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March 14, 2017 | Issue 70
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UCAN
Run Wild
Most weeks in this space I post a photo of the trails near my home in Marin County, California, or from somewhere else in the world I've been lucky enough to explore by foot. This shot, taken last week just a few miles north of where I live, is no exception. I love being out in the wild—running, exploring and appreciating the natural world around me. Beautiful backdrops aside, these places—almost all of it public land—provide me (and many of you reading this!) with hours of recreation and inspiration, not to mention a sense of unbridled freedom and joy. So, it's with great pride that I share a little bit about Run Wild, a new initiative launched by a few good friends (and frequent running partners of mine) here in the Bay Area. Run Wild's mission is to "inspire, engage and activate" runners from around the United States to help protect our public lands—lands that are increasingly being threatened by legislation that aims to give state and federal government full control over who owns them and how they're used. "What right do the states have to assert control over land owned by every American citizen?" Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard recently wrote in an op-ed for The L.A. Times. "Selling public lands has been item No. 1 on Big Oil’s agenda for a long time. It’s a theft of valuable property owned by all of us." Read more about Run Wild—and how you can get involved—right here.

Good morning! I’ve got a varied sampling of topics to share with you this week. Let’s dive right in!

Long may Ed run. 

Exactly ten issues ago I wrote about the amazing Ed Whitlock, who, at 85 years old, had recently broken 4 hours in the marathon to set yet another age-group world record. Whitlock shattered a glass factory’s worth of all-time marks after the age of 60—highlighted by an unheard of 2:54:49 at 73—most of which will stand the test of time. Well, it’s with great sadness this morning that I write of Ed’s passing from prostate cancer yesterday at the age of 86. The man was/is/always will be one of the sport’s true legends, not just for his exploits as a Masters runner but for the spirit of competitiveness, sportsmanship and hope he inspired in so many, regardless of age. It’s for those reasons that I’m dedicating Issue 70 of the morning shakeout to him. To me, Ed embodied what it meant to be a racer, unapologetically following his own motivations, adopting a simple training approach that worked for him and competing with a ferocious humility that more athletes would be well-served to try and emulate. “The real feeling of enjoyment,” he told The New York Times a few months ago, “is getting across the finish line and finding out that you’ve done O.K.” 

— Whitlock did not mind expressing his aversion to training (often describing it as a “drudge”), a daily task he simply regarded as a necessary means toward his competitive ends. “I like racing and setting world records, but I find training is a bit of a drudge,” he said not long after his sub-4 last fall. After his age-group world record for the half marathon last spring (1:50:47), Whitlock admitted to Runner’s World’s Alison Wade that, “If somehow or other, I could race well without doing any training, that would be ideal. I find this training a bit of a drudge really. I don’t suffer from runner’s highs in training and that kind of thing. It’s all a bit of a chore, really, but I have to [put in a lot of time running] if I want to run well.” Jason Gay of The Wall Street Journal recounted yesterday that Whitlock once told him training is “kind of a drudge. Small loops, hours on end. I don’t do it for my health. I do it to be able to compete well.” And staying on message, Whitlock admitted in 2012 that, "I don't particularly enjoy this daily drudge, it's something that has to be done if you want to run well. I suppose it's the sense of satisfaction to be able to keep going for one thing. And to run well, for another (reason). I suppose I'm results-oriented, I'm mainly running for certain times in races, setting records, that sort of thing is what gives me my satisfaction I guess. And I find for me the more running I do the better I'll race. That's the incentive.” Now, someone who’s reading these quotes for the first time might be questioning why I’m celebrating a guy who didn’t even appear to have liked running. Quite the contrary. It’s more of an appreciation of the competitive runner’s daily toil and a respect for the fact that the training process isn’t always pretty. You’ve got to put in the work if you want to race well. Whitlock’s quotes about training me of one of my favorite lines from John L. Parker Jr.’s cult classic, Once A Runner. “Cassidy figured that a natural affinity for interval work was the difference between those who liked to race and those who like to train,” Parker wrote. “Racers express little enchantment with training.” Ironically, Ed wasn’t a fan of interval workouts, instead preferring to “plod” around the cemetery near his house for hours on end at whatever pace felt right for that day. To each their own.

— Despite mostly being known for his marathon exploits, one of the things I always liked and admired about Ed was that he wasn’t afraid to mix it up at other distances. Here he is clocking a world-record 7:18 mile on the track just last summer. “I don’t know what my splits actually were but I think they were fairly even,” Whitlock said afterward. “I’m relieved it’s over.”

— Ed’s battle with prostate cancer wasn’t publicized before his death, and it seems things went downhill quickly for him in the past couple of months. I remember reading in Scott Douglas’ 2010 profile of Whitlock for Running Times that he didn’t like doctors and hadn’t had a physical since the age of 40. As much as I admire Ed’s longevity as an athlete, this attitude is just silly. No matter how old we are, how good of genes we think we have, how much we exercise or how tip-top of shape we think we’re in, Ed’s relatively sudden passing is a reminder that we shouldn’t take our health for granted. In fact, I’m going to practice what I preach and schedule a check-up with my doctor since it’s been over a year since my last voluntary visit. I challenge you to do the same this week.   

— “It was really refreshing how simple he kept things,” said two-time Canadian Olympian Reid Coolsaet. “It’s easy to get caught up in all the gadgets and splits and chasing sponsors and promoting stuff, but he just did what he wanted to do and stuck to it.” This compilation of reactions to Ed’s death that Runner’s World put together is a sad but fitting tribute to one of the sport’s all-time great athletes and ambassadors. 

Quick Splits

— This Thursday I’ll be joining three-time Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein for a free marathon-training themed webinar hosted by this month’s sponsor of the morning shakeout, Generation UCAN. The live webinar will get underway at 7 PM EST/4 PM PST and last about 60 minutes. For details on how to watch the webinar live, or to get emailed a recording of it afterward, sign up here. (Also, as a reminder, UCAN is offering a 15% discount on its products to readers of the morning shakeout. Simply go the UCAN web store, load up on your favorite drink mixes or bars, enter the code SHAKEOUT at checkout and receive 15% off your purchase.)

— On the topic of marathon training, I recently spoke to Martin Fritz Huber of Outside magazine about five things most marathoners shouldn’t be losing sleep over at night. The short list includes magic diets, racing flats, and rigid training plans. That’s all you’re getting from me here. For the rest, go read the article

— Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft has lived on my bookshelf for the last 10 years. His novels have never appealed to me but I’ve revisited this handy little guide countless times over the years. It’s a must-read for any writer, regardless of what you like to do with your words. The reason I bring it up here this week is because I was recently sent this Zen Pencils cartoon (thanks Rich Heffron!), which was inspired by the short section King wrote about his desk in the book. “It starts with this: put your desk in the corner, and every time you sit down there to write remind yourself why it isn’t in the middle of the room,” King writes. “Life isn’t a support-system for art. It’s the other way around.”

— Simplicity isn’t easy but it’s something I’m constantly working toward in different areas of my life. For me, that’s meant getting rid of a bunch of unnecessary shit, establishing (or re-establishing, in some cases) routines, saying no to opportunities I’m just not excited about, and relying on my phone less throughout the day (this last one is a constant work in progress), all in an effort to spend more time doing things that bring me a lot of joy. Along those lines, most of these suggestions for streamlining your life are pretty good (I’m weary of #s 3 and 6, for what it’s worth). 

“The act of writing is an integral part of my mental life; ideas emerge, are shaped, in the act of writing… a special, indispensable form of talking to myself.” I’d never seen this Oliver Sacks’ quote until Maria Popova brought it to my attention the other day. It resonates. Despite sharing my words here with all of you on a weekly basis, writing the morning shakeout is how I try to make sense of the things I’ve read or listened to and connect different ideas floating around in my head—my preferred form of talking to myself. Enjoy Popova’s peek into Sack’s fascinatng creative process, and then do yourself another favor and go read the op-ed Sacks wrote for The New York Times two years ago just a few months before he died. I promise it will move you in some way. 

— In last week’s issue, the second link under the item “The truth won’t set you free” that referenced “suspicious samples from Galen Rupp and Matthew Centrowitz” sent you to the Apple homepage. It should have sent you to this article. My apologies for the mistake.

That’s it for Issue 70. Got friends or followers who might enjoy receiving this weekly digital dispatch? Please do me a solid and forward ’em this issue or post the web link to your various social pages and platforms. Got something to say to me? Simply reply to this email or dial me up on the Twitter machine. At some point, I’ll get back to you. 

Thanks for reading, 

Mario

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