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August 30, 2016 | Issue 42
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the morning shakeout
My wife strutting her stuff along the boardwalk in Long Beach last Friday. For additional on-the-run imagery and more two-worded captions than you can shake a stick at, pay a visit to my Instagram feed.

Good morning! A warm welcome to the slew of new subscribers receiving this weekly missive for the first time. I’m thrilled that the morning shakeout has landed in your inbox. Please enjoy the varied combination of thought-provoking interestingness I’ve cultivated for you this week.

Hangover remedies. 

I’m experiencing a bit of an Olympics hangover this week and as such don’t feel like paying much more mind to the quadrennial event that at times had me reeling with energy and at others made me feel like puking in a toilet. That said, here are a few last bits worth checking out:

  • “It’s unbelievable how dumb the people running the sport are. They go out of their way to make it as boring as possible.” For the second straight week, I found myself nodding in agreement with Malcolm Gladwell’s commentary on the current state of track and field. Given the emptiness of the stadium throughout most of the Athletics program in Rio and the ongoing struggles of marketing the sport in general, can you really disagree with him? The sport is in dire straits from the standpoint of fan interest, even the diehards such as myself who know their way around a track meet. If you’ve got a free hour and a half this week, I recommend listening to Gladwell rap with Bill Simmons on the podcast that bears the latter’s name. (Note: They cover a lot of non-track stuff too.)
  • Jared Ward ran the last 2.2 miles of the Olympic Marathon faster (and significantly so) than everyone in the field except gold medalist Eliud Kipchoge. The guy literally teaches classes on how to pace a marathon. His PhD in pacing aside, Ward is a stickler for staying focused on the process, whether it’s on the race course or in the classroom. “You can be standing on the start line of a marathon thinking, ‘All right, I got 26 miles to run,’” Ward recently told Fernanda Zamudio-Suaréz. “If you try to bite off the whole chunk of it right at the start, then it’s hard to wrap your mind about your whole piece. But if you think, ‘OK, I just got to get out to a good start, and get in a good position, and stay relaxed, and make it easy for the first few miles.’ Then, you get off, and you do that and bite off the next chunk. I try to share some of that, that’s more life-experience stuff. I try to share that with my students in terms of thinking, ‘All you got to focus on now is getting stuff out of the lecture today, getting home and doing the homework and learning this stuff. And then after you learn this stuff, then try to bite off a chunk on the next unit.”
  • Lastly, you can listen to me blabber on a bit more about the Games, doping and other related topics with Martin Yelling on his excellent Marathon Talk podcast and also with Trey Brush on the Connect Run Club podcast. I had a blast on both shows and suggest having a listen when you’re done digesting the Simmons-Gladwell conversation I linked to a few paragraphs ago. 

Quick Splits

— More on adopting a process-oriented approach to goal setting, which I touched on above and also wrote a little about last week. As athletes, as employees, as a society in general, we’re often fixated on achieving outcomes, whether it’s setting a personal best, hitting a sales goal, you name it. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with having specific outcome goals, failing to achieve those predetermined targets can often result in feelings of failure and frustration. I’ve certainly been there, as have all of you. But I also know that when I’ve “set it and forget it” (in regard to outcome goals) and committed to the process—and, perhaps most importantly, found joy in that never-ending process—my best tastes of “success” have often resulted. To echo the wise words of one of my favorite writers and wildmen, Hunter S. Thompson: “In short, he has not dedicated his life to reaching a pre-defined goal, but he has rather chosen a way of life he KNOWS he will enjoy. The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important.” 

— Are you listening? A few weeks ago I linked to a great New York Times article on friendship, which got me thinking about the characteristics a good friend actually brings to the table. The first thing that came to mind for me was being an astute listener, meaning a good friend won’t just nod and agree with everything you have to say but rather they’ll question you, challenge your assertions and force you to look at something through a different lens. In other words, “Good listeners are like trampolines. They are someone you can bounce ideas off of—and rather than absorbing your ideas and energy, they amplify, energize, and clarify your thinking.” That’s from Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman in the Harvard Business Review. Check it out.

— When I lace up my running shoes and shove my ass out the door, it represents a choice that I’ve made that day. I’ve elected to move my body in a meaningful way even if it’s not the most pleasant experience once I get out there. I could just as easily plop my ass on the couch and eat all the ice cream in the freezer—and sometimes I do— but when I hit the ground running it cultivates a unique sense of accomplishment, freedom and enjoyment. Running is my most regular ritual, and there’s always some element of risk involved. It helps bring me closer to the earth and also keeps me grounded emotionally. Running allows me to uncover things inside myself and also unites me with other likeminded souls. On some days, it can exhaust me to dangerous levels and on others it will energize me like nothing else. But most of all, running forces me to live in the present moment, helps me make sense of my experience as a human being and allows me to better appreciate the world around me. As John L. Parker wrote in Once A Runner, “Running to him was real; the way he did it the realest thing he knew. It was all joy and woe, hard as a diamond; it made him weary beyond comprehension. But it also made him free.” Parker’s words are consistent with my own experience and I thought of them recently when I read this Maria Popova piece on Diana Ackerman’s Deep Play, which was sent to me by my friend Galen Burrell. “In rare moments of deep play, we can lay aside our sense of self, shed time’s continuum, ignore pain, and sit quietly in the absolute present, watching the world’s ordinary miracles,” writes Ackerman. “When it happens we experience a sense of revelation and gratitude. Nothing need be thought or said. There is a way of beholding that is a form of prayer.” Sound familiar? This is running for me. It’s my form of deep play and I feel fortunate to experience it.

That’s it for Issue 42. If you enjoyed this edition of the newsletter, do me a solid and forward it along to a friend or post the web link on your preferred social media platform. You can also share your thoughts with me by replying directly to this email or shouting in my direction on Twitter.

Thanks for reading, 

Mario

P.S. The stoke is high at Ekiden! We are matching inspired athletes with great coaches and have been getting awesome feedback from our beta testers. Check us out and join our waitlist if you're interested in personal coaching at an affordable price. We are also hiring a full-time digital marketing manager and a full-stack developer. Want to work with us? Shoot me an email if you're interested. 

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