mario fraioli | the morning shakeout

the morning shakeout | issue 414

Published 6 months ago • 8 min read

Good morning! The Quick Splits piled up, uh, rather quickly this week. Let’s dive right in.

Quick Splits

— In a recent blog entry, renowned running broadcaster Toni Reavis ponders if “the current tectonic changes in performance and fatigue and endurance evidenced by middle distance runners in the marathon will eventually trickle down all the way to the sprint crowd.” He cites a number of fast middle-distance runners (Eliud Kipchoge, Kenenisa Bekele, Tigst Assefa, and Sifan Hassan, to name a few) who, with the help of energy-saving shoe technology, have redefined the way marathons are run. Reavis wonders if, in a similar way, 100m runners will move up and dominate the 400m, or if a 400m runner might be the next great 1500m star. “The marathon was once the province of people who didn’t have the finishing speed to get it done on the track,” he writes. “The roads were where you went when your speed left you and only strength remained, or you only had strength to begin with. Today, that supposition rests red-faced in the ashbin of history.” It’s an interesting thought experiment, and while I don’t think he’s too far off-base, I also don’t think it’s going to work exactly the same way. Here’s why: In short, there’s always been way more money in the marathon, which, at the professional level, is a huge part of the appeal to get off the track and test out the longer distance on the road. On the track, the competitive (and income) opportunities for middle-distance runners aren’t that much more extensive than they are for someone with a successful sprinting background, so why would someone move up if it wasn’t a sure shot?

The differences in training, however, are where the biggest leaps would need to be made. I don’t know much about going from the 100 to the 400, but moving up from the 400 to the mile, even with shoe technology providing some energy savings, is going to be a much heavier lift in terms of emphasis on aerobic work involved as well as total training volume for most athletes (versus going from the mile eventually up to the marathon).

That said, and despite the margins being much thinner in the long sprints and middle distances than they are in the marathon, I think the breakthroughs from the 400 to the mile are coming sooner than later—heck, it’s already starting to happen. Faith Kipyegon rewrote the women’s 1500m/mile record book this season. I’ll bet the women’s 800m world record goes down by the end of the 2025 season. Same with the men’s 1500m/mile and women’s 400. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the men’s 400 dip below 43 before my 43rd birthday (May 2025). I’m less confident about the men’s 800m but hey, I hope a fast but frustrated 400m runner proves me wrong in the next couple of years.

— Marathon world-record holder Kelvin Kiptum reportedly ran between 280-300 kilometers a week in preparation for his 2 hour and 35 second clocking in Chicago two Sundays ago, according to this article, which was a follow-up to this profile of his coach, Gervais Hakizimana, by Robin Gremmel of Agence France-Presse. (Note: The latter article is in French, but it’s easy enough to translate in most modern browsers.) Kiptum and Hakizimana’s partnership, much like Kiptum’s trajectory in the sport, is an interesting one. Hakizimana has known Kiptum, who last fall said he did not have a coach, since he was 13 years old. It appears they’ve been working closely together since 2020, however, but even that’s a bit murky based on what’s been reported since Kiptum made his splash on the marathon scene last December in Valencia. Kiptum’s mileage, which is high but not unprecedented, didn’t catch my eye as much as the density of his training, which, according to the sample week Hakizimana sent Gremmel, includes four quality days (two hard interval sessions, and two hard longer runs). That strikes me as unsustainable, which Hakizimana himself admits, and makes me wonder if the 23-year-old will even be around in five years. In contrast, Eliud Kipchoge, whose legacy has in part been built on his longevity in the sport, was at the height of his track career when he was Kiptum’s age and didn’t even dip his toe in the marathon waters until he was 28. Maybe Kiptum doesn’t care as much about longevity or legacy as Kipchoge does, and is fine with burning out in a flame of fast times rather than eventually fading away with a wide array of titles to his name.

— From the archives (Issue 101, 6 years ago this week): “What are we talking about? Practice? We’re talking about practice, man!” No, it’s not my intention to point you toward the best press conference rant in history, but rather this excellent advice from famed jazz musician Wynton Marsalis’ “Twelve Ways To Practice,” which is applicable to musicians, athletes, writers, or anyone who’s looking to improve at something. “Your success or failure at anything ultimately depends on your ability to solve problems, so donʼt become a robot,” he writes in No. 10. “Thinking for yourself helps develop your powers of judgment.”

— My friend, colleague, and sometimes training partner Michael Olzinski sent me this link to an Outside article by Zoë Rom about what the latest Strava data says about that “elusive BQ” and my response to him was, “So everything we already knew.” I don’t apologize for the snark because the data confirms what experienced runners and coaches have been preaching and practicing for most of the last century, despite whatever magic bullet some ill-informed Instagram influencer might be trying to hawk you this week: “Slow your runs down, choose your course wisely, shoot for a negative split, and remember that practice makes perfect.” I’ll also add: Run more miles (this was noted earlier in the article), take your fueling and hydration seriously, get faster at shorter distances, and finally, be patient and play the long game. Mikey’s reply to me: “Exactly. But now people might actually believe it bc strava told them lol.” Sadly, he’s probably not wrong about that.

— Are runners worse at fueling than triathletes and cyclists? This is a question I brought up to my partners at Precision Fuel and Hydration and we decided to have a chat about it. Here’s a transcript of that conversation, which I had recently with Sports Scientists Emily Arell and Andy Blow. We shared our respective observations, dug into some of the case studies Emily and her team have conducted, and explored why runners seemingly struggle to fuel and hydrate as well as cyclists and triathletes. It was an eye-opening and insightful exchange, and also includes this great interview about nutrition with professional cyclist turned badass trail runner Christian Meier, who won the TDS at this year’s UTMB festival of races. (While we’re on the topic, if you need help dialing in your fueling and hydration strategy for your next race, check out PF&H’s free fuel & hydration planner to better understand your carb, sodium, and fluid needs. You can also book a free 20-minute video call with a member of their team. These are GREAT resources from good people that will put you on the right path to solving any intake issues you might have. And if you’re interested in trying Precision Fuel & Hydration products for yourself, check out this link and save 15% off your first order.)

— I’ve been posting somewhat regularly to Instagram and enjoying the interactions I’ve had there since reactivating my account a few weeks ago. Here’s a post I shared yesterday about the trap of optimization culture and not allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by the myriad metrics the latest data-gathering gadgets spill out to you like a firehouse.

— Since it’s October, I’ll share two incredible songs that are titled for my favorite month: this under-appreciated one from U2, the lyrics of which are short and profound but get me every time, and this awesome acoustic recording from Broken Bells, which contains a couple lines I’ve leaned on numerous times over the years for various reasons: “Remember what they say/ There's no shortcut to a dream/It's all blood and sweat/And life is what you manage in between” and “Don’t run, don’t rush/Just flow”

— A big thank you to Tracksmith for supporting my work this month (and throughout 2023). I’ve been breaking out one version or another of the Brighton Base Layer the last couple weeks because it’s the most versatile running shirt I own. The short sleeve, in particular, is the perfect transition piece from summer to fall. I’ll wear it on its own but also under a light jacket if it's spitting rain. I’ve also got the long sleeve for when it dips into the 40s and I want to keep my arms covered. (Come winter it will serve as a layering piece.) Both versions are made from a merino wool blend, they wick moisture and regulate temperature incredibly well, but best of all: they don’t smell when I sweat in them! If you buy the Brighton Base Layer, or anything on for that matter, 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: Loosen your grip!

It’s not uncommon to see runners hold a lot of tension in their torso, necks scrunched, hands, arms and shoulders held high, fists closed as if they’re going to knock someone out. If this sounds uncomfortable, that’s because it is! Start by loosening your grip and everything else will follow suit. Run as if you have a potato chip sitting in each of your hands—your job is not to break them. Drop your shoulders and relax your arms so that your hands are naturally moving up and down from your waist to your chest, being careful not to cross over the midline in front of your body. This will allow you to maintain a healthy amount of tension in your torso without straining so that you’re running upright and with good alignment all the way down the chain.

Workout of the Week: The Recovery Run

I’ve seen many competitive amateur runners fall into a trap where they’re essentially going medium-hard all the time, which stymies performance and compromises recovery and adaptation. The hard days aren’t as hard as they could (and probably should) be, and the easy days aren't as easy as they need to be. The solution? Slow down your recovery runs. Why? And by how much? Find out here.

The bottom line.

“Confidence is silent. Insecurities are loud.”

—Don Vito Corleone, The Godfather

That's it for Issue 414. If you’re enjoying the morning shakeout, please do me a solid and forward this email or pass on the web link to someone who might also appreciate it. (And if you’re seeing this newsletter for the first time and want to receive it for yourself first thing every Tuesday morning, you can subscribe right here.)

Thanks for reading,


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mario fraioli | the morning shakeout

Discover what’s possible through the lens of running with training tips, workouts, and other bits of goodness from coach Mario Fraioli. Every Tuesday morning, Mario shares his unapologetically subjective take on things that interest, inform, inspire, or entertain him in some way.

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