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September 10, 2019 | Issue 200
Tracksmith

Above the clouds last Thursday morning while scoping out my new backyard trails. A 1500-foot climb isn't exactly specific to marathon training but sometimes you need to just go out and see what's waiting for you at the top of the hill.

Good morning! I did that thing again last week where I got a little too longwinded and the newsletter couldn’t find its way into some of your inboxes. So, if you didn’t receive Issue 199, well, here you go.

This is Issue 200 of the morning shakeout and in keeping with what is now an every 50 weeks tradition, I’m excited to share the fourth annual State of the Shakeout, a yearly review of sorts that also looks ahead to where I hope to take this thing over the next 50 weeks. 

There’s also a new episode of the podcast to check out along with a few Quick Splits-style links to things I’ve been paying attention to of late. Let’s get right to it.

The State of The Shakeout

As I first wrote in Issue 194, I’ve struggled at times with feeling the need to be exhaustive as it pertains to my coverage of the sport in this newsletter. Thankfully that’s started to subside a bit and I think I’m in a better (i.e. more sustainable) groove balancing timely commentary with the occasional personal update and timeless writing about the various things I’ve come across that interest, inform, entertain, or inspire me in some way. It’s been a toug(er) balance to strike as the morning shakeout’s readership has grown, which has invited a weird sort of self-induced pressure, but reminding myself to stay true to what I want this newsletter to be has been a good exercise in keeping myself grounded.  

Along those lines, just as I’m not interested in having something to say about everything that went down in running the week prior to publication, I’m also not interested in having the largest possible audience for this weekly missive—I only want to have an engaged readership that finds value in my work and various pieces of feedback lead me to believe that objective is being achieved: Objectively, there are now 9,480 subscribers to the morning shakeout, up from just shy of 7,900 fifty issues ago. That is all organic growth—no paid ad campaigns or gimmicky affiliate referral programs to incentivize new subscribers, just good ol’ fashion word of mouth from readers—which is something I’m both incredibly proud of and grateful for, so thank you. The overall open rate dropped ever so slighty to 56 percent and the click rate comes in at a healthy 16 percent, key metrics that are well north of every known industry average. Those stats are important because they’re engagement trends that can be tracked over time but more meaningful to me are the number, frequency, and quality of the actual exchanges I have with many of you each week. That’s why the morning shakeout comes to you in an email: it’s meant to be a conversation. If you hit reply, I’ll respond. Connecting with you, my loyal readers, on a personal level is why this thing exists and what I enjoy most about it. Thank you for the continued support, valuable feedback, awesome reading and listening suggestions, respectful disagreements, and continued dialogue. It all means a lot to me. 

Moving forward, you can expect more of the same with the newsletter: it will continue to drop every Tuesday as it has for the past 200 weeks and the format will essentially remain the same. That may not sound super exciting but the frequency and flow have proven to be pretty effective, so I’ll continue to roll with it for now. 

Shifting mediums, the morning shakeout podcast, 76 episodes old as of yesterday, has quickly overtaken the newsletter in terms of reach and potentially even impact. Sometime in the last week it surpassed one million total downloads, which is just crazy to me. The number itself doesn’t carry any real significance with it but I’ve never hit a million anything in my life and it’s pretty cool to think the show has been listened to that many times over the past 20 or so months. It’s a privilege to be able to sit down with some of the most interesting and inspiring people in running and have intimate and deep conversations that I personally take a lot away from and then get to turn around and share with all of you. (Here’s a list of the top-10 most listened to episodes as of last week in case you missed one or want to revisit some of the most impactful exchanges I’ve had for the show.) It took a little while, but the podcast has fallen into a weekly cadence, which, like the newsletter, feels right to me. We live in a world where there’s a constant stream of content coming at us from multiple directions and it can be hard (if not impossible) to keep up with it all. Whether it’s reading this newsletter or listening to the podcast, you are trusting me with one of life’s most valuable resources—your attention—and that’s not something I want to abuse or take for granted, so I want to be careful to deliver content in a way that feels predictable and sustainable. The show itself has evolved a bit from a production standpoint and I have my producer and editor, John Summerford of BaresRecords.com, to thank for that: he continues to tweak the format and music ever-so-slightly and I’m really happy with the overall quality and consistency of the production he’s provided since the first episode. Since the last State of the Shakeout 50 weeks ago, I’ve published 48 episodes of the podcast, 35 of which were recorded in person, which is a trend I’d like to continue. I also record my first Ask Me Anything episode a few weeks ago, which I enjoyed more than I thought I would and was well-received by most of you, so expect a couple more of those over the next 50 weeks. I’d also like to host more live shows—I took part in three over the past year—if there’s interest and opportunity to do so.

One area I’ve failed in regard to the podcast is providing full text transcripts of each episode for those of you who can’t listen to the show or just prefer to read words instead of listen to them. For this I apologize and I promise to rectify it in the near future. Getting accurate transcripts of 60-ish minute conversations has proven far more challenging and costly than I anticipated, but I will figure it out.

Another more general failure on my part has been in the area of merchandise. Aside from logo stickers that I send out as a thank you gift to upper tier Patreon supporters, I’ve yet to produce any branded products for myself or readers/listeners who’d like to showcase and support the the morning shakeout in a tangible way. The demand is there and I don’t really have a good excuse as to why I haven’t moved on merchandise yet, but I’m committed to changing that before next year’s annual update. 

Perhaps the biggest change for the morning shakeout over the past 50 weeks is that I’ve hired on some more help in the form of an editorial assistant and a sponsorship sales director. Jeffrey Stern, who I introduced many of you two a few weeks ago in the first Ask Me Anything episode of the podcast, has been spending a couple hours each week manning @theAMshakeout social media accounts and reposting selections from the newsletter to themorningshakeout.com. (We still haven’t posted to the actual Instagram feed yet, but that’s my hold up and it will be coming soon enough.) Chris Douglas, who I’ve known since I moved to the Bay Area a little over five years ago, excitedly took over sponsorship sales for both the newsletter and podcast a few months ago, which has allowed me to focus on doing what I do best: writing the newsletter and interviewing guests for the podcast. Along with John Summerford, who makes the podcast sound as good as it does week in and week out, I’m grateful to have Jeff and Chris helping me keep this thing running strong. 

The newsletter and podcast have taken up more and more of my working time over the past four years and the morning shakeout is now a major part of how I make my living (in addition to coaching). I’m extremely grateful and fortunate to be in this position, which I never could have imagined when I sent out the first issue back in 2015. And while it’s enjoyable work, I couldn’t do it at the level I do without direct support from many of you via Patreon and sponsorship from select brand partners throughout the year, so thank you to everyone who makes this all possible. The revenue model will continue to evolve, I’m sure, but this combination of reader/listener and brand support will hopefully remain sustainable for many years to come. (On that note, if you find value in the morning shakeout and it regularly brings some joy into your life, please consider supporting my work directly through Patreon or purchasing a product from this month’s sponsor, Tracksmith. Thank you!)

Finally, and related to what I wrote about connection in the second paragraph of this section, a major objective I have with the morning shakeout moving forward is to continue creating in-person opportunities to meet up and run with as many of you as possible. I did a lot of this over the past 50 weeks and hope to do even more of it in the next 50, whether it’s at major events like Boston, New York, or UTMB, in a city I happen to be visiting (L.A. and San Diego coming up soon, stay tuned for details!), or in San Francisco, near where I live. While I enjoy exchanging emails with many of you, there’s no substitute for actually sharing miles together and having a lively discussion—that’s the essence of what the morning shakeout is all about.

So, all in all, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Both the newsletter and podcast are in good spots and I’m excited to see what the next 200 weeks have in store. Thank you for being a part of this journey with me.

Quick Splits

— Vin Lananna, the former president of TrackTown USA and USA Track & Field (I think he’s still president of USATF despite being placed on administrative leave in 2018?) who until just a few days ago was the associate athletic director at the University of Oregon, left his post at the U of O to take a position as the Director of Track and Field and Cross Country and Associate Athletics Director for Administration at the University of Virginia, it was announced yesterday. To say this comes as a surprise might be the understatement of the year. I’m unaware of anyone who saw this move coming, including maybe even Lananna himself: “It evolved quickly,” Lananna told The Oregonian on Monday afternoon. “I didn’t make the decision until yesterday.” It’s difficult for me to express how interesting and unexpected of a move this is given Lananna’s stature in the sport and the fact hasn’t actively coached at the collegiate level since 2012. That said, he’s one of the greatest collegiate coaches of all-time, having led Stanford and Oregon to numerous NCAA titles while developing a number of Olympians and national champions, and I have no doubt he’ll do great things at Virginia. Aside from the impact he has on that program, it will be interesting to see what influence he continues to have on the sport as a whole. 

— There’s a lot to like about Jenny Simpson but one thing I’ve always appreciated about her is that she doesn’t mince words, like when talking about sprinter Christian Coleman’s three missed doping tests in a 12-month period: “This whole idea of, Oh, I accidentally missed three tests — I haven’t missed three tests in my entire career,” Simpson told letsrun.com. “I don’t know how in the world you can be so irresponsible to miss three in 12 months…If you miss three tests, it’s either because you’re cheating or because you’re an idiot and under both circumstances, you shouldn’t be able to compete.”

— Speaking of Jenny Simpson, she won the Fifth Avenue Mile on Sunday in 4:16.1, an event record. Not to take anything away from that performance but Elle Purrier took her to the tape, finishing second in 4:16.2. It was exciting to watch. Not to try and stir up controversy but both Simpson and Purrier were wearing the new 5280 from New Balance, a shoe that “is designed to deliver top performance in a particular type of competitive event: a high-speed 1-mile road race.” Maybe it’s because road miles aren’t nearly as popular as marathons, but I’m surprised more people weren’t talking about it afterward given the uproar the Nike Vaporly 4% has caused in competitive running circles. Just an interesting observation, that’s all.

+ Kudos to Nick Willis, who won the men’s race at the 5th Avenue Mile for the fifth time, breaking the tape in 3:51.7. Willis, a two-time Olympic medalist at 1500m, is 36 years old—an age when most milers are either put out to pasture or move up to the 5000m. It was a crazy close race, as you can see here

Check out this cool thread from Brett Larner of Japan Running News showing the average of 10 fastest men’s and women's marathon times by country so far this year. U.S. women are fourth (2:27:24) while the men are sixth (2:11:59). The most staggering figure? The top-10 Ethiopian men have averaged 2:04:32 so far this year. Not one American man has run that…ever!

— Eleven men racing 400m flat out through the streets and finishing on the track at the Great North City Games? Yes please. It's a different, interesting, and exciting form of racing. I think this format—exhibition races in the middle of a city for everyone to see—is one of the most effective ways to create and engage fans outside of “standard” track competitions.

— Billy Yang and I sat down with coach Jason Koop in Chamonix after the UTMB to discuss the men’s and women’s races and how they both went down. Check it out on the most recent episode of the Billy Yang Podcast wherever you listen to audio or watch us on YouTube

amelia boone and brad stulberg

“I actually don’t feel that added pressure. If anything, to me, it’s just about continuing to live authentically, and part of that living authentically is that there’s going to be ups and downs—it’s not a linear progression at all and just giving myself grace with that is really important—and sharing those ups and downs. There are so many people that talk about eating disorders after they’ve conquered them or when they used to struggle but are over that now—and you see it a lot in the running world and I’m really, really appreciative who talk about it, but they also talk about it as a thing of the past, that it’s no longer an issue—but I think more of the reality is that there are many, many people out there for who it is still an issue day to day. And I think if I waited to a point where I was totally over it and in a really solid recovered place, honestly, I probably would never talk about it.”
— Amelia Boone on Episode 76 of the morning shakeout podcast 

I’ve got a unique episode to share this week with two past guests of the show: Amelia Boone, world champion obstacle-course racer and badass ultrarunner, and Brad Stulberg, author of the books Peak Performance and The Passion Paradox, sat down with me for a roundtable discussion of sorts about mental health, eating disorders, OCD, recovery, running and racing, the desire to be relevant, social media and its influence on us, sharing our stories, and a lot more. 

This is an important conversation and there’s a lot to think about and take away from it, especially if you—or someone you love—have dealt with mental illness in the past or are currently struggling. Many thanks to both Amelia and Brad for being so open, honest, and flat-out raw with me in talking about these difficult and personal topics. 

Tune in wherever you listen to podcasts or at this handy link

If you are struggling with mental illness and need help, there are a number of resources at your disposal. If you're having thoughts of harming yourself, you can talk to someone right now at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255. For more information about eating disorders and how to get help, check out the National Institute of Mental Health website, the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) website, or call the NEDA hotline at (800) 931-2237. To learn more about various forms of OCD and how to get help, check out Intrusive Thoughts, an online resource that humanizes the symptoms of OCD, celebrates the bravery of the community and helps sufferers get the treatment they deserve.

Reserve your BQ singlet with Tracksmith! 

Registration for the 2020 Boston Marathon opened up to qualifiers this week and so too did Tracksmith’s BQ Singlet reservation list. Hard to get and even harder to earn, these singlets are reserved for 2020 Boston qualifiers only. If you hit a Boston qualifying mark for next year’s race, sign up here to be notified when the singlets arrive in March. In March, you’ll be emailed when the singlets have arrived, granting you the first opportunity to purchase your exclusive BQ singlet from Tracksmith.

The bottom line. 

“Ideas, in a sense, are overrated. Of course, you need good ones, but at this point in our supersaturated culture, precious few are so novel that nobody else has ever thought of them before. It’s really about where you take the idea, and how committed you are to solving the endless problems that come up in the execution.”
—Hugo Lindgren, Be Wrong As Fast As You Can

That’s it for Issue 200. If you’re a fan of my weekly digital dispatch, please forward this email to a few new potential subscribers, post the web link on your favorite feed, wall, or timeline, or spread the love in your own unique way.

Thanks for reading,

Mario

If you find value in the morning shakeout and it regularly brings some joy into your life, please consider supporting my work directly through Patreon. (And if you're already a supporter, thank you so much. It means a lot to me.)
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