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November 22, 2016 | Issue 54
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San Diego
Vacation week. | San Diego, California
 
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Good morning! Here's a healthy portion of fresh commentary, interesting articles and noteworthy podcasts to get you through the Thanksgiving holiday. Enjoy!

Impossible is everywhere. 

“The numbers are just impossible, incredible,” Gian-Franco Kasper, an executive board member of the International Olympic Committee, told the New York Times. “We lose credibility. Credibility is a major concern.” I don’t know the exact rock Gian-Franco has been hiding under for the past several years, but what governing body in sport, from the IOC all the way down to the national federations, has any shred of credibility remaining? I can't think of one. There are so many questions that need answering here. For starters, how did the IOC decide which samples to retest? It’s interesting to me that a majority of the guilty athletes “are from Russia and other Eastern European countries.” While the issues in those countries are certainly well known at this point, were certain athletes (or entire nations) singled out over others? A little transparency regarding the selection protocol would go a long way here. And while I’m glad that old samples from previous Olympics are getting retested and people are getting popped after the fact, who really benefits from a rewriting of the results 4 or 8 years later? The now new medalists already lost their moment of glory on the medal stand along with any sponsor bonuses that would have come along with it. But, to play devil’s advocate, who’s to say they weren't cheating too? Where are the samples on the 6th, 7th, 8th and, in some cases, 9th place finishers who are now being crowned medalists? To the best of my knowledge, samples were never collected for those athletes, which means that some medals are going to be blindly redistributed. Strip the medals of those who were found to have cheated but don’t pass them off to someone else unless there’s a sample that shows they’re clean. And what does retesting old samples do for future doping deterrence? Absolutely nothing. Finally, let’s not forget about the shit show of an anti-doping program that took place in Rio, where staff shortages led to an insufficient number of samples being collected amongst a number of other shortcomings. Between a myriad of anti-doping related issues, Rule 40 idiocy and all manner of bullshit in between, the entire Olympic operation is a comedy of errors. On that note, my final (serious) question: Do we still need it?

+ “That non-meeting of the minds sums up where Olympic sport has been stalled for years, without public accountability or consequences for anyone other than the athletes themselves.” ESPN’s Bonnie Ford recently covered the WADA Foundation Board meeting in Scotland and writes that the organizations’s “way forward” has yet to escape its past

+ Speaking of incompetent and corrupt governing bodies, Ayumba Ayodi of Kenya’s Daily Nation reports “the National Olympic Committee of Kenya (Noc-K) has said that Nike performance bonus payments for Olympic and Commonwealth Games are not meant for athletes.” At last check, athletes were the ones performing at these competitions. So why aren't they getting the checks?

Taking the turn for home. 

As you well know by now, Tracksmith has been graciously sponsoring the morning shakeout this month. Well, they just launched a new campaign called “Back To The Start Line,” which celebrates returning to the place (or places) where the earlier chapters of your running story developed, and it resonated with me right away. In fact, it’s rather apropos this week as my wife and I are back in San Diego, a place we used to call home, and it’s been a lot of fun to reconnect with friends and meet up for runs over the routes we used to frequent on a regular basis when we lived here. On that note, I loved this short film telling the story of Taylor Gilland and Lea Wallace’s respective returns to their hometowns, retracing old footsteps and reliving memories. Definitely check it out for a little inspiration as you head home for the holidays and start planning your own reunion runs with family, friends, old teammates and former training partners. 

+ On that note, if you’re heading “home” this week for Thanksgiving (wherever that might be for you!), snap a photo of yourself and/or your buddies running along familiar roads and trails, upload it to Instagram or Twitter, and hashtag it with #hometownrun2016. I’ll pick my favorite one and send you a Varsity Runner’s Cap from Tracksmith. The winner will be announced here next week. 

+ Congratulations to Kyle Kranz, winner of last week’s #halfshakeout giveaway, who threw down a cold 13.1 miler this past week. Please reply to this email with your mailing address and we’ll get a cap sent out to you.

Everybody hurts.

A few months ago, the excellent Maria Popova wrote about writer James Baldwin and how the artist’s struggle for integrity sheds light on what it means to be human, sharing snippets from this talk he gave in 1962. I found Baldwin’s words to be incredibly applicable to the current situation we as members of the human race are facing on both a domestic and global level: a collective inability to understand and connect with those who are different from us. At the end of the day, all humans, regardless of age, gender, race, nationality or sexual orientation, are experiencing the same thing: pain, fear and uncertainty. Rather than let these things divide us, we must use them to better understand one another’s struggles in an effort to connect and come together. “And what is crucial here is that if it hurt you, that is not what’s important. Everybody’s hurt,” Baldwin explains 10:30 into the talk. “What is important, what corrals you, what bullwhips you, what drives you, torments you, is that you must find some way of using this to connect you with everyone else alive. This is all you have to do it with.”

Quick Splits

Oh, deer. (I’m not exaggerating when I say that I’ve watched this video at least three dozen times.)

— I recently joined Jason Fitzgerald on his new Strength Running podcast to talk coaching: what makes for a good coach-athlete relationship, lessons we’ve learned from our past coaches, balancing intensity and recovery, and much more. Give it a listen!

— Even though I’ve lived in California for over six years now, my roots are still firmly planted in New England, where I spent most of my life until 2010. One of my favorite underground running publications is a local rag called Level Renner, founded by Kevin Gorman, a fellow alumni of Stonehill College. The November/December 2016 issue kicks ass and I suggest checking it out for free online. It’s got a gritty literary style and tone to it that makes me feel at home even when I’m a couple thousand miles away. This month, I particularly enjoyed Nate Jenkins’ (my former college rival) “Rules I Live By” column along with the series of “Legion Profiles” that make up the middle of the book. “First, train to develop the ability to do better running-specific training,” Jenkins writes. “This means you focus on your muscular abilities and limits and your most basic aerobic abilities. Next, focus on workouts to build general running fitness. This is when you do workouts to be able to do better workouts later. You are not getting ready to race but you are getting ready to do race-specific workouts. Finally, do workouts to build specific racing ability.” I want to put that entire excerpt on a billboard for every runner to see.

— Tim Ferriss compiled what amounts to a Derek Sivers highlight reel on his latest podcast, which I really enjoyed. Who the hell is Derek Sivers? That’s a fair question. To me, he’s just an interesting guy, successful entrepreneur and thought-provoking writer on a number of different topics. I don’t know him personally but I respect his work and have gleaned a lot from it. “But whatever you choose, brace yourself, because people are always going to tell you you’re wrong,” he wrote in a recent post. “That’s why you need to know why you’re doing what you’re doing. Know it in advance. Use it as your compass and optimize your life around it. Let the other goals be secondary. So when those decision moments come, you can choose the value that you already know matters most to you.” (Also, his book notes are insane, constantly updated, and will keep you occupied for days. Definitely check them out if you're looking for new reading material.)

That’s it for Issue 54. If you liked what you read here, please forward this missive along to a friend or share the web link on your preferred social media platform. You can also send your thoughts my way by replying directly to this email or seeking me out on Twitter.

Thanks for reading, 

Mario

P.S. Interested in sponsoring the morning shakeout? Email me if you'd like to promote your brand, product, service or event exclusively to this newsletter's growing readership of running nerds, track and field aficionados, coaches, writers, mediaphiles and other eclectic intellectuals who appreciate insightful writing and entertaining commentary. 

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