“A lot of us endurance athletes are obsessive and one of the things that makes us good is that we’re able to focus on the very small details of our craft and spend a lot of time concentrating on improving those things. On the flip side, it’s pretty easy to get too bogged down in the weeds and we can have a hard time stepping back and really seeing the big picture of progression, which is something that happens over a long period of time—not something that we can expect to happen in a matter of weeks or months or even like a year or two, and I think that’s something that I’ve got into a little bit of trouble with in the past.”
I had a great time talking to Chelsea Sodaro for this week’s episode of the podcast. Many of you may remember Sodaro by her maiden name, Chelsea Reilly, who national titles in the road 10K and indoor 3000m in 2012 and 2013, respectively. The 29-year-old Sodaro was one of the top distance runners in the U.S. not that long ago, with personal bests on the track ranging from 4:08 in the 1500m to 15:10 in the 5K. She’s turned her attention to triathlon in the last few years and is quickly rising through the pro ranks, having won her first ITU World Cup race last June and finishing 2018 atop the podium at Ironman 70.3 Indian Wells-La Quinta in December.
We covered a lot in this conversation: how Chelsea got into running, where she gets her competitive drive from, how she’s dealt with injury throughout her career, the special relationship she has with Olympian Magdalena Boulet, transitioning to triathlon less than three years ago, why she felt so alone and empty immediately after winning her first triathlon last year, the advice she’d give her younger self, and a lot more. (more…)
“They were doing 10-mile long runs by that time and I dropped them. And they were like, ‘Oh, this kid is tough!’ I was coming and going on rolling hills and my coach was like, ‘Hmm, you ran the last mile in 4:55.’ I didn’t even know what that meant—4:55 a mile? I just ran. I used to clock [time] in kilometers, so I thought it was a kilometer, and I was like, ‘That’s slow.’ But it was miles. A few months later I came back and ran my first indoor [race] and they were like, ‘You can run!’ and I was like, ‘OK.’ That’s the moment I fell in love with the sport and I ended up quitting the soccer thing and just focused on running.”
Excited to share a recent conversation I had with Edward Cheserek on this week’s episode of the podcast. King Ches, as he’s known throughout the running world, recently tied the IAAF world record for the road 5K at Carlsbad 5000, breaking the tape in 13 minutes and 29 seconds. I was fortunate enough to sit down with the 25-year-old Kenyan for half an hour a couple days before the race to learn a little more about his life, his upbringing in Kenya, moving to the U.S. as a high schooler 10 years ago, his record-setting collegiate career at the University of Oregon where he won 17 NCAA titles, what it would mean for him to gain his U.S. citizenship and represent this country in an international championship, where his competitiveness comes from, and a lot more. (more…)
“I always found myself working very hard to try and be the best at those little things but also enjoy what I was doing. This was evident at a very early age—I wanted to be competitive at something but I wanted to enjoy it while I was doing it. I don’t think I gain most of my enjoyment from the competitive side of it and from the racing or the competing. It was more from the just being present there and enjoying seeing other people enjoy what we’re doing and enjoying it with them.”
Excited to share a recent conversation I had with a guy many of you outside the Bay Area running scene may not have heard of yet: His name is Paddy O’Leary, he’s an Irish lad living in San Francisco, and he’s a North Face-sponsored trail and ultra runner who has risen through the ranks of the sport in just a few short years. He’s also got a fast set of wheels, having run a big personal best of 2:20 and change in the marathon last fall at CIM, a race he ran on somewhat of a whim after The North Face Endurance Challenge Championships got cancelled due to the California Wildfires.
O’Leary’s a friend and sometimes training partner of mine and he’s got an incredible story—not to mention a beautiful Irish brogue—that I’m excited to share with you in this episode. Before he got into running about five years ago, O’Leary played on the Irish national lacrosse team from 2007-2014, captaining the squad to its first European Lacrosse Championship final in 2012. He’s also been a cancer biologist at UCSF since 2013, was the co-leader of the November Project in San Francisco from 2014-2018, and has a love of traveling, community, sport, and, of course a good Guinness.
On Saturday, April 13, O’Leary will attempt the Wicklow Round in his native Ireland, a self-supported long-distance run which involves summiting 26 peaks with over 20,000 feet of climbing over 70 miles with no GPS—just a compass, a map, and his own questionable senses.
This is a long one but it was an enjoyable exchange that covers a wide range of topics, from O’Leary’s upbringing in County Wexford, Ireland, why he came to the U.S. to do his postdoctoral research, how he got into trail and ultrarunning, what he’d like to do in running over the next couple years, and much, much more. I really think you’ll take a lot away from it, so settle in and enjoy my discussion with Paddy O’Leary.
“A lot of the folks I interact with now, whether it’s a newly post-collegiate athlete who’s still got goals that they want to achieve, or a middle-aged athlete who has a general fitness goal they want to achieve, or they’d like go for that Boston qualifier, whatever it is, most of these goals are achievable if you stick with it and keep building the tower—I call it ‘the Jenga tower.’ My outlook on coaching, generally, is: Let’s build the tower and we’ll eventually get there. Sometimes you do have artificial timelines, but if you can avoid them that’s better, and just concentrate on building on what you have done and not worrying about what you aren’t. So I try to think inductively about coaching and I think that’s partly due to some of these experiences—let’s assume we’re going to get there. It’s just a question of ‘how’ and not ‘if.'”
Really enjoyed sitting down with Dena Evans for this week’s episode of the podcast. Evans is currently the coordinator and coach of the Peninsula Distance Club, a competitive post-collegiate team based in Palo Alto, California that she founded in 2007. Evans also coached at Stanford from 1999-2005, and in 2003 was named the NCAA Women’s Cross Country Coach of the year after leading the Cardinal to the national title. A few of her athletes during those years are some names you might recognize, like Lauren Fleshman, Sara Hall, Alicia Vargo, Malindi Elmore, and others. She’s also been on the coaching staff for Team USA at multiple world championships. In addition to her coaching accolades, Evans was a standout athlete at Stanford from 1992-96, where she was a three-time All American in track and also star player on the soccer team.
We covered a lot of different topics in this conversation, from getting into multiple sports at a young age to her thoughts on specialization, her career at Stanford and how she juggled being a two-sport athlete, her relationship with coach Vin Lananna and how he influenced her as both an athlete and a coach, how she got into coaching and what she’s learned working with different levels of athletes over the past 20 years, what’s exciting her—and what she would change—about the sport of running right now, and a lot more.
“I think what made me me was taking big risks and training really hard. And I think that’s what allowed me to have such high highs but it’s also why I had so many low lows as well. I think if I would have taken the edge off my training I probably would have just been a lot more steady in my results and not so up and down and all over the map. But also, in my mind, I don’t know if I would have gotten to the same place—and for me, I would rather risk everything and see what’s going to happen than play it safe and just get to mediocre for me.”
It was a treat to speak with Ryan Hall for this week’s episode of the podcast. Hall, who retired from professional running in 2016, is still the fastest American male marathoner (2:04:58) and half marathoner (59:43) of all-time. He made two Olympic teams and finished in the top-5 at numerous World Marathon Majors, including a third-place finish in Boston in 2008.
We packed a lot into this 45-minute conversation, including his reflections on retirement and when he realized he couldn’t push himself to the level he wanted to in running. We talked about battling extreme fatigue toward the end of his career and what he might do differently in retrospect, especially as a high school athlete who trained hard from a young age. There was some talk about nature vs. nature as it relates to athletic success, body image issues amongst male runners—including his own struggles—and where his own independent and competitive streaks come from. Finally, we got into his attraction to Ethiopia and what led to he and his wife Sara adopting four daughters from that country, his upcoming new book, Run The Mile You’re In, what that phrase means to him exactly, and a lot more.
“The bottom line is that a lot of people look at running and they want to try it but are intimidated by it—and I think the more encouraging and welcoming we are, starting from the top of the sport, the better it is. And so that’s exciting for me to watch and to cover and I hope [elites] continue to be encouraging and welcoming.”
I had a great time sitting down with Erin Strout for this week’s episode of the podcast. Just a few weeks ago, Strout was named the digital editor at WomensRunning.com and for my money, she’s one of the top journalists covering the sport of running today. In addition to her work at Women’s Running, Strout has also written for Outside, Runner’s World, Running Times, and numerous other publications.
We covered quite a bit of ground in this conversation, including Strout’s introduction to running, when she began to think of herself as a runner, and the evolution of her career as a journalist. We also discussed the current state of the sport, the collective rise of American women in recent years, and what can be done to bridge the gap between elite athletes and middle and back of the packers. Finally, we got into the issue of gender equity in coaching, how she deals with feedback and criticism of her work, why she wishes freelance writers would stop pitching her personal essays, and a whole lot more, including some fun anecdotes about Meb Keflezighi and Shalane Flanagan.
“Looking inside at the stuff that is scary and that you don’t want to face, that’s really hard, uncomfortable work. So in order to get to the other side, to truly feel compassionate for yourself and show yourself love, you have to come to terms with the ugly stuff. And that ugly stuff can be, ‘I’m insecure,’ that ugly stuff can be that, ‘The only reason that I race is because I’m scared to die and this gives me something else to focus on,’ it can be that ‘I feel validated and my self-worth is from this,’ like all kinds of stuff comes up and that’s normal. We’re humans, that’s the thing. It doesn’t mean that you’re broken. And the more you can acknowledge that, be aware of it and be kind to it, the better chance you have of getting to the other side where suddenly you’re just racing out of love.”
Excited to share my recent conversation with good friend and colleague, Brad Stulberg, on this week’s episode of the podcast. Stulberg coaches executives, entrepreneurs, and athletes on their most pressing challenges and writes about health and the science of human performance as a columnist for Outside magazine. His work has also appeared in the New York Times, Wired, New York Magazine, Sports Illustrated, Runner’s World and many other outlets.
The best-selling co-author author of Peak Performance, a book which explores the science and practice of world-class performance, Stulberg and his co-author Steve Magness are about to release their second book, The Passion Paradox, a guide to going all in, finding success, and discovering the benefits of an unbalanced life, which comes out on March 19 and can be pre-ordered here.
In this episode, Stulberg and I discuss performance, passion, addiction, health, well-being, purpose, burnout, the importance of practicing self-awareness and self-compassion, and a number of related topics that are pertinent to your athletic, personal, and professional pursuits alike. We also got into Stulberg’s own path as a hard-charging consultant turned writer and coach, recovering Type-A triathlete, his own struggles with burnout and mental illness, and much, much, more.
“Things are going to be uncomfortable in life. You’re going to have uncomfortable runs, uncomfortable races, uncomfortable conversations with family and friends, or standing up to your boss if you feel like you deserve a raise. All things like that, I think are just giving you a little more courage and a little more pep in your step to really stand up for what you believe in and push through those hard days and know that you’re going to see light at the end of the tunnel.”
Thrilled to welcome Stephanie Bruce of Hoka Northern Arizona Elite to the show this week. The 35-year-old mom of two young boys is a 2:29 marathoner, co-founder of Picky Bars, online running coach, and oh yeah, reigning national 10K champion on the roads.
In this episode, we discussed what she’s focused on from a training and racing standpoint right now, why she thinks it’s important to get out of your comfort zone when it comes to racing, and the changes coach Ben Rosario has made to her training in the past several years that have contributed to her recent success. We also talked about the marathon and her biggest limiters in that event, what it will take to make the 2020 Olympic marathon team in Atlanta, who she looks up to in the sport, where she gets her grittiness from, how to cultivate it in your own life, and a whole lot more.
“Everybody runs. It’s the original. You go to an elementary school at lunch time and everybody is running. It’s intrinsic to us. And we lose that, whether we don’t make the track team, whatever it ends up being, we lose that and I think that’s a shame. And I think as a community and as an industry and everything we need to get back to this idea of ‘run a block and a half, and then run five blocks, and then run 10 blocks.’ And just that alone is amazing.”
I’m excited to share a roundtable discussion I hosted last November at The Loop Running Supply in Austin, Texas, with Scott Gravatt, who is the run specialty sales director at Nike, Jeremy Bresnan, the co-founder of Ciele Athletics, and Pam Hess, who is the co-founder, along with her husband Ryan, of The Loop.
We covered quite a bit of ground in this discussion, which centered around running culture, what that is exactly, how it’s evolved over the years, and where it’s heading. There was talk about the running industry, the rise of smaller brands like Ciele, the influence of bigger ones like Nike, and how they can all co-exist in an increasingly crowded space; we got into the sport of running, the activity of running, and the lifestyle of running, how those things are all very different and also where they intersect. Finally, we dove into the importance of running specialty shops to local culture and community, the importance of storytelling, the role of athletes, and a whole lot more.
“I hope people can find joy in what they’re doing, I hope people find things that are exciting, I hope people can look at me and say, ‘If that dude with a job and a family and 1.5 cars and all the same things that I’m dealing with can get out and do something, maybe I can do something too and maybe I can set a big goal and maybe I can find something that excites me and motivates me and I’m passionate about that I want to chase.’ And then I hope they go out and they do it.”
Stoked to welcome another awesome guest on to the podcast this week: Michael Wardian. Wardian is the exception to almost every racing rule and for his latest trick he just broke the Guinness World Record for running ten marathons in ten consecutive days, covering 262 miles in 29 hours, 12 minutes, and 46 seconds, or an average of 2:55:17 per marathon. He ran the first seven of those 10 marathons on seven different continents as part of the World Marathon Challenge and completed the last three around a certified 5K loop near his home in Arlington, Virginia in 2:50 flat, 2:48:43, and 2:44:33. Oh, and on the 11th day, he raced a 5K with his vizsla Rosie in 17:01. Perhaps more impressively, he did all of that off about 20 total hours of sleep, which is something I pressed him on in this conversation.
If you know of Wardian’s way of doing things, you know this is just how he rolls. The 44-year-old races around 50 times a year on average and he’s not afraid to line up at a mile on the track or ultramarathon on the trails, sometimes doing both on the same weekend. He’s also set a number of wacky world records —like the fastest 50K ever run on a treadmill, fastest marathon ever run wearing various costumes, fastest marathon ever run on an indoor track, and even pushing a baby stroller— and he regularly tackles challenging ultra endeavors such as Badwater 135, Marathon des Sables, and the Hurt 100 to name a few. He’s also qualified for three Olympic Trials marathons, won a number of national titles and placed on the podium at world championship events.
Wardian’s a great guy with crazy goals, unmatched ambition, and a big, selfless heart. We talked about his most recent feat, what lies ahead, how he recovers between big efforts despite being a notoriously bad sleeper, how he fits it all in around a family and job, the importance of giving back and helping others, the power of positivity, what he hopes the average person can take away from his approach to life and running, and much, much more.