2017 State of The Shakeout | Issue 100

By Mario Fraioli

Out of office. | Poʻipū, Kaua’i

Issue 100 of the morning shakeout is a special one, so I’m sharing it here in its entirety. If you’d like for it to land in your inbox first thing on Tuesday mornings, subscribe at this link.

This is a special issue as it marks the 100th straight Tuesday that I’ve sent the morning shakeout to inboxes worldwide. There are few—if any—things I’ve done in my life with as much consistency as this newsletter, and as such, I am proud to share this 100th issue with all of you, my loyal and steadily growing readership.

In keeping with a once-every-50-weeks tradition I started a year ago, I’m going to use this issue to reflect on how the morning shakeout has evolved over the past year while also shedding a little light on some new stuff you can look forward to in the coming months.

Before I go any further, it should be noted that I prepared this hundredth edition a few days earlier than usual so that I wasn’t working (too hard) while on vacation. As such, you won’t find any commentary around this past Sunday’s Chicago Marathon, and for that I apologize. Maybe later this week on themorningshakeout.com if the mood strikes me right. I have, however, included a few snippets of timeless interestingness at the end of this week’s missive to tide you over in the meantime.

And with all that out of the way, onto the second annual State of The Shakeout. We’ll return to our regularly scheduled programming next week. Enjoy!

By the numbers.

Last year, the 50th issue of this newsletter went out to 2,085 subscribers. As of this morning, that number has more than doubled, with over 4,800 of you receiving this hundredth edition in your inbox. I have a somewhat sizable marketing team, i.e., you, my supportive readers, to thank here. Sure, I could spend a few bucks with Facebook or Twitter to try and grow this thing even bigger, but it’s so much more meaningful to me when people subscribe because a friend or someone they follow recommended it. Growth for the sake of boasting big numbers doesn’t interest me. I want subscribers of the morning shakeout to trust in me and find value in my work. On average, 65 percent of you open this email each week, while over 19 percent of you click on at least one of the links. These last two statistics have remained remarkably consistent week over week and year over year, and both are far above industry averages related to engagement. To this, all I can say is THANK YOU. I’m deeply grateful for your continued trust, interest and support.

Moving forward with style.

Actually, from a stylistic standpoint, not much has changed over the last 50 issues (with one notable exception, which I’ll address later). I’m using the same basic template as I was a year ago and have been trying to maintain a consistent look and feel from week to week. The simplicity of this newsletter’s format seems to be working just fine for most readers, so I’m not inclined to mess with it too much. I usually lead off with a longer item—typically my take on an attention-grabbing issue, or a brief profile on someone I’ve recently interviewed—before linking off to any number of the various things I’ve been reading, listening to and/or thinking about that I believe will match at least some of your own interests. It’s a carefully crafted blend of informed commentary and smart curation, intentionally conversational in its tone. And I plan to keep it that way.

That being said, I’ve been wanting to expand the morning shakeout’s visual appeal a bit beyond the simple Questrial header font I love so much. To that end, I worked with my friend, the talented Jen Baer, to come up with the sweet silhouette you see below this paragraph. I’m pretty stoked with how it turned out! So what will I be doing with it? Aside from using it as the bio photo for @theAMshakeout’s Twitter account (more on that in a bit), I’ll be slapping this circular logo on t-shirts, stickers and a couple other items that will soon be available for purchase. Details forthcoming when I’m done sorting through samples in the next week or so.

We’re going live!

One of the inspirations behind this newsletter was the many actual “morning shakeouts” I’ve partaken in over the years with training partners, friends and even people I’ll have just met for the first time. These informal (and usually early) gatherings have always been a great way to kick off the day, catch up with one another, and talk about what’s interesting in our respective worlds. And that’s exactly the same vibe I’m going for here in this weekly digital dispatch: I want it to feel like we’re on a run together and conversing about things we’re mutually passionate about, interested in, or have a perspective on. As I wrote in last year’s State of The Shakeout, connecting with people on a personal level through my writing has always brought me the most enjoyment. Engaging in meaningful dialogue with readers about something I’ve written about, whether it’s over email or on Twitter, has become one of the highlights of my week.

It’s even more special when it happens in person though, and I’ve been fortunate to connect with a more than a few of you on organized “morning shakeouts” two different times in 2017. The first was in partnership with Tracksmith and Generation UCAN on Saturday of Boston Marathon weekend. Over 50 people showed up for a little run along the Charles. And about a month later in D.C., after making this callout in Issue 80, half a dozen folks, all but one of whom I’d never met, came out for a run around the National Mall with less than a day’s notice. These two events were a ton of fun and the morning shakeout live (as I’m loosely calling it) is something I’m keen on doing more often in 2018, so stay tuned.

Tag, that’s it.

Some of you may have noticed, most of you probably didn’t, but I changed the morning shakeout’s tagline at the end of April from “running, media and more from mario fraioli” to “running commentary and more from mario fraioli.” The shift seems subtle on the surface but I feel it’s much more representative of what the morning shakeout is all about. I like this new one a lot better for a few reasons: 1. I don’t write much about the media industry anymore. 2. “Running commentary” is a bit of a double entendre since I primarily provide commentary on running-related topics but also because many of the themes within that commentary are continuous from one week to the next. 3. I was able to eliminate a stupid comma.

Going long(er).

One of the major objectives I set forth in last October’s State of The Shakeout was to conduct “exclusive longform interviews with runners, coaches, writers and other interesting folks who have stories to share.” I’m proud that I was successfully able to get the “Going Long” interview series off the ground and I was absolutely thrilled with the opening spread of interviewees who graciously took the time to speak at length with me. The lineup included: award-winning writer and sub-1:30 half marathoner Ed Caesar, New York City-based runner, writer and coach Knox Robinson, former world-class runner, turned overweight non-runner, turned runner again Colin McCourt, “a fairly average 20-something who just happens to have more than a casual interest in running” named Noah Droddy, Olympic middle-distance runner Kate Grace, Brooks Beasts coach Danny Mackey, four-time Olympian Shalane Flanagan, and the exception to almost every racing rule, Michael Wardian.

Well, I’m excited to share that I’ll be taking this series a step further in the months ahead and conducting more frequent interviews, to the tune of at least two a month, beginning in November. Asking questions and having engaging conversations with interesting folks has always been one of my favorite things to do and I’m pretty stoked to make “Going Long” a more regular feature of the morning shakeout moving forward.

And—drumroll please—by popular demand, I’m going to do some, if not all, of these interviews, as part of a yet-to-be released podcast. Still trying to sort all that out. I understand that may sound like a bold promise at this point, but much like the out-of-the-blue announcement of this newsletter’s launch via Twitter almost two years ago, a little self-induced public pressure is all I need to get my ass in gear and actually make it happen. Keep your ears open!

About that exception.

Remember that one notable exception to this newsletter’s style I alluded to earlier? Those of you who have been subscribed long enough will remember when I first added a sponsor logo under the morning shakeout’s header about 11 months ago. It was at that point that this newsletter went from a time-consuming side project to one of the ways in which I make a living (along with coaching). I’m happy to report that this sponsorship model has thus far proven to be a success: Brands have found value in its exclusivity along with having the attention of a highly engaged audience. You, my readers, have been introduced to brands, products, services and events that I believe in and think will be of interest to you. And I get my hosting and email provider costs covered while also being able to justify to my wife the many hours I spend working on this newsletter each week. It’s been a win-win-win for everyone involved. A heartfelt thank you to all the brands that have supported the morning shakeoutover the past 11 months, in particular this month’s sponsor, Halo Sport [which is offering $100 bucks off the regular price ($599) of their Halo Sport System headset if you purchase a pair at this link and use the code “TMS” at checkout]!

Odds and ends.

Finally, a few other relatively minor—but not insignificant—updates since the last version of this annual update went out:

+ themorningshakeout.com underwent a major overhaul in February. Cosmetically it got a facelift, and it also spawned a blog, where select posts get republished with the goal of reaching a wider audience. This strategy has worked out well, as a few of my pieces have ended up on the homepage of the homepage of letsrun.com, on Outside magazine’s website, and in the Runner’s World email newsletter (of all places). I’ve still got a few navigational issues to take care of but overall the site is serving its intended purpose.

+ @theAMshakeout Twitter account, which lay dormant for many months, has been up and running since July. It’s been nice to have an account to tag when mentioning the morning shakeout in Tweets. Hashtags can be great for this but not when some people use #theamshakeout, others go with #tms, and the rest default to tagging #themorningshakeout. There’s no consistency to it, regardless of how many suggestions I make, and things get way too confusing in the Twittersphere as a result. For now, this account serves as sort of an RSS feed, automatically pushing out links to posts when they get published to themorningshakeout.com. A fair amount of questions and comments get directed its way, all of which get answered by me personally.

+ the morning shakeout recently began participating in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program with the re-posting of this Fitbit Ionic review to themorningshakeout.com last week. Why affiliate advertising? Quite simply, it’s an additional revenue stream that will further support some of the work I do. How does it work? If you click on an Amazon.com link from the morning shakeout‘s newsletter or website [note: it will be clearly labeled as an affiliate link] and buy anything, even something other than the product I link to, I earn a small commission on your purchase (at no additional cost to you). It’s important to note that anything I link to is completely at my discretion and this program will in no way influence the products I mention, review, or how I write about them.

Quick Splits

+ Back in Issue 93, I wrote about StravistiX, a pretty sweet (and free!) plugin for Google Chrome that allows you to dig deeper into your Strava data and provides a multitude of additional metrics to analyze. Well, if you liked that, then you’ll LOVE these handy tools from gotoes.org that will help solve some of your most annoying GPS problems, like combining activity files, adding timestamps, and the like. Recently, I accidentally stopped my watch early on a run, so I had two separate GPS files—one for the first 5 miles and another for the last 3—and one of gotoes.org‘s utilities combined them into one file for me so I didn’t have to upload two separate runs to Garmin Connect and Strava. It was super easy!

+ I’m not going to shove any more productivity tips down your throat this week, but I will suggest avoiding these five mistakes, especially #4 (since I do a lot of your web browsing and curation for you).

+ The title—“Why do we run until it hurts?”—is perhaps a bit dramatic, but the piece that follows is actually quite good and raises some interesting points to ruminate over, such as this one: “Samuel Johnson once said that ‘every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier,’” Alfie Pearce-Higgins wrote recently for The Guardian. “Ultrarunning can provide ideal faux-battle wounds to remedy that feeling. Some runners even motivate themselves during races by pretending to be fleeing the Gestapo, or the Burmese military, or another genocidal enemy. In reality, ultramarathons are lonely, arduous and largely uneventful. As a spectator sport they are marginally better than England football friendlies, but not quite as good as Jenga. And yet, through social media and blogs, they are dramatised into heroic struggles and atheist pilgrimages, a transformation that is reinforced by the well-intentioned, if misguided, puritanical attitude that perseverance is, by its very nature, worthy.

+ “During a semester when he teaches, McPhee does no writing at all. When he is writing, he does not teach. He thinks of this as “crop rotation” and insists that the alternation gives him more energy for writing than he would otherwise have.” Wonderful New York Times profile on the elusive writer John McPhee, who, for as many stories as he’s written, doesn’t have many penned about him. If you’re familiar with his work, or even if you’re not (in which case, I recommend starting with these installments from The New Yorker), “The Mind of John McPhee” is absolutely worth the read. I pulled the above excerpt because it reminded me of an important lesson from Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness’ book, Peak Performance: Periods of deep work need to be followed by equally deliberate stretches of rest in order to have the energy to truly perform at your best.

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