mario fraioli | the morning shakeout

the morning shakeout | issue 431

Published 2 months ago • 10 min read

Good morning. On Sunday afternoon just after 2:30 PST my phone started blowing up, text messages coming in rapid succession, most of them linking to this Tweet sharing the shocking news that Kelvin Kiptum, the 24-year-old world-record holder in the marathon, and his coach, Gervais Hakizimana, had died tragically in a car accident in Kenya. I just stood there at the bottom of the stairwell in my house, speechless, staring blankly at the small screen in front of me. The last time I felt this way was when I got word that Sammy Wanjiru died in 2011 (also at the age of 24, coincidentally enough). I didn’t know either of these guys personally but both Wanjiru and Kiptum changed the way marathons were run. I’ll never forget watching Wanjiru take it to the field at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing to win in record time, or trading blows with Tsegaye Kebede in the final mile at Chicago in 2010. Or the images of Kiptum digging deep at the end of the London marathon en route to shattering the course record, and, of course, charging down the final straightaway in Chicago last fall, no one else in sight, celebrating the fact that he was about to make history. Game-changers, both of them. Wanjiru and Kiptum helped to redefine what’s possible, not just at the pointy end of the pyramid, but also for the rest of us hanging out in the levels below. Of course, you and I aren’t going to be winning an Olympic medal or breaking a world-record any time soon, but we are capable of so much more than we thought. Like Wanjiru and Kiptum, we should question our own preconceived limits and not be afraid to fail as we work to uncover the answers. Beyond the wins, records, and medals, that’s the legacy both of them have left behind for runners everywhere.

I’m not sure what else there is to say right now. I hope that Sharon Kosgei, who was also in the car but survived the crash, gets the help she needs to recover from this tragedy. My thoughts are with Kiptum and Hakizimana’s families and friends during this awful time. What a terrible loss for them and a sad day for the sport we all love so much. Long may you both run and, for the rest of us, may we appreciate each day, and the people we get to spend them with. Life is the greatest gift.

Quick Splits

— I read this Runner’s World feature about Mitch Ammons the day before the Olympic Trials Marathon but forgot to link to it last week. You should read it. It’s a great profile written by Peter Flax that tells the story of a man who’s used running as a vehicle to break free from addiction and rebuild his life one mile at a time. I’ve shared one or two other stories about Ammons in this newsletter before but this one paints the fullest picture I’ve seen yet of just how far the 34-year-old from Austin has come in his journey—one that’s led him to sobriety, as well as the start line of the Olympic Trials Marathon. “No matter how hard a workout is, no matter how miserable it is to finish a race, I’m never in as much pain or as miserable as I was when I was stuck in this prison of heroin and crystal meth addiction,” Ammons says. “I got out of the worst possible self-hate and feelings of hopelessness, and I know that it’ll never be that bad.”

— If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years from organizing real-life events and trying to get people to participate in things on the internet, it’s that if you offer an incentive, you’re more likely to drum up interest. In short: People will do all kinds of wacky sh*t when there’s free stuff (or even just the hope of winning free stuff) involved. Case in point: The Strava Chipotle Burrito Challenge Ends With Insanity. Here was the gist of the challenge, summed up quite well by Ray Maker in the aforelinked post: “Strava and Chipotle created a Strava Segment challenge for the month of January in 6 cities, on one particular roughly 300-meter-long segment next to a specific Chipotle in each of those cities. The person who completed that segment the most times would win [a year’s supply of burritos]. Simple as that. Unlike normal segment challenges, the fastest time is not the winner here. Instead, just the person dumb enough to run this section of questionable pavement the most, known in Strava lingo as the ‘Local Legend’.” The results: Some people were willing to spend an insane amount of time going back and forth on a relatively short stretch of sidewalk for the opportunity to nourish themselves with burritos for 52 weeks. (Worth it, I think.)

— The concept of filming athletes’ workouts and putting them up on the internet is older than YouTube, and, in my opinion, it still hasn’t gotten old or been overdone. I enjoy watching how different athletes get ready, admiring how they move at different speeds, observing what they do in between intervals, taking note of adjustments they make mid-workout, and seeing how they interact with their coach and training partners before, during, and after the session. The latest addition to this style of video is a new YouTube channel called Track: All Access, and it’s run by Gordon Mack, formerly of Flotrack. He’s come off the line hot with workouts from marathoners Conner Mantz and Clayton Young, the BYU women’s team, pros Abdihamid Nur and Woody Kincaid, and Nico Young just before he broke the collegiate 5000m record. They’re all really well done but my favorites so far are the ones with Nur/Kincaid and Young, who are working out on the indoor track in Flagstaff under the watchful eye of their coach, Mike Smith. A few things stand out: 1. Just how terrible it looks to run that hard at 7000 feet elevation. “Nothing’s easy up here,” Smith says at one point. 2. Smith’s calm demeanor throughout both workouts. In the session with Nur and Kincaid he talks about how he’s just trying to keep their emotions low and not make a big deal out of it. “The energy that we’re giving off is the energy they’re gonna follow,” he says. 3. In the workout with Young, the meat of the set is a hard 2K—”a long, extended, callusing interval—a punch to the jaw”—which is the type of effort Smith only assigns once every two months or so. When Young starts cranking 62s toward the end of the 2K, Smith knows he’s in monster shape and ready to do something special. (Which he did shortly thereafter.) “Nico is a bad motherf*cker,” Smith says to the camera. “That’s crazy what he just did.” 4. The session goes so well that Smith calls it earlier than planned so Young doesn’t end up in a hole. That’s great coaching—not to mention solid trust and maturity on the part of Young to not even question it.

— Jake Wightman, the 2022 1500m world champion who sat out most of last year due to injury, returned to racing a couple weekends ago at the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix in Boston, nearly pulling out the win in the men’s 1500m with a runner-up finish in 3:34.06. He spoke to The Guardian’s Sean Ingle about his challenging 2023 for this profile, admitting that at times he felt worthless because he couldn’t do his job, not to mention being humbled by normal folks while trying to cross-train on the bike. “Despite my injuries, I thought I was fit and I was bragging to my mates that it would be nice to be flying around and going past people again,” he says. “Yet I was struggling to stay with them up the hills. My quads were just burning, even on the flat bits where I had to put any power through them. It was very humbling.”

— The Millrose Games were over the weekend and while I won’t highlight everything amazing that happened, I do want to call out two record-setting performances: Josh Kerr of Great Britain running 8 flat to smash the world-record in the 2-mile, and Elle Purrier-St. Pierre breaking her own American record in the mile with a sizzling 4:16.41 performance. (You can watch both races in their entirety here and here, respectively.) Grant Fisher of the U.S., who was second to Kerr in an American record 8:03.62, gets an honorable mention for driving the bus most of the way in the men’s 2-mile after the pacer stepped off the track. But Kerr got the win, and the WR, after taking control of the wheel with 300m to go. You could see him stalking and plotting for a few laps before that moment, and when it was time to put the pedal to the floor, he made sure Fisher stayed in the back for the rest of the ride.

+ In the women’s mile, it was an 8-lap showdown between Purrier-St. Pierre and Australian Jessica Hull, who outkicked her rival the week before to win over 3000m. I don’t really have the words for it here but you could just tell that Purrier-St. Pierre was intent on not letting that happen again as she tucked in behind Hull only a few laps into the race. Purrier-St. Pierre, who usually likes to control the pace, seemed content to just sit there until a little over a lap to go. When she went by Hull just before the bell rang, she did so with authority, stretching out her lead with every stride. Purrier-St.Pierre’s final 2 laps took just 61 seconds as she shaved about 4/10 of a second off her American record, showing she can win any number of different ways. An amazing performance no matter how you slice it, this is pretty incredible stuff less than a year after giving birth to her son, Ivan.

— Casey Neistat is one of the most popular creators on YouTube. He has a talent for telling interesting stories in a straightforward way. His videos are tightly edited but not overproduced. He’s also a dedicated runner, regularly logging 50 or more miles per week. He’s been trying to break 3 hours in the marathon for 17 years, coming close on multiple occasions, including at New York last fall when he ran a personal best of 3:01:27. He took another swing at the Tucson Marathon a month later, crossing the line in 2:57:34. And of course, there’s now a video about it—one which Neistat says he’s been waiting 17 years to make. It’s worth 12 minutes of your time. He entitled it, “Sisyphus and the Impossible Dream,” which made me think of the line, “Good things take time, impossible things a little longer.” The video isn’t a humble-brag or a highlight reel—it’s a beautiful, relatable reminder to, in the words of Des Linden, keep showing up.

— From the archives (Issue 14, 8 years ago this week): What’s your priority? Like most other worthwhile endeavors in life, effective training is a matter of prioritizing what’s important at the right time. “You can’t be at the peak level optimum physical conditioning year around,” writes coach Vern Gambetta. “Priority training can help you achieve continual improvement by changing priorities based on the time of the training year and the state of the athlete.”

— In paying tribute to another legend who left us too early, please enjoy this recording of Chris Cornell and Audioslave performing “I Am The Highway” from 2003. Awesome version of an iconic song with an acoustic opener and the band coming in heavy halfway through. (If you look closely enough you can see producer Rick Rubin dancing in the control room behind Cornell.)

— A big thank you to my longtime partner Tracksmith for supporting my work this month (and throughout 2024). As I wrote a few weeks back, I’m going to spend the first half of this year seeing how fast I can go for a mile/1500 in my early 40s. The fun part about jumping to a new decade is you get to reset your age-group personal bests. (That’s what I’m telling myself, anyway.) Last year I ran 4:30 flat for the full mile at the age of 40. I want to better that in 2024 and continue exploring what I can do in the middle distances at this point in my life. However old you are, I’d like to encourage you to try and do the same. (And Tracksmith would like to reward you for your efforts!) Here’s the deal: Pro runners are often offered bonuses for their breakthrough performances—amateur runners, however, don’t get such recognition. Tracksmith wants to change that. If you run, jump, throw, put or vault your way to a new personal best before the end of April 2024 (in a standard running distance or track-and-field event), you’ll be eligible to receive a one-time $100 credit toward your next Tracksmith purchase. If you’re like me and over 40, they’re respecting Masters’ PBs in 5-year age bands (40-44, 45-59, 50-54, etc.). Learn more here and start getting to work on bettering your best!

Workout of the Week: Hills and a Steady Chill

This workout is all about that base. It’s a relatively straightforward session that combines a set of short (30-60”) hill repeats with a moderate dose of steady state running (think marathon-ish effort). It’s perfect for athletes early in a training block when they’re building volume and reintroducing intensity without getting too specific just yet. (In fact, I’ve been doing a version of it the past several weeks—just check out my Strava for more details.) It’s not meant to be that hard. There are a number of ways you can manipulate this workout but I like to start with the hill repeats because the athlete is fresh and we can get more out of this element of it in terms of muscle fiber recruitment, improving power, and running with good form. The steady state afterward should be steady aerobic work—not too hard, but not that easy—and shouldn’t take that much out of you energetically or otherwise. Here are the details.

The bottom line.

“Doing your job is not always the same as doing the work.”

—Seth Godin making an important distinction

That's it for Issue 431. Please share it widely, and encourage a few of your friends to subscribe at this link.

Thanks for reading,


P.S. Got fueling/hydration questions for my friends at Precision Fuel & Hydration? They’ve offered to answer them all! Here’s how it will work: Submit your questions here by this Friday. I’ll pass them along to the folks at PF&H and a couple weeks from now all of the questions and answers will be published on We’ll choose one lucky submission at random to win a $100 PF&H gift card and feature that question/answer in an upcoming issue.

Support the morning shakeout directly on Patreon and help keep my work sustainable for years to come.

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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