“One of the main things too is people just kind of sticking out like a sore thumb. It’s so unbalanced that I think people of color sometimes feel uncomfortable going into this sport that is just predominantly white. I’ve never really let it be any sort of limiting factor for me and I know there a lot of people of color that still feel that trail runners and runners in general that these are my tribe of people, it’s so welcoming. I don’t feel racism in our sport. That doesn’t mean it’s not lacking racial and ethnic diversity but I think the more that we start to see that diversity, the more people will say, ‘Oh, they’re doing it, I can do that too.’ It’s the same thing with recovery, it’s when people start seeing other people do it, “Oh if they did it, then I can do it.” And so that’s kind of why I wanted to be more open about my recovery but also I wanted to be more open about this topic too, is to inspire people—like no, you’re welcome here.”
This week, I had a great conversation with ultrarunner Yassine Diboun. Yassine is a super accomplished athlete. He’s finished in the top-10 at Western States, has represented the U.S. internationally at world championships, and he’s been super competitive across a wide range of distances. He’s also one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.
Yassine’s got an incredible story about how he changed his life and I’m excited for him to share it here with you in this episode. We also talk about the relationship between confidence and consistency, his longevity as an athlete, and how to keep the fire burning. Yassine also told me about experiencing racism throughout his life, the systemic barriers that prevent people from participating in the sport of ultrarunning and what needs to change, creating more opportunities for kids of color to get outside and experience nature, and a lot more.
A word that I’ve seen popping up a lot lately in regard to the anti-racism movement is momentum. I used it in my intro to Issue 239 of the newsletter, Kamilah Journét talked about it in last week’s episode of the podcast, and American sprinter Tommie Smith, who silently protested racial inequality by raising his fist in the air on the medal stand at the 1968 Olympic Games along with his teammate John Carlos, mentioned it in this rare interview he gave to Ken Belson of The New York Times.
In a car or anything you have that’s going to get moving, the most momentum it takes is to start, to start the movement. Once the momentum is started, I’m hoping it continues, and it has to continue not in the streets, because it’s already set a foundation, it has to go into the jurisdiction to get to the jurisprudence to get to the White House. We have steps to go. We just can’t stop with walking the streets because they will only go as far as the streets. We have to do it through the paperwork.
Do the work that’s in front of you. The writer Austin Kleon shared this novel advice in a recent blog post:
What I really crave, more than anything, is a continuity to my days. Not an accumulation, the sense that they’re adding up to anything, not necessarily, just a continuity. The sense that one day leads into another leads into another leads into another on and on and on. That they make some kind of chain.
He wasn’t talking about running or training but of course he could have been and everything he wrote would still hold true. A lot of runners (and coaches) put too much emphasis on accumulating something, e.g., the number of miles they *need* to hit for the week, or sketching out the perfect block of training leading up to a race, or thinking that doing X, and then Y, and then Z in a marathon buildup is going to add up to some predetermined result. And what happens? More often than not, we end up stressing over a crappy workout or worry about a missed long run and think it’s all gone to shit. Take Kleon’s advice: Take care of business today and just do the work that’s in front of you. Worry about tomorrow’s assignment tomorrow. If something goes wrong along the way, don’t panic. Adjust and adapt. In other words: Just keep the ball rolling.
“I definitely don’t have any regrets in pursuing sport to the level that I did because I think one of the wonderful things about sport is that it’s a very simply definable thing and mostly it’s a quite healthy thing for a young person to go all-in on. I fully went all-in on sport—at one point, I lived, breathed, I must have bored people around me as a lot of us as athletes probably have done with my obsessive level of interest in it. When you go all-in on something, you gain so much learning from that, the kind of learning that you don’t get when you do anything half-assed. If you just go at it fully, full commitment, you learn and you get so much back.”
Andy Blow is a friend of mine from the UK. He’s a sports scientist with a degree in Sports and Exercise Science from the University of Bath and he specializes in sweat, dehydration and cramping. A former elite-level triathlete, Andy won an XTERRA age-group world title and he also has multiple top-10 finishes at Ironman and 70.3 races to his name. He’s worked as a sports scientist and advisor in the world of motorsports, but it was overcoming his own struggles with cramping and hydration as an athlete that led to him specializing in electrolyte replenishment and founding the company Precision Hydration.
In this conversation, we talked how dropping out of a cross-country race as a kid had a profound impact on him and helped shape his approach to sport and life, letting his identity get tied up in sport and how he learned to separate the two, why it’s hard for him to be objective and analytical sometimes even though he’s a scientist, where athletes are missing the mark with hydration and how solving his own problems as an athlete led to the founding of his company, battling burnout in his career and strategies for catching yourself before falling into a deep hole, and a lot more.
I’m not going claim this as an original thought but it came to me while I was journaling last week and I wanted to briefly expound upon it here. Of course, it plays off the popular Socrates’ dictum that “the unexamined life is not worth living” but I think it’s just as valid and applicable, especially this day and age. (more…)
“While it’s terrible that it took murder for many runners to wake up to the social injustices that we face in America, I’m excited that it ignited a group of people who know what it means to keep momentum going—because that’s what this movement needs, this movement needs momentum, and every single runner knows what that means when I say that. So, I’m excited to see a group of individuals that has grown over the last few months take action to make change, to influence their networks, to diversify our sport, and to not stop until they can put their hands down and say, ‘Wooof, OK, I think I did something today.’ And then do it again tomorrow. Because that’s what we do too, so that excites me.”
Kamilah Journét is a native of Southern California and began running track in junior high school. She told her coach that she wanted to be a 100m runner, eventually found her way into cross country and, well, let’s just say she discovered her happy place to be somewhere in between.
Kamilah, who has a personal best of 4:51 in mile, ran collegiately at UC San Diego, she coached high school for a little bit, and has worked in marketing in both the running and outdoor industries.
In this episode, Kamilah told me about her introduction to the sport and how her relationship with it has evolved over the years, how her competitiveness manifested itself when she got into running, and how majoring in communications in college has shaped the way she looks at the world and approaches her work. We also talked about what it means to be black in America, what it’s like being a black woman working in the running and outdoor industries, and along those lines, what brands in those spaces can do better when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion. Kamilah and I also talk about inclusiveness in running, how we, as runners, can address tough issues like diversity and racism in our communities, and a lot more.