Good morning! Last Tuesday I listened to the latest episode of the Ali on the Run Show podcast as soon as I saw it pop up in my feed. I could tell from the title, “A Life Update From Ali,” that something was up. The show’s host, Ali Feller, has become a friend and professional confidant over the past few years. We’ve been guests on one another’s shows (here she is on mine back in 2020), we met up for a run on New York City Marathon weekend last fall, and she last texted me just a few weeks ago on May 18 to tell me that she had randomly met one of my athletes, Anh Bui, while at brunch in NYC. The very next day Ali received unexpected and devestating news: invasive ductal carcinoma, i.e., bilateral breast cancer, which will require surgery, chemotherapy, and who knows what else. Listening to Ali describe the steps that led to her diagnosis, and the aimless walk she took through Central Park after receiving it, gutted me. Hearing her talk about how former NYRR CEO Mary Wittenberg wouldn't leave her side that weekend, however, brought a slight smile to my face. I thought back to our run through CP last November (during which we ran a few miles with Mary, coincidentally enough). Ali would have had a hard time being alone in there even if she wanted to be. She was as (perhaps even more) recognizable than many of the pros running through the park that day. Everywhere we turned, and any time we stopped, someone called out her name, told her they loved her show, or thanked her for her work. The woman is a force, and the impact she’s had on the sport, as well as the lives of her listeners since she started her show in 2017, extends far beyond the tens of millions of downloads her podcast has accumulated.
I don’t know where I’m going with this other than to encourage you to show Ali a little love and appreciation in whatever way you can: drop her a line on Instagram (@aliontherun1), leave a review for her podcast, support her work on Patreon, or simply dedicate a few miles to her this week.
And Ali: The road ahead will be hilly, no doubt, but luckily for you, you’re from New Hampshire. The ability to tackle steep inclines is practically a requirement for residency. I know this is hard, and some days it just sucks, but as my friend Phil Shin says, “keep going.” We're with you every step of the way. You’re doing great.
— This week on the podcast my right-hand man Chris Douglas serves me up some listener questions in an old-school Ask Mario Anything episode. In this one, I answer inquiries about my favorite books, “lighthouses” in my life, breaking through in the marathon, returning to running after a stress fracture, and a lot more. This one is available wherever you listen to the morning shakeout podcast or at this handy link.
+ A big thank you to my longtime partner Tracksmith for supporting both the newsletter and podcast this month (and my work throughout 2023). The brand’s Spring Collection features a colorful refresh of some of my favorite training staples, including the Twilight Tank, which is my go-to for racing and when I want to run fast. It’s incredibly lightweight, subtly designed, and super breathable. I’ve worn a version of it for years and will be rocking it this summer at aptly named Tracksmith's Twilight 5000 in San Francisco and/or Oakland. (Not sure if I’m racing or pacing yet but I’ll definitely be at both 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, no matter how fast you’re trying to go. I paced a couple heats at last summer’s edition and had a great time! You can find the full 18-city schedule here. Also, 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).
— Another week, another world record for Faith Kipyegon, this time in the 5000m at the Diamond League meet in Paris. Watch here as the 29-year-old Kenyan stalks Ethiopian Letesenbet Gidey, who held the world record heading into this contest, until she makes her move to the front with 700 meters to go. Gidey latches on and looks like she might have one more move left, but Kipyegon absolutely lights her up over the final 150m to cross the line in 14:05.20—two seconds up on her Ethiopian rival, and just over a second faster than the world record Gidey set in 2020. Here’s to hoping we see these two go at it a couple more times this season, whether it’s at the world championships in August and/or another record attempt.
— I hadn’t listened to the Finding Mastery podcast in a while but this recent episode with top tennis coach Paul Annacone was great. Annacone is best known for coaching 20-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer as well as 14-time Grand Slam winner Pete Sampras at the peaks of their careers. But beyond his athletes’ successes—or behind them, rather—is a man who helps them define their identity, make the most of their potential, find fulfillment outside of winning, and a lot more. Annacone’s insights are invaluable, in particular for coaches who work with individual athletes outside of the team sports environment, which is why this conversation really resonated with me. “As a player, you feel like the perception is you have so much control over so many things when in actuality, you and I both know that’s not the case,” he explains. “You have control over many things, but when you become a coach, you have control over even less things. And so to be able to try to get your point across in an individual sport, I think it’s most challenging because if you want to be good at it, you have to figure out: 1. How to get buy-in from the player, which means, ‘How do I say what I need to say?’ but [also] the way they’ll receive it. And I think that’s a little different than team sports. I think a lot of teams kind of go into the coach’s philosophy. You go into the philosophy of the New York Knicks coach, or Coach Carol, or somebody else in the NBA or NHL. That’s the philosophy you mold to as a tennis coach: It’s one on one, so you tend to have to figure out the person and then get the message across that way.”
— OK, here’s a three-piece puzzle that came together over the past few weeks: My favorite contemporary music artist is Wesley Schultz, lead singer of The Lumineers. A few months ago I shared a song by Noah Kahan and, since then, I’ve become a big fan of his music. Lastly, one of my favorite songs of all-time is “If We Were Vampires,” by Jason Isbell, a beautiful track that’s full of truths about love, impermanence, and making the most of the time you have together. So, you can imagine my excitement recently when I saw that Kahan and Schultz joined forces to cover Isbell’s song, which you can listen to/watch right here. The whole thing is great but my favorite part of the performance is at 2:10 when Schultz starts singing and Kahan gets this mildly surprised look on his face that says some combination of, “I can’t believe I’m playing with one of my heroes,” and “Damn, he really is that good.” (Isbell also released a new album last week, which you can find in all the usual places and sample on his YouTube channel.)
— I’d like to highlight the work of David McCarthy, who I don’t know and have never met, but has been doing some awesome interviews over in Europe for Citius Mag recently. Here he is talking to Jakob Ingebrigtsen after the Norwegian smashed the world record for 2 miles (7:54.10) over the weekend in Paris. McCarthy’s questions were excellent, which is evident in the usually impatient Ingebrigtsen’s willingness to engage with him and provide thoughtful responses. My favorite part of the exchange starts around 4 minutes in when McCarthy begins to ask Ingebrigtsen what separates him from everyone else besides just his training, and the 22-year-old wunderkind responds with the rather astute observation that most people go too hard in training because of their mentality: they’re trying to prove something in workouts because they don’t fully believe in themselves, and they end up going too hard as a result. “A good session is nothing compared to a good race,” he says. I couldn’t agree more with Ingebrigtsen, who, it’s important to note, has been honing that fitness, but more importantly that patience and confidence, for quite some time now despite the fact he’s only a young adult. And while he was talking about his competitors in this interview, the same sentiment holds true all the way down to the non-elite and age-group ranks. I see it all the time: many runners are trying to prove something in training, whether it’s to their coach, their competition, their training partners, or even just themselves. This is a mistake and one of the biggest obstacles that gets in the way of long-term development. The point of training isn’t to prove anything to anyone—it’s to improve. It takes a long time, it’s not sexy, you’ll make mistakes, and no one is going to give you a medal for knocking your workout out of the park. As my college coach, Karen Boen, told our team on more than one occasion: “I don’t hand out blue ribbons on Tuesday afternoon.” The only proving ground is when you step on the race course.
— The other top-notch interview McCarthy did over the weekend was with another Ingebrigtsen, interestingly enough, this one with Jakob’s father Gjert, who no longer coaches his sons as far as I know. (Here’s a transcript of that exchange if you prefer to read it.) In this one, conducted after Narve Gilje Nordas, who the elder Ingebrigtsen coaches, ran 3:32.39 for 1500m, Gjert talks about the training formula that has made his sons successful (and how it can work for others as well). “You have to rely on the system for a long, long time,” he says. “It's no quick fix. You have to adapt to the system. It may take one or two or three or four, maybe five years. But when you come out on the other side, having done all the work you will guarantee success.” In our Insta-everything world, no one wants to hear this—we’re wired to want everything right away. But that’s not how life works: good things take time, often a long time. I don’t care if you’re trying to break a world-record or simply realize your fullest potential, whether you follow a double-threshold system or a Lydiard periodization model, you have to put in the work: Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year.
— It’s graduation season, which is as appropriate a time as any to link to (for the second or third year in a row) This is Water, the late David Foster Wallace‘s 2005 commencement speech at Kenyon College. Listen to it, and read along while doing so, while taking DFW’s wisdom to heart: “The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death. It is about the real value of a real education, which has almost nothing to do with knowledge, and everything to do with simple awareness; awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves over and over: This is water. This is water.”
— Quick shoutout to Goodr for their continued partnership in 2023. These sunglasses are just the best! I wear them to run, drive, walk the dog, and pretty much anything else I do outside. They don’t bounce, they don’t slip, they’re polarized to protect your eyes, and they come in a nice range of styles and fun colors. They’re also the most affordable performance shades on the planet with most pairs costing only $25 to $35 bucks a piece. If you want to support the morning shakeout and treat yourself to a pair of goodrs, head over to goodr.com/MARIO and enter the code MARIO15 at checkout to get free shipping on your order.
Training Tip: Don't be hard-headed in the heat!
As runners, we can be hard-headed from time-to-time (for better and for worse!). If the workout calls for mile repeats in 6 minutes and 30 seconds, we’ll turn ourselves inside-out to hit the split. Or if our easy run is typically 8 minutes per mile, we’ll pick it up so that our average doesn’t look “bad” on Strava afterward. This isn’t always the best approach, however, especially as we head into the summer months here in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s important to adjust your paces when conditions are less-than-ideal. Just as runners training at altitude have to slow things down a bit to account for the elevation and lack of available oxygen, so too do us flatlanders when dealing with high heat and oppressive humidity. Studies have shown that when the temperature rises above 65 degrees, your heart rate will also rise by about 10 beats per minute and performances will slow. If the humidity is also high, add another few beats and plan for the pace to slow down a little bit more. So, while you’re willing to do everything in your power to stay “on pace,” you’ll also be exerting yourself at an effort level that’s much greater than it should be for that given run or workout — or is even safe, for that matter. The best thing to do in this sort of situation is to aim for the appropriate effort level (or heart rate, if you typically track it), keeping in mind that your average pace will very likely be a few ticks per mile slower than usual. For example, if you typically run 7 minutes per mile for a tempo run, under hot and humid conditions that same effort might turn out to be 7:10 to 7:20 per mile. This is OK! It doesn’t mean you’re less fit, it just means you’re under more duress. Your body doesn’t know pace, it responds to effort, so physiologically, you’re still getting the intended benefit. The same principle applies to long runs, interval workouts, easy runs, and everything in between—focus on getting the effort right (and adjust your paces accordingly).
Workout of the Week: Elimination 400s
I came up with this workout for the Wednesday night track crew I coach as a fun way to get in a high volume of quality work while also practicing how to be disciplined, stay focused, and go through a wide range of gears. This session works best in a group environment because it has a competitive element to it—you’re “eliminated” when you run slower than your previous interval; whoever can tally up the most reps “wins” the workout—but it can also be done alone. Here are the details.
The bottom line.
“Home is not where you were born; home is where all your attempts to escape cease.”
— Naguib Mahfouz, Egyptian writer who won the 1988 Nobel Prize in Literature
That’s it for Issue 396. Please forward it, share the web link, post a screenshot to social media, or reply to me directly at your own risk. If you’re seeing this newsletter for the first time and enjoyed it, you can subscribe at this link.
Thanks for reading,
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