging and frustrating all at the same time!

+ Further/related reading: This post written by 37 Signals/Basecamp co-founder and CEO Jason Fried describing the class he’d like to teach—a writing course, of course—is a quick read I have saved to Instapaper and revisit every couple months. Whether you’re a writer or not, I recommend checking it out. “I don’t care about the topic,” Fried writes. “I care about the editing….Along the way you’d trade detail for brevity. Hopefully adding clarity at each point. This is important because I believe editing is an essential skill that is often overlooked and under appreciated. The future belongs to the best editors.” Now that’s a course I’d like to take.

That’s a wrap on Issue 25. I love hearing from readers so please feel free to share your thoughts with me by replying directly to this email or giving me a shout on Twitter. If you liked what you read here, I would be thrilled if you forwarded this along to a friend or shared the web link on your social media platform of choice. 

Thanks for reading, 

Mario

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