Podcast: Episode 36 with Bart Yasso

By Mario Fraioli |

“If some of the people at the very front would start with these groups in the very back and see people’s journeys, they would be changed—and they would realize, not only are these people working so hard at it but they [will] actually physically see what they go through to get to where they are. You know, I have people come up to me at races and say, ‘I know you won’t believe this, but I used to weigh 500 pounds.’ And you’re looking at somebody that weighs like 180 pounds and they’ve lost 320 pounds, and they say, ‘Yeah, I couldn’t even walk out to my car without stopping and sitting down. I’d get out to the curb and had to sit down because I was out of breath.’ And now they’re going to run a marathon. How does this transformation happen? Something gets to ’em…there’s something out there. When we connect those people, that’s when our sport is really going to take off.”

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It’s an honor to welcome Bart Yasso to the podcast this week. Known as “The Mayor of Running,” the 62-year-old Yasso retired from Runner’s World at the end of 2017 after 30 years with the publication. Yasso, who served as Chief Running Officer for the last 10 years of his career, attended thousands of races around the world, serving as an ambassador for the sport at all levels and celebrating the achievements of top finishers and average runners alike. And while he hasn’t exactly stopped doing those things since entering retirement, he’s scaled his event travel back significantly to spend more time at home and on the golf course.

Yasso and I caught up recently and talked about all sorts of stuff, from how he got his start in running to how he landed his dream job at Runner’s World in the late 1980s, and how his role there evolved over the course of three decades. We got into his retirement and how he’s spending his time now that he’s not traveling to an event every weekend of the year. There was some discussion about the state of the sport, the various ways that it’s grown and changed over the last several decades, and how we can do a better job connecting the front of the field with the back of the pack. We talked about running media, the various directions it’s gone over the years, and where he sees it heading moving forward. Yasso also shared his thoughts on how runners of all levels can inspire one another, his ongoing struggles with Lyme disease, Yasso 800s (of course!), and a lot more.

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Podcast: Episode 35 with Kim Conley

By Mario Fraioli |
Conley finished fourth at the recent NYRR Abbott Dash to the Finish Line 5K. Photo: Justin Britton

“Not to sound cheesy, but anything is possible. I think that when you set your mind to something, and make a plan on how to get there, then you just chip away at what the next step of the plan is and you keep working up to the next step on the staircase basically—and it’s amazing how far you can go.”

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Really enjoyed sitting down with two-time U.S. Olympian Kim Conley this past weekend after she finished fourth at the NYRR Abbott Dash to the Finish Line 5K, a race which doubled as the U.S. 5K road championships for 2018.

The 32-year-old Conley, who has been battling a series of injuries since early 2017, is finally healthy again and setting her sights on returning to the track in 2019. Based in Sacramento, where she lives and trains with her husband and coach, Drew Wartenburg, Conley ran collegiately at nearby U.C. Davis, where she graduated in 2009 with modest personal bests of 16:17 for 5000m and 4:22 in the 1500. Despite not being fast enough to land a sponsorship deal after college, Conley knew that she still had some unfinished business in the sport, so she decided to stick with it. It’s a decision that has certainly paid off: Conley has made the last two Olympic teams in the 5000m, captured national titles in the 10,000m and half marathon, and improved her personal bests to 15:08 and 4:07, respectively.

We covered a wide range of topics in this conversation, including: what Conley has taken away from her most recent injury experience; her marathon debut in 2016 and what she learned from that race (and why she’s going to stay focused on the track through 2020); the state—and strength—of American women’s distance running right now; her own progression in the sport, from good but not great high school and college runner to two-time Olympian and national champion; her new upcoming biography, Underdog, which comes out next spring; the shutting down of NorCal Distance, her current training situation in Sacramento, and what’s it like to be coached by her husband, Drew Wartenburg; what other runners can take away from her story; and much, much more. (more…)

November 2018 Sponsor: COROS

By Mario Fraioli |

I’m excited to introduce you to a new sponsor this month: COROS! COROS makes two new GPS running watches—the PACE and the APEX—and you won’t regret slapping either one of these performance-focused timepieces on your wrist. In fact, I’ve been using the PACE since late August and haven’t gone back to my old watch since. It has an impressive array of features including the fastest GPS signal acquisition of any watch on the market and a 25-hour battery life when in GPS mode. It’s lightweight with a super sleek form factor and the interface is intuitive, adaptable, and easy to use. The PACE has wrist-based heart rate, 4 customizable screens, a barometric altimeter for accurate elevation readings, and it comes in 3 different colors: black, blue, and red. (more…)

Should Kenenisa Bekele Hang Up His Racing Flats?

By Mario Fraioli |
Bekele’s got some thinking to do. Photo: Marie-Lan Nguyen | Wikimedia Commons

Kenenisa Bekele, hailed by many as the greatest distance runner of all-time (with good reason), dropped out of the Amsterdam Marathon on Sunday with about 1K to go. He had fallen off the lead pack after 30K but was still on 2:07:14 pace with 2K remaining, according to letsrun.com, when a short while later he just walked off the course. His manager, Jos Hermens, said Bekele had been battling an injury in the weeks leading up to the race and it had worsened after 30K. And while that very well may have been the case, and there’s a clear line between running through pain and running through injury that any seasoned runner knows not to cross, the fact that the Ethiopian legend has dropped out of three of his last five marathons doesn’t leave me feeling optimistic about his competitive future. (more…)

Podcast: Episode 34 with Sanjay Rawal

By Mario Fraioli |

“It’s really inspiring to see someone push themselves and challenge themselves…Bringing out the achievements of people who are fighting the odds, and really putting into context today’s race, even for a pro, because even a pro is overcoming something tremendous each race they do—it’s never rosy. And understanding that hardship, I think, will give people context into the meaning of a particular race for a particular runner, whether they’re an amateur or the world’s best.”

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It’s a treat to have filmmaker Sanjay Rawal on the podcast this week to talk about his new documentary, “3100: Run and Become,” which takes an intimate look at one of the most unique foot races on the planet, The Sir Chinmoy 3100-Mile Self-Transcendence Race. What is the 3100? In short, it’s the longest certified road race in the world, and runners attempt to complete 3100 miles in 52 days (or less) around the same city block in Queens, New York. That’s just shy of 60 miles per day, for two months straight, around the same 0.55-mile stretch of concrete, in the middle of summertime.

The 43-year-old Rawal, who lives in New York City but grew up as a competitive runner in California’s East Bay, studied under Sri Chinmoy after graduating from UC Berkeley. Chinmoy, who passed away in 2007, was an Indian spiritual teacher who believed running provided an opportunity for people to challenge themselves and their pre-conceived limitations, a state he referred to as “self-transcendence.” Rawal, who has not yet attempted the 3100, has been working on the film since 2015. In it, he explores the theme of running as a spiritual practice throughout history, weaving three other cultural narratives around the story of the 2016 edition of the 3100. Rawal visits Arizona’s Navajo Nation, spends time with the Mt. Hiei “running monks” of Japan, and also goes into the bush with the persistence hunters of the Kalahari, showing how running is one of mankind’s most primal activities as well as one of our greatest cultural connectors.

We covered a wide range of topics in the course of this conversation, including Rawal’s film, how it came to be, and how it’s changed him as both a person and a runner; the 3100-Mile Self-Transcendence Race, its origins, and its unique appeal; the role that running plays in the different cultures featured in the film; the connection between competition and spirituality; what can be done to make coverage of running events more appealing; the idea that running is something more than a competitive pursuit or form of exercise, but it can serve as a teacher, a form of prayer, and a celebration of life; running culture and what that means exactly; and much, much more.

This exchange was very different from many of the others I’ve had to this point—there was no talk about training, nutrition, recovery, or the state of the sport—but it was also one of the most enlightening that I’ve had in quite some time. Whether you’re a competitive athlete or recreational runner, a miler or an ultramarathoner, this conversation will change the way you look at running and the role it plays in your life.

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Podcast: Episode 33 with Ben Rosario

By Mario Fraioli |

“You have to look at it like a business. What do you want the culture of your team to be? Focus on that and make sure that the people you’re working with are bought into what you’re doing. Because I’m telling you right now, you could raise Bill Bowerman from the dead and he could write your schedule, but if you don’t have the people that you’re working with believing in you, and believing in each other, and believing in what they’re doing, it’s not going to work.”

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It was a blast to sit down with Ben Rosario, the founder and head coach of HOKA Northern Arizona Elite, for this week’s episode of the podcast.

The 38-year-old Rosario, who started the team in 2014, has had a long and varied career in the running industry. As an athlete, he ran for the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, qualified for two U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, and finished second at the U.S. Marathon Championships in 2005. He moved back to his hometown of St. Louis that earlier that year, where he first worked as the special events director for that city’s marathon, and then went on to co-found Big River Running Company. After selling his share of the business in early 2012 and moving to Flagstaff shortly thereafter, Rosario worked as the marketing director for McMillan Running and also did some work as an elite athlete coordinator and race director back in his hometown of St. Louis. Through it all, Rosario has coached other runners at all levels, leading him to his current role with HOKA NAZ Elite, “a professional sports team whose mission is to recruit, develop and produce distance runners to compete at the very highest level of international athletics.”

We covered a lot of bases over the course of this conversation: Rosario’s career path, and the route he took to get where he is today; how he got into coaching and the influence different coaches have had on his own development as an athlete, coach, and person; what race weekend looks like for him when he’s got athletes competing; the origins of NAZ Elite and how he sees the group evolving in the coming years; how he measures his team’s impact beyond race results; what NAZ Elite is doing to make themselves relatable to average runners; the benefits of group training for all levels of runners; the importance of rest and recovery after a marathon and what that looks like for his athletes; how he furthers his own education as a coach and his advice for young coaches; what’s exciting him about the sport right now, and a lot more.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mario Fraioli
Mario Fraioli is a writer and running coach based in the San Francisco Bay Area.