mario fraioli | the morning shakeout

the morning shakeout | issue 418

Published 7 months ago • 9 min read

Good morning! This Sunday I’ll line up with my West Valley Track Club teammates at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco for the Pacific Association cross-country championships. A few weeks from now we’ll head to Tallahassee to make a run at a couple national team titles in the 40+ and 50+ age divisions. I couldn’t be more excited to share in these experiences with a bunch of guys I’ve gotten to know and care about over the last couple years, no matter how the results end up shaking out.

Joining this squad has been the single best decision I’ve made for the betterment of my running in a long time. (Read: It’s helped make it more enjoyable, fulfilling, and meaningful.) Approaching the age of 40 at the beginning of 2022, unsure of what was next for me as far as competitive running was concerned, I knew if I was going to keep racing that I couldn’t do it on my own. I didn’t want to do it on my own. And while the way my life is set up necessitates that I train mostly on my own, having teammates I’m connected to virtually throughout the week, occasionally meet up with for workouts and long runs when schedules allow, and line up next to at races throughout the year, has helped keep me interested, accountable, and inspired in ways I couldn’t have imagined. We’re collectively a competitive bunch, training and racing hard for the sheer love of it, but we’re also all at similar places in our lives and careers, supporting one another on and off the race course, and something about all that mixed together makes this phase of the journey pretty special. Twenty-five years in, I’m finding more joy in this pursuit than I ever have, and leaning more into “we” and not just “me” for the first time in a long while has been a big part of getting to that point.

Many of us end up feeling lost at some point in our journeys, especially if we’ve been at it long enough. This is not cause for panic. If you’re stuck in a running rut, and/or a lone wolf who’s struggling to find the motivation to stay with it, seek out others in your area who are looking to get the same experience out of running as you are. That’s the move. You don’t have to want to train hard or even race at all—if you’re more of a social runner, enjoy exploring the trails, whatever it might be that gets you out the door to do the thing, there’s very likely a group out there for you. And if it doesn’t exist where you live, try to create it, or look online for a virtual community. There are more opportunities than ever to connect with folks that are just as lost and looking for others to help them find their way.

Quick Splits

— Along the lines of what I wrote above, I took great interest in reading and listening to Eric Senseman’s thoughts on his recent retirement from professional ultrarunning, which you can find here on Instagram, here on the rabbit blog, and here on the Freetrail podcast. Most everyone reading this is not a professional athlete but I’d venture to guess most can relate to the feeling of not having the thing be fun anymore. On the podcast, Senseman talked about how in recent years a lot of the fun was taken out of it for him when the results didn’t reflect the investment he was putting into it. This is not an uncommon situation for athletes, whether you’re an amateur or professional, but definitely hits different for the latter when that investment and those results are directly tied to your ability to make at least a part of your living from the sport. Eric put a lot into this pursuit of competitive ultrarunning over the past 12 years and with that, a lot of pressure on himself to be the best that he could be. He says he found out, and is content and appreciative of what he’s accomplished, which I find admirable. I wish him well in the next phase of his journey and hope he finds joy beyond the finish line.

— Earlier this year in Issue 382 I wrote a training tip about how rest and recovery aren’t punishments from your coach—they’re a strategic part of a purposeful and effective training program. This short piece covered weekly rest and recovery days as well as planned off-season breaks. Sabrina Little took this idea a step further in her most recent column for iRunFar, making a case for taking a “fallow season,” or an extended period away from training and racing that’s not to be feared, but embraced. “It is easy to conceive of rest as negative space, or the absence of work,” she writes. “But this is not quite right. Rest is not negative space. It consists of the body’s reckoning with, and adaptation in response to, training. It is part of the rhythm of work, rather than a break from it.” (What I also appreciate about Sabrina is that she often writes about things she’s wrestling with in her own relationship to running, which is part of what makes her work relatable to so many, myself included. “These are things I tend to dislike,” she writes, “and maybe I am convincing myself of their value.”)

This episode of the Running Effect podcast with coach Pat Henner is a must-listen for any other coaches out there. It provides a high-level view of his career and philosophy as well as some pretty incredible stories from along the way. Coach Henner is one of the most under-appreciated collegiate coaches in history but some of the apples that have fallen from his coaching tree are names that you might recognize: Mike Smith at Northern Arizona, Chris Miltenberg at North Carolina, and Brandon Bonsey at Georgetown, to name a few. Without ruining the conversation, my favorite story from the episode was when Henner told Smith (who was running for him at James Madison at the time) that he was leaving to take the job at Georgetown. Henner: “Mike, I’m leaving.” Smith: “F*ck you.” (And immediately hangs up the phone.) [Note: Smith ended up following Henner to DC.]

— I was recently a guest on mountain bike world champion Sonya Looney’s podcast and it was a really enjoyable conversation about finding fulfillment beyond growth, the importance of commitment and consistency (even when the path becomes less enjoyable), navigating the delicate balance of when to pivot or quit, and a lot more. It’s available wherever you listen to podcasts (just search “the Sonya Looney Show”) or at this handy link.

— I’m not the biggest country music fan in the world but I’ve watched Jelly Roll accept the award for 2023 New Artist of the Year at last week’s CMA Awards at least a dozen times now. Like him or not, appreciate his music or not, you can’t help but be moved by the genuine excitement and appreciation he displayed in his moment. It’s worth two minutes of your time today. “There’s something poetic about a 39-year-old man winning new artist of the year,” he says. “I don’t know where you’re at in your life or what you’re going through but I want to tell you to keep going baby, I want to tell you success is on the other side, I want to tell you it’s going to be OK, I want to tell you the windshield is bigger than the rearview mirror for a reason, because what’s in front of you is so much more important than what’s behind you.” If this doesn’t give you goosebumps maybe go take a cold shower or something and then come back to it.

— Dave Grohl and Norah Jones, two of my favorite artists of all-time, playing the Foo Fighters’ “Razor” together live on a recent episode of Jones’ podcast, is really beautiful. “Wow,” Grohl says as they’re finishing up. “I haven’t done that in 20 years.”

— From the archives (Issue 1, 8 years ago this week): It should come as no surprise that this article from The Atlantic caught my eye given the melding of my personal and professional interests, and it’s been oddly satisfying for me to think about the parallels between running and writing in my own life. When I started running in high school, I wanted to win races, and in order to do so I knew I had to train hard. Training to race isn’t always fun, but I know it’s a necessary step toward achieving my constantly evolving goals. I approach writing in much the same way these days. In order to become a better writer and produce stuff people enjoy reading (like this newsletter, a magazine article, or my next book), I need to practice regularly or I’ll get rusty. Like training for a race, writing is often a painstaking process that, while rewarding at times, isn’t always exciting or fun. And no different than running, the writing process is perpetual in its very nature. Just as there will always be new races and fresh goals to keep runners excited and motivated, writers are always dreaming about the next article, book, or project to pursue. Both running and writing—perhaps two of the most overly romanticized activities on the planet—are hard work. At the end of the day, you have to commit to waking up the next morning and getting it done. As Nick Ripatrazone so accurately puts it in his article, “Writers, like runners, often like the idea of their pursuit more so than the difficult work.”

— A big thank you to my partners at New Balance for supporting the newsletter this month (and my work throughout 2023). The 1080 has been the workhorse in my rotation for four years now and the v13 picks up right where its predecessors left off. This updated version feels a little lighter than its predecessor, there seems to be a bit more bounce underfoot, and it fits better than anything else in my lineup. It’s super smooth at a wide range of speeds and continues to be my go-to for most of my weekly mileage. Bottom line: I just really enjoy running in it. The Fresh Foam X 1080v13 is available now at your favorite run specialty retail store and also on (men’s sizes here, women’s sizes here).

Training Tip: Track your shoes' mileage!

Many runners log the mileage on their legs to quantify training load, track progress, and better understand when to increase or decrease volume. It’s important to do the same for your running shoes, especially if you’re rotating through multiple pairs at any given time, so you know when it’s time to replace worn-out models. Most well-constructed running shoes will last you between 300 and 500 miles (sometimes a little bit longer!), while some, like newer supershoes, aren’t built to make it through more than a few races. Note in your training log when you start running in a new pair of shoes and keep track of how many miles you run in them. (Some online platforms like Strava let you add shoes to your profile, select them from a drop-down menu, and send you a notification when it’s time to replace them.) It’s also a good idea to record when you start to notice some wear and tear on the outsole of the shoe and/or feel that the midsole foam has been compressed to the point of no return. (As well as if/when little aches and pains begin to arise.) These are tell-tale signs that your shoes are starting to go, but when in doubt, your log will let you know!

Workout of the Week: 1 mile, 9 x 400

This workout was introduced to me by coach Kevin Curtin when I was running for New Balance Boston—now Battle Road Track Club—about 17 years ago. We would use it early in a training block as a sort of reintroduction to track work but he’d also pull it out later in the season to sharpen us up for a goal 5K or 10K. The paces we tried to hit for the 400m reps differed depending on the training focus at the time. It’s been a go-to session for me and my athletes ever since. Here are the details.

The bottom line.

“We need to spend some time in the weeds to appreciate the flowers.”

— Ed Yong, An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us (which is the book I'm currently reading)

That's it for Issue 418. Forward this email, share the web link, or reply to me directly at your own risk. (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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