Good morning! Tomorrow is my birthday and, per what is now tradition, I’m sharing my annually updated list of life lessons I’ve been taught and/or learned the hard way over the years.
This year’s addition is about making the most of the time you have with the people you love: Whether it's for a few minutes or a several-day stretch, act as if you'll never see each other again. I promise you won't ever regret doing this, even if you end up hanging out a thousand more times. Hugs, kisses, handshakes, and other acknowledgements of love never get old. Time is a precious and finite commodity—it’s important to make every moment count. I learned this particular lesson the hardest way possible nearly 15 years ago when my Mom passed away suddenly and unexpectedly from a brain aneurysm at the age of 50. What I’d give for a do-over of my last visit with her knowing what I know now—on the flipside, maybe I wouldn’t know this now if not for what happened then. This particular lesson has served me well in the years since, most recently in February when my Papa Billy passed away at the age of 94. I was sad when I got the news from my Dad, but I was also grateful that when we last saw each other on Christmas Day a few months prior, we made the most of that visit, both of us knowing full well that the next one wasn’t guaranteed. I’ll never forget those few hours we spent together, the conversations we had, the laughs we shared, the firm handshake goodbye. I’m smiling right now just thinking about it.
Here’s the updated post in its entirety: 41 Life Lessons For My 41st Birthday. While I wrote this list for myself, I share it publicly with the hope that these lessons can help someone else. Please feel free to share it if anything in there speaks to you. I’d also encourage you to spend some time compiling your own list of life lessons that you can refer back to when necessary. It’s a good exercise in reflection, whether it’s your birthday or not.
— This Tweet thread from coach James McKirdy attempting to explain the selection process for the U.S. Olympic marathon teams that will compete at the Paris Games in 2024 is something else. I have a pretty good handle on this shit relative to the average fan and none of it makes any logical sense. Bottom line: The selection process shouldn’t be this complicated. (On the flipside, World Athletics announced yesterday “that, for all events from 1500m and up to 5000m in World Athletics Series competitions, qualification to the next round will be by place only.” Pretty straightforward and easy to understand!)
— As a follow-up to what I wrote two weeks ago about 75-year-old Hans Smeets’ secrets to success, I’d like to share this article from Bas van Hooren about what we can learn from two world-class Masters athletes he studied (van Hooren was the lead author of the paper that took a closer look at Smeets’ training regimen). And while the article is about Masters runners, the principles that have led to their success—run relatively high volume consistently for years on end, run most of your miles at a conversational effort, go hard (but not too hard) a couple times a week, hit the hills regularly, vary your terrain and surfaces—hold true and are applicable no matter your age.
— Strength-training for runners need not be complicated! Here are a couple incredible free resources—with video demos!—from two Doctors of Physical Therapy to get you started: 1. Dr. Anh Bui, who I had as a guest on the podcast back in March, is sharing five strength exercises a week on her Instagram feed. 2. Dr. Scott Carlin, who I’ve never met, posted this 4-week routine to his Twitter page. Both are great!
— While I’m sharing great information from physical therapists, check out this post from Joe Uhan, imparting five lessons to his younger self for a lifetime of sustainable running. All five are important but the one I’d like to highlight in particular is #4: Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. This could be applied to do many areas of life. Many runners, myself included, are pushers by nature—we’re hardwired to do more, or go harder, and while there’s a time and a place for this, it shouldn’t be the default. It’s not sustainable and at some point it ends up getting the best of us. We have to pick our spots and practice discipline and moderation if we want to pursue the things we care about in a way that’s both sustainable and enjoyable.
— My Mom did not follow the sport of running but living in Massachusetts she watched the Boston Marathon on TV every year for as long as I can remember. The only two athletes she knew by name: Rick and Dick Hoyt. Sadly, Rick passed away yesterday at the age of 61, a little over two years after his Dad died at the age of 80. The impact and inspiration these two pioneers had on the sport cannot be understated. May their legacy live on.
— Here’s a video of my birthday buddy Bob Dylan singing “One More Cup Of Coffee” live in 1975. This is an underappreciated song and an incredible performance. Dylan’s delivery of the lyrics with the violin ripping in the background is something special.
— Why do we still race with big-ass bib numbers pinned to our shirts? That’s the question Nell Gallogly attempts to answer in this article for The New York Times. It comes down to two main reasons, really: Tradition and money, the latter of which will likely keep them permanently adhered to athletes’ kits (hopefully, eventually, by something other than small safety pins). “The bib is real estate,” said Cooper Knowlton, a founder of the racing organization Trials of Miles. “No brand is getting their name on a bib without paying for it.” There’s no reason that athletes, even/especially in a mass participation race like a big city marathon, can’t just wear a wristband or chip tag for timing purposes. The bib is obsolete from that standpoint but provides value to the event and sponsors when it shows up in photos, which is why I don’t think they’re going anywhere anytime soon. The same holds true on the professional side of the sport, but just think how much more interesting it would be if athletes didn’t have to wear those silly looking bibs and they/their sponsors could customize their kits with something cooler to identify them by.
— A big thank you to my longtime partner Tracksmith for their support of my work this month and throughout 2023. The brand’s Spring Collection is now available, featuring a colorful refresh of some of my favorite training staples. I recently raced the Boston Marathon in the Twilight Tank, which I affectionately call my "home jersey," and I'll be wearing it again in Tracksmith's Twilight 5000 Series this summer in San Francisco and/or Oakland (I’ll likely be pacing one or both of those events). Whether you're stepping down in distance from a spring marathon, focusing on lowering your 5K personal best this summer, or trying to improve your speed before a fall marathon cycle, these races bring out the best of the running community: competition, camaraderie, and fast times under the lights. They're coming back to the Bay Area again this summer, but you can also find the full 18-city schedule at tracksmith.com. And if you buy anything on Tracksmith.com, and you’re doing so for the first time, use the code MarioNEW to save $15 on your order of $75 or more. If you’re already a Tracksmith customer, use the code MarioGIVE and you can get free shipping on your next order (and 5% of your purchase will go to support the Friendly House in Worcester, Massachusetts, an organization that is near and dear to me).
Training Tip: Expand your shoe rotation!
Just as a golfer has different clubs for the various types of shots they might attempt in a given round, we runners should have different shoes for the various types of runs and workouts we do throughout the course of a typical training week. If possible, I recommend runners have at least three main types of shoes in their rotation: a lightweight, responsive pair for speed workouts, a more cushioned pair for most of your general aerobic mileage, and a pair of super shoes for race day (and occasional workouts). Why? A few reasons: The first is psychological. The right shoe can put you in the right mindset for the specific task at hand. For example, when I pull out my super shoes, I know it’s time to get down to business, whereas sliding on my everyday trainers for an easy run puts me in a more relaxed mindset. Second, rotating your running shoes can actually help extend their lifespan by allowing the compressed midsole foam the time to fully rebound between runs. Your shoes need time to recover too! Lastly, running in a variety of shoes can actually help make you less prone to annoying overuse injuries. A lightweight, flexible shoe will engage your foot (and everything else on up the chain) differently than a heavier one with more midsole foam and/or a rigid plate that offers more protection and propulsion. That doesn’t make one better than the other—each has its role in your rotation!
Workout of the Week
— Tempo Plus. If you look at the training schedules of top runners throughout history it's more likely than not that you'll find regular bouts of tempo running in there. Why? Quite simply: They work. Tempo runs, which involve maintaining a steady effort for a prolonged period of time (e.g. 5-8 miles at 1/2 marathon effort or 10-14 miles at marathon effort), give you a lot of bang for your aerobic buck. It's hard, but not too hard, running that helps build aerobic strength, improve efficiency, and/or practice running race pace. The Tempo Plus workout is the leveling up of a standard tempo run by pairing it with a short set of faster intervals afterward. Here are the details.
The bottom line.
“Lots of fabulous and fast (2 different things) swimming by all ages with the usual smattering of disappointments. Competitive swimming ain’t for everyone but for those of you who thrive with a continual or even occasional foray into self-discovery, well then this has been quite a ride…and as you all know, after the ups and almost continuous high peaks there is a very real and very natural down slope…I’m feeling that from the coaching side and know that it is a normal part of the process called life. So I simply keep at my routine and trust the process…not letting the highs get to high nor the lows too low.”
— Don Swartz, my wife Christine’s Masters swimming coach, in an excerpt from an email to their team last week after he had just wrapped up a particularly demanding stretch of coaching at championship-level meets. (n.b. He gave me permission to share this here.) Don could be talking about running or any other sport/pursuit and his sentiments still hold true. (Spoiler: Don and I are going to sit down in the coming months and record a podcast about his incredible career and the craft of coaching in general. Keep an ear open for it sometime later this summer!)
That’s it for Issue 393. If you’d like to support the shakeout, please forward this email to a few folks who might enjoy it, blast the web link far and wide, or share a screenshot on social media and encourage your friends and followers to subscribe at this link.
Thanks for reading,
P.S. If you have any questions you’d like me to answer for the next Ask Mario Anything episode of the podcast (it will be released in mid-June), simply reply to this email and I’ll add it to the queue. If yours makes it on to the show I’ll send you a small token of my appreciation from the morning shakeout’s annual partners.
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