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November 1, 2016 | Issue 51
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That's me riding back seat on the struggle bus after racing cross country two weekends ago. 
Photo: Chris Denucci 

Good morning! Let’s cut right to the chase: You’re likely wondering about that logo underneath the morning shakeout header at the top of the page. It belongs to Tracksmith and I’m proud to announce them as the first monthly sponsor of the morning shakeout.  

Why sponsorship? Why now? Those are both good questions. This newsletter is a labor of love that costs me a good amount of time—and an increasing amount of money—to produce each week. I don’t charge anything to read it and have absolutely no plans to deviate from that strategy. But, as I wrote last week, “just because it’s free doesn’t mean it comes without cost.” And dammit, I love writing the morning shakeout and want to spend more of my time working on it so I can create additional content that complements the weekly newsletter in various ways.

The only way I can do that, however, is to have the newsletter start generating revenue that not only covers my hosting and email provider costs but also supports me monetarily for the work I do. No use in trying to sugarcoat it. While I weighed a few options for achieving those two ends, I ultimately decided on selling exclusive sponsorships over banner advertising, reader donations, affiliate advertising and other alternatives. The advantage to you, my loyal readers, is that the newsletter isn’t littered with a shitload of annoyingly random and ugly ads that are distracting you from reading and promoting something you likely aren’t interested in anyway. The value to the sponsor is exclusivity, prominent ad placement at the top of the page and the attention of a highly engaged audience. The mutual benefit for everyone involved is that the morning shakeout will only accept sponsorships for brands, products, services and races that I believe in and will be of interest to my readership of running nerds, Athletics aficionados, coaches, writers, mediaphiles and other eclectic intellectuals.

So, with all that out of the way, a sincere thank you to Tracksmith for sponsoring the morning shakeout for the month of November. Tracksmith creates incredibly high quality performance running apparel, authentic publications and inspiring experiences that celebrate the history, culture and competitive spirit of the sport I, and many morning shakeout readers, love so much. Plus, they’re based in my home state of Massachusetts and are headquartered at the halfway point of my favorite race, the Boston Marathon. Matt Taylor and his team have been big supporters of the morning shakeout since the first issue and I can’t think of a better partner to launch monthly sponsorships alongside. It was a natural fit.

If you have questions, comments or concerns about sponsorship of the morning shakeout, please check out this page for more details or simply reply to this email. 

Now, onto our regularly scheduled content. Enjoy!

Not so fast, Rita. 

"I have returned to serious training with the hope that I will return to the marathon soon,” disgraced drug cheat Rita Jeptoo told Kenya’s Daily Nation almost two weeks ago. "I am optimistic my appeal to CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) will go through.”

Well, you need more than optimism to win an appeal these days and Jeptoo is now serving an 4-year suspension from competition for being doped to the gills when she won the 2014 Boston and Chicago marathons.

And while I’m glad that the screws have been tightened on Jeptoo’s original two-year ban, I’m incredibly disappointed that she wasn’t handed a lifetime expulsion from the sport even though the CAS said “it was obvious to the panel that the athlete used rEPO as part of a scheme or plan. The evidence for this includes her long relationship with the doctor in question, her multiple visits to see him, that her rEPO use was consistent with her competition calendar, that she hid the visits to the doctor in question from her manager and coach, as well as her deceptive and obstructive conduct throughout the proceedings.”

The Guardian also reported that “the undisputed source of the rEPO found in her sample of 25 September 2014 was an injection given to her by a doctor.” What am I missing here? I understand the rules that are currently in place don’t allow for lifetime bans in these situations but this woman has no business ever stepping on a starting line again—not two years from now, not 4 years from now, not 20 years from now. I’m sorry if that sounds overly harsh but as I’ve written in this space before, you forfeit that privilege when you’ve deliberately cheated and been busted for it. To those who say lifetime bans aren’t fair to those who made a mistake, I say 4-year bans aren’t fair to those athletes who have committed to competing clean. Second chances shouldn't exist in these situations.

Jeptoo’s particular case is interesting to me on a number of levels, none more so than the fact that she hid the doctor’s visits from her agent, Federico Rosa, and coach, Claudio Berardelli. I interviewed Rosa after Jeptoo's news broke two years ago and I wasn’t sure what to think then and I’m still not sure what to think now. Kenyan officials banned and arrested foreign agents and coaches such as Rosa and Berardelli for allegedly contributing to the doping problem in their country while Rosa himself told me the Internet, agents, coaches and local doctors are the ones causing all the trouble. Who do you believe? That’s the question that isn’t easy for anyone to answer these days. 

+ Were you really all that surprised to learn that the anti-doping program in Rio was a shit show? If you need some more convincing, read this and that when you get a chance. “If you want a near-perfect example of how some major sporting governing bodies appear to view image and perception as more important than honesty and clarity, look no further than the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) response to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Independent Observers (IO) report from Rio 2016,” writes Liam Morgan for Inside The Games.

Winning is no longer the point. 

"Speedrunning is a collaborative and cumulative endeavor, academic and scientific in its ideals and division of labor,” Oliver Roeder writes for FiveThirtyEight. “There are the theorists, such as Milling, who study the math of what’s possible. And there are the experimentalists, such as Myers, who test the theories in game after callus-creating game. It even has a kind of peer review—viewers on Myers’s Twitch streams have occasionally noticed something interesting, and Myers has incorporated it into his runs. The results are then dutifully recorded, cataloged and published, the canon grows and the record falls." 

No, Roeder isn’t writing about Sub2 Marathon Project that I’ve alluded to once or twice in this space. He’s referring to the Super Mario Bros. speedrun world record (yes, as in the 8-bit video game) that shares a number of eery parallels with scientist Yannis Pitsiladis’ quest to help someone break the 2-hour marathon, as my friend Sam Robinson recently pointed out to me. There’s an odd allure to both endeavors that has nothing to do with competition, only speed. Both pursuits are heavily researched and rehearsed over a long period of time. Variables are eliminated from the equation. Precision is the name of the game. If the participant doesn’t achieve the desired result—i.e., breaking a certain time barrier—he simply calls it a day, goes back to the drawing board and waits for the stars to align before making his next attempt. “Winning is no longer the point,” Sam wrote to me. Sadly, he isn't wrong.

Journey on. 

I’ve followed Vern Gambetta on Twitter for a couple of years now and find a lot of value in his to-the-point takes on coaching, conditioning, movement, psychology, preparation and performance. His pragmatic advice comes from decades of on-the-ground experience and is backed by incredible results. Gambetta was recently a guest on Michael Gervais’ always excellent Finding Mastery podcast and it’s a must-listen for anyone who coaches, teaches or mentors other people. If you liked the Lou Holtz interview I linked to a couple weeks ago, you’ll love this one. “Mastery is a process and a journey, not a destination,” Gambetta says. “The process for me is all about connecting the dots and it’s definitely not linear. 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. In sport and in life,  just about the time you think you have it figured out, there’s gonna be another question that pops up…That constant challenge is really what's neat.”

That’s it for Issue 51. Let me know what you thought by replying directly to this email or giving me a shout on Twitter.

Thanks for reading, 

Mario

P.S. As part of Tracksmith’s sponsorship of the morning shakeout, I’ll be giving away a Varsity Runner’s Cap each week this month. Reply to this email by Friday morning, Nov. 4, at 9 AM PST and let me know what you would want to ask Tracksmith CEO Matt Taylor about starting a running company. I’ll choose the question I think is most interesting and reward the person who posed it with a sweet cap (and Matt will answer your question, amongst others, in a blog post he’s working on).

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