Last week I visited my soon-to-be 89-year-old Nana, a fiercely independent Italian woman from the old country who still lives on her own in the same little apartment she’s called home since 1966. As you can see, not much has changed in the last 50 years. She continues to inspire me with her simple, selfless lifestyle. instagram.com/mariofraioli

the morning shakeout | issue 24

Every Tuesday I share a smattering of thoughts and links on running, media and a smorgasbord of other things that interest me in a weekly email newsletter called The Morning Shakeout. To date, I’ve published 24 issues, all of which can be accessed here. My hope each week is that I can encourage you to think more deeply about the topics discussed. If you’d like for it to land in your inbox first thing on Tuesday mornings, I suggest signing up here.

This week’s edition got a lot of play around the interwebs (it even got a mention on Runnersworld!), so I’m adding it to the morning shakeout publication here on Medium. If you like what you read below, I would be thrilled if you hearted this article, forwarded it along to a friend or shared the link on your social media platform of choice. Enjoy!

Leave the ideas. Take the experiences.

“If you want to capture ideas, you’re lost,” writer Paulo Coelho (of The Alchemist fame) says in this 30-ish minute monologue on the most recent episode of The Tim Ferriss Show. “Because you’re not going to live your life. You’re going to be capturing ideas.”

I love the lesson here: Live your life! Let your inspiration for writing come from the things you experience, the people that matter most to you, and the lessons you can share with others. Don’t sit around trying to dream up silly ideas until you’re “inspired” by something. Though one could argue that this advice only applies to fiction writers, I think it goes for journalists and other non-fiction writers as well. Observe what’s going on around you, pursue the things that interest you and share your findings with a wider audience to inform, entertain or inspire them.

The monologue — in which Coelho answers a series of questions Ferriss emailed to him — is a quick, fun listen once you get through the 10 minutes of sponsor announcements at the beginning of the show. I really enjoyed hearing Coelho’s thoughts on the craft of writing, his process and the mistakes he sees other writers making. (Interestingly, he usually procrastinates for three hours every morning before cajoling himself into writing purposefully for half an hour. Low and behold, those 30 minutes usually turn into 10-hour writing benders.)

Are you ready?

I shared a link to this post on Twitter a few weeks back, but for those of you who either missed it or don’t follow me, I encourage you to give it a read. While there’s a such thing as beginner’s luck and there will always be “naturals” who seem to succeed out the gate with ease, for most people, the first few steps of a new endeavor are usually the ugliest and most awkward — and that’s OK! “Sucking is the first step to being sorta good at something” is a line from a speech by Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian that writer Matthew Trinetti quotes in the aforementioned post. How often have you delayed starting a project or pursuing a new interest because you kept telling yourself that you weren’t ready yet? I’m raising my hand as I type these words because that’s exactly what I told myself for over a year while I pondered whether or not I should launch the morning shakeout. The truth is you’re never going to be ready — I sure as hell wasn’t — but at some point, if you really want to make it happen (whatever “it” is for you), you’ve just got to say “f*ck it” and get started. In the case of my newsletter, the scariest step was hitting “publish” on Issue 1. I’m still figuring things out as I go but it’s finally on the way to being “sorta good” despite some awkward stumbling off the starting line. The biggest thing I’ve been reminded of along the way is that it’s all a work in progress. Mistakes are inevitable. Learn from them, make the right adjustments and keep moving forward. Kinda like life in general, right?

Let’s talk about racing.

Running a marathon, that widely romanticized pursuit, is scary business. Racing 26.2 miles, which is a whole different thing altogether, can be downright nightmare inducing.Peter Bromka’s essay, “9,000 Seconds,” a mile-by-mile chronicle of his recent Boston Marathon experience, captures the essence of racing the distance quite well. Whether you’re a sub-elite chasing a sub-2:30 (as Peter was last Monday) or a mid-packer trying to break 4 hours for the first time, I’m sure the racers reading this can relate to many of the thoughts he shares in his post. My favorite: “But doubt and fear start growing louder and louder,” Bromka writes. “In the middle of a marathon you can be your greatest hater. ‘What am I doing up here?!’ ‘When is this going to fall apart?!’ The pressure can end you if you let it.”

On the topic of racing marathons, Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge blitzed the London Marathon this past Sunday to run the second-fastest time ever on a certified course, 2:03:05. He dropped countryman Stanley Biwott with a silly 4:38 25th mile, which you can watch here on YouTube. The smooth-striding Kipchoge — who has a lifetime marathon record of 6–1 and an average of 2:04:01 over those seven finishes — is not only one of the fastest marathoners of all-time (and greatest racers in history, period), but he might have the best poker face too. In defending his London title on Sunday, the 31-year-old didn’t show even the slightest sign of distress until the final two-tenths of a mile. Of course, this begs the unfortunate question, “Is he clean?” I don’t know and speculating on the answer to that question isn’t my objective here. I’ve met and interviewed Eliud on two occasions, and like many of the other top-level Kenyans I’ve encountered over the years, he was soft-spoken, humble and gracious with his time. Kipchoge prides himself on focused hard work, a long, consistent career and insists an athlete can churn out extraordinary performances without the aid of performance-enhancing drugs. None of that lets him off the hook, of course, but as Cathal Dennehy* wrote in an excellent profile of Kipchoge last week for Runner’s World, “Now, more than ever, the sport needs those words to be true.”

*Note: Dennehy is the same enthusiastic commentator who made the legendary call of this incredible come-from-behind relay win that has gone viral on the interwebs in the last week. Trust me, it’s worth four-and-a-half minutes of your day.

I wear a lot of different hats in the world of running but above all I’m a fan of the sport. It doesn’t matter to me if a race is taking place on a track, road or trail, whether the competition lasts less than 2 minutes or over 24 hours, I love it. All of it. Why? Racing is perhaps the most primitive form of competition in existence and there’s a beauty and drama inherent in it that’s hard to put into words. There’s nothing I love more than watching a racer give everything they’ve got from gun to tape until there’s nothing left in the tank. Two of my current favorites in this regard are Japanese marathoner Yuki Kawauchi, who won the Zurich Marathon on Sunday in 2:12:04 and American ultrarunner Zach Miller, who dominated the Maderia Island Ultra Trail in Portugal on Saturday. Check out the intensity on both Yuki and Zach’s faces as they cross their respective finish lines this past weekend. That’s what it’s all about right there.

Thanks for reading,

Mario

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