Podcast: Episode 96 with Greg McMillan

By Mario Fraioli |

“It’s difficult for runners to communicate, ‘Why do you do this?’…’Do you want to be skinny?’ ‘Do you want to be healthy?’ It’s like, well, that’s nice but ultimately it was challenging myself, working hard toward a goal, being able to do something I couldn’t do before. I really liked that. I was telling somebody the other day [that] I’m still chasing that high school [runner]. I still chase high school cross country. I still love that moment where running, it comes down to a tunnel and it’s just me versus me and that dialogue in my head to try to get the most out of myself. I still love that—that’s why I keep running today.”

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Greg McMillan is one of the most recognizable running coaches in the game today. He’s the founder and head coach of McMillan Running, one of the world’s first and most respected online coaching companies. Greg started sending workouts to his athletes by way of fax machine way back when, which tells you how long he’s been in the business. He has a Masters degree in Exercise Physiology and has worked with thousands of runners from beginners to Olympians and every ability level in between. Greg has coached 12 National Champions, thousands of Boston Qualifiers, and has had a number of athletes compete at global championships over the years. The creator of the popular McMillan Running Calculator, He has written numerous articles for different publications, he was the managing editor of Peak Running Performance for three years, and is also the author of “You, Only Faster” — with a new book due out this spring.

Aside from his coaching accolades, Greg is also an accomplished runner in his own right: He was a state champion in high school and in 2009 he won the USATF Masters Trail Marathon National Championship.

This was a conversation about coaching, Greg’s influences over the years, the path he took to get where he is today, creating the McMillan Calculator, the importance of exposing yourself to different training philosophies, what it’s like working with a wide range of athletes, including his own professional group that was based in Flagstaff from 2007-2013, and much more.

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Podcast: Episode 95 with Fernando Cabada

By Mario Fraioli |

“Running is something that I was always good at, something that I would do no matter what, it was always my little escape in some way. Whatever was happening at home, running would just make me feel a little better when I got to go out. It was just my escape and I needed it—I need it to this day. It’s the only time that I feel that nothing negative could touch me.”

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Fernando Cabada is a former professional distance runner who is still competing at an elite level. In 2006, he ran the seventh fastest American debut marathon of all-time, clocking 2:12:27 at Fukuoka in Japan. In the buildup to that race, before he even signed his first professional contract, Fernando broke the American record in the 25K, running 1:14:21, an average of 4:47 per mile, capturing his first national championship. He won two more national titles in his career at the 2008 U.S. Marathon Championship and 2011 U.S. 25K championship. He has personal bests of 1:02 for the half marathon and 2:11:36 for the marathon, which is pretty damn impressive no matter how you slice it.

The results don’t even begin to tell half of Fernando’s story, however, and we get into the rest of it in this conversation: from his his rough upbringing in Fresno, California, where he suffered abuse at the hands of his father, to the close relationship he has with his mother and how that’s even strengthened in recent years. We talked about being embarrassed by who he was as a kid and how he’s worked to put that behind him later in life. He told me why finishing second in a school yard race as a 9-year-old was the best day of his life to that point. Fernando explains why he was feeling more depressed than ever in 2014 despite it being his best year of racing ever, and how he picked himself up afterward and found a way forward. We also his relationship with running now and the place it occupies in his life, and a heck of a lot more.

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Podcast: Episode 94 with Greg Billington

By Mario Fraioli |

“I think it’s a release—it’s easier when you’re able to go all in. If you have that second thing, that second chance, you have to constantly be deciding whether or not you’re gonna do it today, you’re gonna do it then—it’s way easier to be like, ‘This is happening now. I’m going all in and I’m going to either die or crush it today. And that for me is the key to success in so many things. The things I haven’t done well in is when I wasn’t able to go all in and I sort of second-guessed what I was doing, how long I was going to be doing it, the long-term implications. It’s all about being in it for the long haul and being all in.”

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Greg Billington made the 2016 U.S. Olympic team in triathlon and finished 37th at the Games in Rio. He retired from the sport a year later and took a full-time job working for Visa in San Francisco. While on a rotation in Dubai, he joined a local running club and ran the Pyramids Marathon in Egypt, winning it in 2:32. He then won last year’s San Francisco Marathon in 2:25:24, then ran 2:22 and change at New York, and finished the year with an incredible 2:16:42 performance at CIM, finishing 8th overall, and easily qualifying for this year’s U.S. Olympic Trials in the marathon. How good is this guy? At CIM, he was in 52nd place at 30K and picked up 44 spots over the last 8 miles to put himself in the money. Just incredible.

Greg and I had a great conversation that I’m excited to share with all of you. We talked running, triathlon, going all-in on a pursuit, the physical and mental side of coming back from injury, what it means to go “full Billington,” and a lot more.

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Podcast | Episode 93: Best of 2019

By Mario Fraioli |

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This week’s episode of the podcast is a “greatest hits” compilation of sorts to round out 2019.

I’ve gone through and culled clips from nine of the most impactful exchanges I’ve had over the past year with some of the top athletes, coaches, and personalities in the sport of running. Why only nine? One, putting constraints in place forces me to think more critically about the choices I’m making and two, three rows of three photos looked best in the cover art for the show.

I feel really fortunate that I get to have these deep and layered conversations each week—many of them have a profound effect on me and teach me something about running, coaching, or living a better life—that I then get to turn around and share with all of you on the podcast. In this episode you’ll hear from Colleen Quigley, Frank Gagliano, Terrence Mahon, Hillary Allen, Brad Stulberg, Stephanie Bruce, Steve Jones, Sally McRae, and Ken Rideout. These guests in particular stood out to me amongst the dozens that I sat down with in 2019. They all bring something different to the mic and I am confident that you’ll glean a valuable bit or insight or inspiration from each of them that will improve your life in some way.

If you’re a devout fan of the podcast, let this episode serve as a bit of a refresher course or maybe a reminder to revisit an old episode or two. For those of you who are newer listeners to the show, welcome. Use this episode as a nudge to check out some of the episodes you may have missed while also letting it serve as a primer for what’s to come in 2020.

Whether you’ve listened to one episode of the podcast or all of them, thank you. I’m so glad to have you along for the ride and sharing in these experiences with me. (more…)

Podcast: Episode 92 with Peter Bromka

By Mario Fraioli |
Photo: Jody Bailey

“I am camped out in that third category of the emotions of the experience. I get a lot of messages from other dads who have jobs and have kids and have families—I sense in their writing to me that they’re almost saying, ‘Thank you for giving me permission to care about something that is totally superfluous but matters to me and that fuels my passion for the rest of life.’ Because I just get the sense that when they lay it out—they have jobs, they have kids, they have a lot of constraints and responsibilities—but maybe they were searching for something to keep them fired up and just keep them happy about the day and they read my writing and they’re like, ‘Wait, this guy is not talking about splits, and he’s not talking about workouts too much, but he seems to be saying that it’s OK to really really really care about something that doesn’t matter.’ But it matters because life is just a journey.”

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I really enjoyed this week’s conversation with my friend Peter Bromka.

Bromka, who I’ve known since our college days competing against one another in New England, just ran 2:19:02 at CIM a couple weeks back to miss the Olympic Trials qualifying mark by an agonizing two seconds.

We talked about that race in this conversation, amongst a whole host of other pertinent topics, and I think you’ll find this one to be equal parts inspiring, insightful, and emotional. Bromka is a 38-year-old dad and husband who lives in Portland, Oregon, he works full-time, and he has come a long way in the past 5 years to get where he is today.
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Podcast: Episode 91 with Ken Rideout

By Mario Fraioli |

“Many times I’ve woken up and thought, ‘Oh, what can I do to get out of this? Can I fake an injury?’ And then I realize it’s just me. The only person I’m faking is me. The only person I’m lying to is me if I do if I do that. And the same thing with not finishing a race: I’m the only person that I have to answer to. One of the things that Teddy Atlas talks about on our podcast is being a game quitter. It’s much more painful and much more difficult to quit than it is to stick it out and give your best. Cause you have to live with that quit and that failure for a fucking long time. And the pain of suffering through especially a race where someone’s not trying to like, literally kill you. You can do this. And I get up and I find myself going through the motions and it’s almost like I’m on autopilot because in my heart I’m like, ‘No I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to put myself out there. I don’t want to be exposed.” That fear of failing is incredibly powerful for me. But like I said, the pain of not giving your all lasts with me forever and as I said earlier, I’m the only one that cares and I know that, but I care, I care if I fail and I care if I didn’t give 100 percent, and I don’t know, it’s like a mental exercise for me.”

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I’ve got a great guest for you this week and I think it’s one of the best conversations I’ve had in the two years that I’ve been doing this podcast: I sat down with my friend and athlete Ken Rideout the night before this year’s Cal International Marathon, where, the next day, he ran 2:28:25 to place second overall in the Masters race, and win the 45-49 age group. It was a 5-minute lifetime PR for Ken, who is a 48-year-old dad of four kids, he works full-time in finance, travels a ton, co-hosts the popular boxing podcast called The Fight with Teddy Atlas, and gets out to train hard first thing every morning because he says it helps keep him stable.

Ken is one of the most raw, driven, and passionate people I know, and it really comes across throughout this conversation—all the way down to some of the language used, so consider yourself warned. Like me, he’s a native of Massachusetts who landed himself in California a few years ago. He had a rough childhood growing up in Somerville, spent his college years working as a prison guard, he boxed and played football and hockey before finding endurance sports later in life, and has generally just followed a super interesting path to land himself where he is today. (more…)

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