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June 7, 2016 | Issue 30
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the morning shakeout by mario fraioli
the morning shakeout
The trails in Bend, Oregon are terrible and surrounded by hideous natural scenery. Don't go there. instagram.com/mariofraioli

Good morning! My wife and I returned home yesterday after a great week in Oregon visiting friends and playing outside (see above). Needless to say, I didn’t open my laptop all that much after sending my last newsletter and it ended up being somewhat of a “down week” in the reading and writing department (see “Take a load off” in last week’s newsletter). I’m not complaining one bit. The break was nice. 

That said, I did manage to catch up on some reading last night, and have a few thoughts and links to share with you here. Enjoy!

Make it count. 

Like many of you reading, I was saddened to hear of Muhammad Ali’s death late on Friday night. Even though his last fight took place before I was even born, Ali’s work ethic, confidence and bravado have inspired me since I was a young athlete. “Don’t count the days—make the days count!” is a quote attributed to Ali and a mantra I repeat to myself in one form or another every day. Ali’s quote can be interpreted in a number of different ways and I encourage you to give his words some deeper thought this week and find a way to apply them to your own life. For example, when talking to my athletes about their training and the topic of weekly mileage comes up in the conversation, I often offer up this version of Ali’s quote: “Don’t count the miles—make the miles count!” Translated: Mileage totals, like the number of days, or hours or some other quantifiable metric, are largely arbitrary. It’s what you do with those miles that matters most. In the words of the great Kenyan cross-country runner John Ngugi, “Don’t waste good time!” Same goes for counting down hours when you’re bored at work, the number of days you have left with a loved one or calculating how many credits you need to finish your degree. Whatever it is you’re counting—hours, days, miles, moments, it doesn’t matter—chances are you won’t get them back. So make ’em count! 

Further reading on Ali: 

  •  30 of Muhammad Ali’s Best Quotes. So many good ones in here. This one is another of my favorites. 
  • The Outsized Life of Muhammad Ali. “More than a generation after his retirement, and now, after his passing, Ali and his story remain known everywhere in the world. How many today know the name of his current inheritor, the heavyweight champion of the world?” writes New Yorker editor David Remnick. “The story of Muhammad Ali will long outlast the sport he took up, sixty-two years ago in Louisville, to avenge the theft of his beloved red bicycle.”

Reduced to a big mess.  

I’ve been watching the Boris Berian vs. Nike case with one eye open since the bad blood started boiling late last month. Here’s the latest from The Oregonian, Let’s Run and The Wall Street Journal. In short, a messy situation is getting uglier by the day and causing all manner of ruckus across the social media-sphere. Reduction clauses—losing part of your salary for failing to hit a predetermined standard or national/world ranking—are this week’s embedded hot topic. I first heard of the concept of reduction clauses from a newly sponsored professional track athlete in 2007 and my first question was, “What happens if you get hurt?” Her answer: “Then I’m pretty much screwed.” I’ve also heard stories of female athletes who didn’t get paid while taking time off for pregnancy, and other such hogwash. “Here's a thought: agents and athletes, STOP signing any contract that contains reduction clauses. Let's make them obsolete,” Nick Symmonds Tweeted the other day. It’s a novel rallying cry by Symmonds but one that will almost assuredly be quelled by the athletes’ continued failure to unite and fight for their collective well-being, as Symmonds alluded to later when he said, “If we all stick together we can force companies like Nike to stop adding bullshit reduction clauses.” That’s a BIG if and Symmonds knows it as well as anyone. There are too many athletes and agents (many of whom have longstanding relationships with the powers that be at certain shoe companies) in track and field acting in no one’s best interests but their own. Until that paradigm shifts, reduction clauses and other B.S. protections that take advantage of athletes while benefiting the hands that feed them will continue to exist. For a sport that prides itself on speed, progress is easily stalled.

I have better things to do. 

I’m not going to waste much time responding to Daniel Engber of Slate's plea not to run a marathon because my energy “can be put to better and more lasting use.” Plus, his whiny rant is reminiscent of Chad Stafko’s from a few years back so I think I’ll just use this space to CC Engber on my response to that poorly thought out piece. (But you should totally Tweet at him and share your sentiments.)

Just write, dammit. 

I enjoyed this short interview with Maia Danziger on writing, particularly her thoughts on the creative process. “The creative process is all about aiming and missing,” Danziger says. “It’s about falling on your butt and being willing to make mistakes. We need to be able to risk and fail. We need to be able to try.”

That’s it for Issue 30. If you liked what you read here, please forward this missive to a friend. And, as always, feel free to share your thoughts with me by replying to this email or Tweeting in my general direction.

Thanks for reading,

Mario

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