Houston, Chronicled

By Mario Fraioli |
Emily Sisson setting the road on fire in Houston. Photo: PhotoRun.net

I’ll start by answering the two questions I posed at the top of last week’s newsletter:

1. No, Jim Walmsley did not break 64 minutes at the Houston Half Marathon on Sunday. But he did run 64 flat, which, per USATF rules, will land him a spot in the 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. And for what it’s worth, he paced himself really well. He’s taking a high (but certainly not unheard of) level of pure running fitness into his spring/summer ultramarathon campaign, which should translate very well to the trails if he can stay healthy and not overcook himself.

2. Kara Goucher did not fare so great at the Houston Marathon, dropping out with a hamstring injury 19 miles into the race. It was, by her own admission, not the race she had hoped to run. And, in all likelihood, it may have been the last serious marathon she’ll ever compete in. But if my conversation with her on Episode 27 of the morning shakeout podcast provided any insight into the direction her head and heart are pointed, it wouldn’t surprise me to see her dip her toes in the dirt in the not-too-distant future.

Onto a few of the bigger highlights from Houston: (more…)

Weird Move of the Week: Centro to BTC

By Mario Fraioli |
Centro to BTC? He can hardly believe it himself! Photo: matthewcentrowitz.com

F*ck it, let’s call a spade a spade: Reigning Olympic 1500m gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz joining the Bowerman Track Club is just plain weird. Given the known tensions between BTC and Centro’s former team, The Oregon Project—both of which are bankrolled by Nike—not to mention the ongoing doping investigation against the NOP and widespread speculation of wrongdoing by its head coach, Alberto Salazar, this news caught me off-guard the other night. It’s not unprecedented—both Kara Goucher and Alan Webb previously switched from NOP/Salazar to BTC/Jerry Schumacher—but those moves happened well before the Propublica story came out in 2015 and all hell subsequently broke loose online and elsewhere. Sure, Centrowitz is the reigning Olympic champion, but I’m still somewhat surprised BTC and Schumacher were willing to pick up the baggage Centrowitz has been carrying with him the past several years.  (more…)

Digital Minimalism and a Side of Solitude

By Mario Fraioli |
Photo: Andrew Guan | Unsplash

It makes sense that he has a new book coming out because Cal Newport has been coming at me from every which angle over the past week or so. The bestselling author of Deep Work, Newport has been appearing on a number of podcasts and as a source in many articles promoting his upcoming title, Digital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World. Check him out on the latest episodes of the Hurry Slowly podcast and The Ezra Klein Show, both of which I enjoyed, and read this interview he did with Tim Herrera for The New York Times Smarter Living newsletter a couple days ago if you’re interested in learning how to minimize the digital distractions in your day. (more…)

Houston, We Have Some Intrigue

By Mario Fraioli |

Will Jim Walmsley break 64 minutes to qualify for the U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon and take down some notable names at the Houston Half Marathon on Sunday? And how will Kara Goucher fare in her first marathon since 2016? Those are two of the most common questions I’ve seen thrown around in recent weeks and with good reason: Folks want to see the extent of Walmsley’s range and many are wondering if the 40-year-old Goucher’s got anything left in the tank. I’m not one for predictions so I’ll save my commentary for after the event while encouraging you to pay close attention to both half-marathon races—they’re going to be ripping fast, incredibly deep, and, in all likelihood, won by athletes whose names are not immediately recognizable. (more…)

Lessons From a Living Legend

By Mario Fraioli |
Me and Joe Vigil, June 2012.

I spent a rainy Sunday afternoon this past weekend digging through old notebooks and came across this entry from the summer of 2012. They’re my key takeaways from a conversation I had with Joe Vigil while waiting in line at a Starbucks in Eugene, Oregon during the U.S. Olympic Trials. After introducing myself to one of the most successful distance running coaches of all-time, I peppered him for advice and remember being impressed with his enthusiasm—he was 82 at the time—and willingness to answer a scattered stream of questions from this hungry young grasshopper. Listed below are the aforementioned key takeaways I wrote down from that exchange with one of the living legends of the sport—he’s STILL coaching at 88 years of age—who, and it’s giving me goosebumps as I type this, called me “Coach” when we parted ways that day.   (more…)

Why Do We Run?

By Mario Fraioli |

I love asking people I meet why they run because the answers never cease to surprise (or amaze) me. It’s also a question I force myself to contemplate from time to time as a reminder of why I’ve kept at this crazy pursuit for over two decades now.

Parts of my own answer to this question have evolved over the years but the foundation has held pretty solid: I run to use my body and celebrate the fact that I can push it, test it, and see what it’s capable of. I run because it challenges me to look deep inside myself on a regular basis and helps me work through problems that nothing else can seem to help solve. I run because it’s something I can do alone or share with others depending on what I want to get out of it. I run to explore the world around me, to better understand it, and to connect with it on the most intimate level. I run because it provides me an outlet: personal, competitive, spiritual, and social. But mostly I run because it brings me a joy that nothing else can match.

The reasons why we run are vast and varied, which is part of what makes it such a special and beautiful practice. Check out this compilation of reasons we run from readers of the morning shakeout. (Some answers lightly edited for length and clarity.) (more…)

Let The CIM Celebration Continue

By Mario Fraioli |
Me and some of my squad. Photo: Jody Bailey | Run Photographs

Despite the fact that it took place over two weeks ago now, I’m still reeling over what went down at the Cal International Marathon. Why? It was, as Martin Fritz Huber aptly put it in his recap for Outside, “a mass celebration for the competitive amateur—the ‘regional class’ athlete who might eviscerate the competition at her local Turkey Trot, but wouldn’t allow herself to dream about actually making an Olympic team.” And while the unsponsored Emma Bates, who dazzled in her debut marathon and put herself on a short-list of sub-2:30 women, and previously unknown men’s winner Brogan Austin, who works full-time as an IT project manager and doesn’t see why he shouldn’t see himself as a contender Atlanta, are a step or two above “regional” status, they represent the class of competitive amateurs that helped make the event so special. That’s not to take anything away from the handful of full-time pros who gave it a go, or diss on the ones raced elsewhere this fall, but rather to celebrate a level of depth that hasn’t been seen in decades and re-affirm the improving health of competitive marathoning in the United States right now—which, I think, is best measured from the bottom up than from the top down. (more…)

Staying The Course and Coming Full Circle at CIM

By Mario Fraioli |
This is what breaking an 11-year old personal best feels like. Photo: Jason Suarez

At the end of last year I made a commitment to go all-in on the Boston Marathon and CIM in 2018. I signed up for the latter the day after spectating at the 2017 edition, inspired by what I saw transpiring on the course around me, and committed right then and there to seeing if I could finally get an 11-year-old personal best off my back. (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…)

Will Meb Come Out of Retirement?

By Mario Fraioli |
Can Keflezighi make a fifth Olympic team at 44 years old?

Sure, Meb Keflezighi said he retired after last fall’s New York City Marathon, but this piece, written by my good friend and colleague Brian Metzler, suggests he might be having second thoughts at the age of 43.

“I still believe I can run 2:12 or 2:13, and maybe even faster on a great day,” the four-time Olympian told Metzler for Runner’s World. “The question that I have to ask myself is whether or not I want to do the work to get in 2:14 shape. I really don’t know.”  (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.