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September 13, 2016 | Issue 44
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Behind The Scenes
Behind-the-scenes with the talented duo of Todd Diemer and Kace Logik at the Ekiden photo shoot on Saturday. Check out their work on Instagram!

Good morning! My wife and I are in the middle of a big move and writing time has been tight this week. That said, we’ve got a good thing going here at the morning shakeout (Issue 44, holy shit!) and not publishing it would be akin to bailing on a regularly scheduled morning shakeout with your running buddies because you stayed up too late, were hungover or came up with some other bullshit excuse. Remember, somewhere between 75 and 90 percent of life is just showing up, according to Woody Allen (or whoever you want to attribute that silly quote to). So, please enjoy this brief barrage of “helpful and unpredictably interesting” commentary, reading and listening. (Thanks to reader Dwight Rabe for that sweet description of the newsletter!)

A tainted history lesson. 

“You have very strong nationalistic forces who aren’t necessarily saying “dope to win” but they’re saying “don’t be embarrassed by the East Germans and the Russians anymore” knowing full well that they are doping….Then in 1984 as they were approaching the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, the U.S. Olympic Committee wanted to avoid similar embarrassment (to the ’83 Pan-Am Games where 15 U.S. athletes tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs prior to competition) because they knew that Americans were using the same medical technologies, pharmaceuticals as the Soviets and the East Germans, so what they did is they used the antidoping lab at UCLA to screen the American athletes before the Games. Of the 86 athletes who tested positive [in the pre-Olympics screening], 84 went on to compete at the Olympic Games.” 

The drab cadence of this discussion between Outside EIC Chris Keyes and author Mark Johnson can be tough to get past early on but I recommend hanging in for the duration as there are a number of colorful anecdotes such as the one above that stand out in their dialogue on the history of doping in sport. I look forward to Johnson’s new book, Spitting In The Soup, which explores this incredibly messy, complex and often misunderstood world. 

Back to the specific excerpt I pulled out of the 40-ish minute podcast: Despite the pre-Olympics screening in 1984, twenty American medal winners still tested for performance-enhancing drugs at the L.A. Games. When IOC went looking for the list of names tied to the urine sample numbers, the list mysteriously disappeared, letting the athletes off the hook and avoiding a massive scandal. Coincidence? Of course not. It’s no different than a lot of the same bullshit that’s still getting swept under the rug over 30 years later here in the U.S., in Russia, Kenya, Jamaica, Spain and elsewhere. While drug testing efforts have improved and cheaters now get read the riot act until well after their careers are over, the organizations that are in charge of sports and the sponsors that fund them haven’t changed, nor have they changed their behavior and, as Johnson covers in his book, there’s “decades of history in which teams, coaches, governments, the media, scientists, sponsors, sports federations, and even spectators have played a role” in fostering a culture of cheating. Why? The common thread that ties all of this together is greed—financial and otherwise—and in many cases it’s the athletes, whether by their choice or not, that end up getting used as pawns for the various organizations, federations, sponsors, agents and coaches intent on flaunting their bravado. It’s sickening when you start to knock down some of the longstanding walls and see what’s hiding behind them. We’ve recently seen more frequent cracks forming in the various foundations and I hope the whole damn thing comes crumbling down soon so the entire Olympic model can be rebuilt from scratch. Until that happens, in the words of Tupac, “there ain't no hope for the youth and the truth is it ain't no hope for the future.”

Of writers and runners.

— Ryan Holiday is a writer who came onto my radar from two different directions this past week. First, I read this piece in the Observer on the timeless link between writing and running and then, completely unrelated to the article, I listened to him on the most recent episode of Michael Gervais’ excellent Finding Mastery podcast. Given the interests of 99 percent of the people who subscribe to this newsletter, I highly recommend checking both of these out. “The nice part about writing is that it’s so hard and it’s never as good as you want it to be,” Holiday tells Gervais on the podcast. Sounds a lot like running, doesn’t it? Both acts fall into the category of things that are hard and, like writers, runners are never fully satisfied with their effort. There’s always a few more miles we should have run or a couple more seconds we could have squeezed out of ourselves. And just as the writer puts his ass back in the chair each day, the runner laces up his or her shoes and also embraces the daily grind. There’s a shared beauty in both acts that I feel fortunate to experience.

+ Further reading: The Business of Running. "A real runner is out there for himself, and no one else. If it was about conflict, about proving superiority, you wouldn’t see them alone on the track at 4am, or on the streets in the pouring rain. I lace up my shoes each night because it’s precisely the opposite of what my body tells me it wants–that’s my motivation."

Logs on the fire. 

I’ve enjoyed poring over training logs since my reign of running dorkery started in high school. As a 17-year-old I who had just gotten into the sport, I would obsess over the training of legends like Noureddine Morceli, Haile Gebrselassie, Daniel Komen and whoever else’s workouts I could get my hands on when I was allowed a few precious moments online. (Note: Back then there was no such thing as smartphones or always-on WiFi. Also, I still have the now nearly 18-year old printouts of the two logs I just linked to tucked away somewhere in my filing cabinet, but I digress.) In college, I would read Kevin Beck’s training logs religiously and I still visit my friend Bob Hodge’s goldmine of a site (which hasn’t changed its look in over 15 years!) whenever I want some historical perspective. Tom McArdle’s online log from his time at Dartmouth was legendary and attracted him a cult following (including yours truly). And after college, in the early 2000s, I would follow the training of Brian Sell, Mike Morgan, Melissa White, Carly Graytock and the rest of the Hansons-Brooks runners on Athleticore, where I also posted my own workouts and dissected the logs of my Boston-area running buddies that I training alongside and competed against. And today, I do the the same on Strava, where many top trail and ultra runners share their own training, and I love keeping up with my friend Ben Rosario’s Northern Arizona Elite team logs on Final Surge. My point: Online training logs were my early introduction to the sport, my first education in training theory and also an invitation to follow other athletes in a very personal way, which not only inspired me as an aspiring competitive runner but also led me to become a fan of many athletes I otherwise never would have followed or gotten behind as their careers progressed. Following elite runners’ logs online allowed me to see that the similarities outweighed the differences in regard to what it took to improve as a runner: the numbers may differ, sometimes greatly, but the principles are essentially the same. It was also refreshing to see that even the best runners had bad days every once in a while. So, it was with great interest that I read this piece from Runner’s World last week that sought to answer the question: “Why don’t more elites post their training online?” I thought Scott Douglas did a solid job addressing and analyzing the different angles involved in the debate. That said, there’s no clear-cut answer to the question but I think it can be boiled down to three things: 1. Some athletes are lazy; 2. Others don’t want to appear vulnerable; 3. There’s a desire to maintain some level of privacy (which I completely respect and understand). All that said, I’ve always been grateful for those runners who share the details of their training online. I wish even more elite athletes would. The rewards outweigh the risks and the inspiration, information and entertainment an online log provides can only help to move the sport forward, in my opinion.

Have a look, and a listen. 

I’ve given unsolicited praise to various pieces of content from Tracksmith’s Meter publicaton a few times over the past 44 weeks and I’m going to do so again for this excellent multimedia presentation on the recent Hood To Coast 200-mile Relay. The H2C package features a unique blend of amazing imagery and compelling audio. It’s not only one of the best pieces of content marketing I’ve come across recently, it’s one of the best pieces of running-related storytelling I’ve come across period. Hat tip to Meter editor Andy Waterman and team on the great execution.

That’s it for Issue 44. If you liked what you read this week, please forward this along to a friend or post the web link to your blog or preferred social media channel. You can also share your thoughts with me by replying directly to this email or yelling at me uncontrollably on Twitter. I welcome it all.

Thanks for reading, 

Mario

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