Good morning! The above photo is of my friend Mark, who I’ve known for almost 20 years, running on my backyard trails last Tuesday. I can’t even remember how we first met but we’re from the same general neck of the woods, ran against each other in college, became fast friends, served as groomsmen in one another’s weddings, and rarely go more than a week without touching base in some form or fashion despite living on opposite sides of the country. When my Mom passed away unexpectedly in 2008 he and his now-wife Katie flew to Massachusetts the very next day to support me and my family. Our bond runs deep despite the distance between us. Anyway, it was great having him in town last week, showing him where we live, sharing miles, bullshitting over beers, and staying up way too late having the kinds of conversations you can only have with someone who’s seen you at your worst as well as your best. It filled me up in the way only such a relationship can and I couldn't be more grateful to have spent such a good chunk of time together last week. True friendship is such a gift.
— This World Athletics piece by George Mallett is interesting for its description of the scenes one would observe at the Moi University track on the outskirts of Eldoret, Kenya, while Eliud Kipchoge, Faith Kipyegon, and a few more of the best runners in the world work out on a recent summer morning. But it’s also instructive for little gems like this that are easy to overlook or under-appreciate: “There was a time when Kipchoge would get excited and push the reps. That time has long gone. His 2003 world 5000m title win emphatically reminded him there is reward in discipline, he says.” Why is Kipchoge the GOAT? In part because he’s spent the better part of the last 20 years not trying to “beat” the workout!
— Courtney Dauwalter is on a tear this summer, winning the Western States and Hardrock endurance runs, arguably the two most prestigious trail 100-mile races in the U.S., both in course-record time. She’ll attempt to make it a trifecta a few weeks from now at the Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc, a race she’s already won twice and holds the course record at. My former boss Brian Metzler did what he does better than anyone else I know and distilled the Contributing Factors to Dauwalter’s Success (n.b. apparently this verbiage doesn’t make for as sexy of a headline) in this piece for Trail Runner. The second factor, “She’s serious about running, but she’s really chill and embraces fun” is a tough one to measure (and master!) but it’s a balance I see many everyday age-group athletes struggle to get right, which can often lead to frustration, stagnation, and/or burnout. “This is supposed to be fun” is something I remind my athletes (and myself!) of when we’re taking ourselves a little too seriously. Dauwalter, for all her competitive successes, is also the queen of keeping fun at the forefront—in fact, I’d argue that it’s the most important ingredient for the pursuit to remain sustainable, no matter how good you are. “Running is fun, it’s something I want to do my whole life, days like this, you know, this is what I want to do when I’m a hundred years old,” she says. “And so it’s important that fun is always at the forefront of decisions and attitudes and feelings about it. Running is fun, and we’re so lucky that we get to do stuff like this.”
— This GQ interview with New York Times columnist and podcast host Ezra Klein about his daily routine is great. Klein and I are about the same age and what he said about focusing on his fundamentals as he approaches 40, rather than trying to optimize a routine like he did in his late-20s, really resonated with me. “I really just try to think as much as I can in terms of these four fundamentals: Am I sleeping enough? Am I getting enough time to myself? Am I deeply connected with the people I love? Am I making fairly healthy choices in my body?” he says. “If you get that right, I think a lot of things work out.”
+ The person who interviewed Klein for that piece, Clay Skipper, was recently a guest on The Growth Equation podcast and I highly recommend giving it a listen wherever you get your podcasts or at this handy link. I am definitely the target audience for this episode as Skipper talks about how he approaches his interview process, what he learned apprenticing for the great Wright Thompson, differences between podcast interviews and longform conversations that get transcribed to text, presence, the tension that exists between curiosity and preparation, his own daily routine and how running fits into into it (he describes himself as “pretty serious for a civilian”), and more.
— This is a good video from the writer Ryan Holiday in which he talks about how running taught him about Stoicism—and on the flipside, what studying Stoicism has taught him about running and being a better athlete. I appreciate what he had to say about competing with yourself (which, paradoxically, is something you should focus on even if you are someone who likes to compete in races) and making the pursuit of running yours without letting other people influence it. In our world today, with Strava, social media, real-time results and whatnot, it can be easy to fall into the comparison trap or let what other people are doing negatively affect your own approach. In the paraphrased words of Epictetus: “If you want to win, find a competition in which you are the only one in it.” (And in case you missed it the first time around, or just want to revisit the conversation, check out the podcast I recorded with Ryan in 2021 right here.)
— I have about 347 follow-up questions but this is a pretty good look at Norwegian 400m hurdler Karsten Warholm’s training from letsrun.com summer intern Alex Geula. The 27-year-old reigning Olympic and world champion, who is also the world-record holder in the event, has been coached by Leif Olav Alnes since 2015. Warholm’s training, which involves three “red” (i.e. hard) days, three easy days, and one recovery day with a lot of time spent in the jacuzzi each week, is impressive and intense, but I think it’s the quality of his and Alnes’ relationship that carries the most weight: the specific workouts and structure of the week wouldn’t matter as much without the level of commitment, trust, and communication the two share. “After working together for so long, the two know each other extremely well and talk on the phone every night about training and how to get better,” Geula writes. “Alnes thinks this is important because at night the body is cold and Karsten can tell which parts of his body are sore and what the two of them need to work on the next day. The mutual respect between the two was emphasized heavily by Karsten in his appreciation and how much he valued his coach. Warholm believes that ‘coaches are very underestimated in the sport.’ He thanks Leif for never taking shortcuts which prevents him from making stupid mistakes and getting injured.”
— Well, this is something: The Irish musician Damien Rice, on stage between songs at a recent concert in Valencia, is told that Sinéad O'Connor has passed away. Clearly affected by the news, which he hadn’t heard until that very moment, Rice pauses and gathers himself for a second before breaking into “Nothing Compares 2 U” as an impromptu tribute to an artist he clearly admired and respected. He doesn’t even know all the lyrics but it’s a beautiful and goosebump-inducing moment nonetheless.
— A big thank you to my longtime partner Tracksmith for supporting the newsletter this month (and my work throughout 2023). In a couple weeks, I’ll be racing the Tracksmith Twilight 5000 in Oakland on August 24 and I hope to see you there! I’m using this race as a summer fitness-check ahead of the fall cross-country season. Whether you're trying to lower your 5K personal best, building up for a fall marathon, racing cross-country, or just looking for an opportunity to test yourself in an exciting environment, these races bring out the best of the running community: competition, camaraderie, and fast times under the lights, no matter what pace you’re trying to run. 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).
Training Tip: Increase frequency first!
It’s well-established that many runners, especially newer ones, will see performance improvements from increasing their overall training volume. One of the biggest mistakes I see runners make in this regard, however, is simply tacking more miles on to the runs they’re already doing, e.g. they usually run 5 miles a day three times a week so in order to get that weekly volume up over 20 miles they’ll do 7 miles three times a week. This isn’t wrong, per se, but there’s a better way: Before you start adding more miles, start running more often and manipulate the duration (and intensity) of your runs so that there’s a mix of short, medium, and long ones in there (with a blend of easy, steady, and hard efforts). I’d rather see someone running 21 miles a week with four runs of 8, 3, 5, and 5 miles with one day including some steady running, another some faster intervals, and the other two being easy. This is a safer, more effective way to increase overall training volume while encouraging better neuromuscular adaptations and reducing the risk of injury.
Workout of the Week: The Sisyphus Session
This hill workout, inspired by Albert Camus’ The Myth of Sisyphus, is one of my favorite sessions. I use some version of its short-medium-long format with all of my athletes, manipulating the specifics for who they are, what they’re training for, and where they are in a training block. This session is as much a mental challenge as it is a physical one and there’s probably a place for it in your program. Here are the details.
The bottom line.
"We flatter ourselves by thinking this compulsion to please others an attractive trait: a gift for imaginative empathy, evidence of our willingness to give...we play rôles doomed to failure before they are begun, each defeat generating fresh despair at the necessity of divining and meeting the next demand made upon us... To assign unanswered letters their proper weight, to free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves—there lies the great, the singular power of self-respect.”
—Joan Didion in a 1961 essay for Vogue entitled “Self-respect”
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