Experiencing Deep Play

By Mario Fraioli

Running is my chosen form of prayer, my moment of deep play.

When I lace up my running shoes and shove my ass out the door each day, it represents a choice that I’ve made. I’ve elected to move my body in a meaningful way. I could just as easily plop myself on the couch and eat all the ice cream in the freezer (and sometimes I do) but when I hit the ground running it cultivates a unique sense of freedom, accomplishment and enjoyment. Running is my most consistent ritual. It forces me to test myself on a regular basis. There’s always some element of risk involved. Running helps bring me closer to the earth and also keeps me grounded on an emotional level. It allows me some time to myself and on occasion unites me with other likeminded souls. Some days, running for hours on end can exhaust me to dangerous levels; on others, the same act will energize me like nothing else. But most of all, running forces me to live in the present moment, helps me make sense of my experience as a human being and allows me to better appreciate the world around me. (more…)

Racing ‘Round The Mountain at UTMB

By Mario Fraioli

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Tim Tollefson’s stoke was off the charts as he came back into Chamonix. Photo: Kim Gaylord

There’s a sizable subset of this newsletter’s subscribership that’s interested in the sport of ultramarathoning while the rest could care less or just don’t understand the appeal of running for many, many hours over gnarly mountain terrain, all of which is totally fine. But this past weekend’s Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc festival of races was one of the most exciting endurance events of 2017 and is worth a second look, whether you followed it the first time around or not. (more…)

(Kate) Grace Is Gone

By Mario Fraioli

Photo: David Bracetty

In other unexpected running news this week, it was announced that Olympian Kate Grace—who I interviewed for this newsletter back in May—was leaving her Sacramento-based training group, NorCal Distance, and relocating to Portland. This news came as a bit of a surprise since Grace told me just a few months ago that, “There’s a very good synergy on the team. … I think for my personality, having a group like this, being able to lean on that structure just really worked and things started clicking. Again, things that had been bubbling up, but just to have that clicking feeling was cool.”

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Michael Wardian’s Long Weekend In The Mountains

By Mario Fraioli

Here’s the incomparable Michael Wardian at Mile 76 of the Leadville Trail 100 on Saturday evening en route to a tenth-place finish in 20 hours, 18 minutes and 57 seconds. I took this photo just past 7 PM, and you’ll have to forgive the 43-year-old running madman if he seems a little hurried. After hitting the bathroom for the 13th time on the day and restocking on necessary supplies, Wardian left the Outward Bound aid station a man on a mission and charged toward town with reignited stoke. He didn’t have much of a choice—there was another race to run in a little less than 12 hours, and it was an over two-hour drive away.

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Odd Outtakes From London

By Mario Fraioli

If you watched any of the most recent world championships in athletics, you don’t need me to tell you that it was a weird one: Usain Bolt losing the 100 to Justin Gatlin and then pulling up lame in the final race of his career, Americans going 1-2 in the women’s steeplechaseIsaac Makwala running a solo 200m time trialto gain entry into the final after being banned from the 400 due to norovirus concerns, record-setting ticket salesMo Farah losing his first global final in the last 11 tries, Olympic gold medalist Matthew Centrowitz failing to make it out of the first round of the 1500 (while unheralded Johnny Gregorek made it to the final), and the list goes on. So what gives? The championship year following the Olympic Games usually has some head-scratching moments to it, but 2017 proved particularly strange between upsets, outbreaks, uproars, attendance records and more. Here are a few of the oddities that jumped out at me:

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The Sad Truth

By Mario Fraioli

I’m as big a track nerd as anyone reading this but it’s been really hard for me to watch—much less get excited about—track and field at the global level of late. Sorry, but that’s the sad truth, even with the world championships taking center stage right now. There are a couple main reasons for this, namely doping and self-serving governing bodies, two often-intertwined topics I’ve opined on here with some regularity. I don’t want to spend a lot of time here dragging on about doping but it’s hard not to mention the dreaded d-word when the sport can’t escape its ugly shadow. Now I’m not naive enough to believe that doping can be completely eradicated from athletics (or any other sport for that matter), as there’s always going to be athletes, coaches and agents that can’t be trusted, performances that can’t be believed and a system that’s far from perfect. Does that mean I believe every athlete is cheating? Of course not. There are plenty of athletes doing things the right way—and some of them are even winning medals—but it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to take the sport seriously as a whole when it continually finds new ways to compromise trust and make a mockery of itself.  (more…)

Recommended Summer Reads

By Mario Fraioli

It’s been a decent summer on the reading front and—surprise, surprise—many of the books I’ve cracked share a running-related theme. Here are a handful that I enjoyed and recommend checking out:

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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