Quick Splits: February 21, 2017

By Mario Fraioli

If you can successfully navigate the annoying pop-ups and blinking banner ads, check out Alex Hutchinson’s most recent piece for Runner’s World on Nike’s Breaking2 project. He provides a solid update on the athletes involved and some good insight into how they’re preparing for the “marathon moonshot” that will take place at a yet-to-be-announced place and date. I found the assessment of Lelisa Desisa particularly interesting—and I’m not just talking about the 200+ mile training weeks! “I asked the team more about what they’d seen in Desisa, and they said that his lab numbers—VO2 max, lactate profile, running economy—were particularly good,” Hutchinson writes. “In fact, no matter what criteria they used to rank their various contenders, Desisa was always in the top three—something that not even Kipchoge could match. But there was also an intangible element. Watching him run in the initial tests, Kirby recalled, ‘he portrayed confidence and strength.’ He seemed like someone willing to undergo challenges, and who would respond well to those challenges.” Despite regular dispatches from Hutchinson and Wired’s Ed Caesar, both of whom have exclusive access to the athletes and scientists involved, I’ve been a little perplexed by the lack of organic buzz Nike has generated since the announcement of the attempt. But fear not, I’m told by multiple sources close to the project that the Swoosh-driven marketing machine is getting set to kick things into high gear in the not-too-distant future. Note: I’m still having a hard time getting excited by the attempt itself but I am enjoying the stories Hutchinson and Caesar are telling about the athletes, where they come from, how they’re preparing and what they’re like when not tearing down the road at 4:40 per mile pace.

“[There was] a change in philosophy internally of not being too precious about what got us here,” Kevin Systrom, CEO of Instagram, explained recently to recode’s Kurt Wagner. “I learned a lesson from watching other companies who held onto things too long. If you look at the history of companies that have succeeded and the ones that have failed, there’s a pretty clear pattern that the ones that have succeeded typically morph every couple of years into something new. And that change is fairly uncomfortable.” This is a good read on how Instagram was forced to “reinvent” itself in order to stay relevant in today’s ever-evolving social media landscape. What’s interesting to me, and not discussed in the article, is the parallel—or perhaps lack thereof—this shares with many legacy media companies. The ones that are struggling (or out of business) are those that have failed to embrace change and evolve the way in which they engage their audience, produce and deliver content, and generate revenue. Social media companies such as Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat understand they need to constantly be evolving and trying new things—if they don’t, they’ll quickly get left behind. Twitter, despite its utility and the fact it has a legion loyal users (myself included), hasn’t seemed to grasp this yet.

 Yesterday marked 55 days until I give the Boston Marathon my third go on April 17. My training has gone well since the beginning of the year and I’m feeling strong with a little less than 8 weeks to go until race day. A big reason for that has been the inclusion of a weekly strength and mobility session with coach Nate Helming on Thursday mornings in San Francisco. Despite my distaste for the gym, I’ve gone every week that I’ve been in town and the difference is really noticeable to me. I’m super thankful for Nate’s expert instruction and want you to get a taste for it yourself through his new mobile app, The Run Experience, available for both iOS and Android. He didn’t ask me to mention it or pay me to plug it for him; I just feel it’s that valuable of a resource for runners, whether you’re a performance-oriented athlete or just don’t want to get injured. Check it out for a slew of free videos focused on strength training and mobility work you can easily incorporate into your weekly routine.

 As mentioned earlier in this newsletter, I work from home. Well, so does “Robert.” Make of this tongue-in-cheek exchange what you will.

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This post first appeared in the morning shakeout, my weekly email newsletter covering running, media and other topics that interest me. If you’d like for it to land in your inbox first thing on Tuesday mornings, subscribe here.