Podcast: Episode 82 with Jesse Williams

By Mario Fraioli |

“Anybody that’s in this industry, especially somebody that was in my former position, you sit around all the time and complain about what’s wrong with track and field. I’m one of the biggest talkers when it comes to that, I always complain about what’s wrong. And I feel like I have a chance to potentially work towards one piece of the solution, which is an events series in the U.S., after USAs, not only where athletes can make money, but we’re doing things differently, and it’s more entertainment. We’re going to do our best. It’s exciting—very exciting.”

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Excited to share a conversation I recorded in late September with Jesse Williams, who was the head of sports marketing at Brooks for 13 years, where he oversaw the marketing and business side of the such initiatives as Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, the Brooks Beasts, the Brooks PR Invitational, and other athlete programs. Williams left Brooks in 2017 and took a year off from work to figure out his next move, and at the end of last year he launched Sound Running, a company which offers training programs, coaching, and events for runners of ALL ability levels. He’s particularly excited about next summer’s Sound Running Tour, a series of track meets in southern California designed to create competitive domestic racing opportunities for athletes seeking Olympic tune-ups and personal bests, all while helping push the sport forward—which is something that it desperately needs right now.

Williams has had interesting career trajectory: from studying exercise physiology and English as undergrad, to becoming a kindergarten teacher as a 22-year-old, going back to grad school for a degree in biomechanics, to then working his way up the chain at Brooks to become head of sports marketing. We got into all that and a lot more over the course of this 90-minute conversation, including quite a bit of discussion about the marketing side of the sport, what excites him and what worries him about it right now, how brands can better use their athletes, and a lot more. (more…)

I want to be like John Olson when I grow up.

By Mario Fraioli |

The 97-year-old lobsterman from Maine is still working—not as much as he used to years ago, but he’s the captain of his ship and manning a couple hundred traps, not because he has to, but because it’s what makes him feel the most alive. I love reading about folks like Olson, who never really embrace the concept of retirement because their life’s work is more than just a job. These stories inspire me as I navigate my own journey through life, work, and where the two intersect. I hope to be coaching at least a few athletes and sharing stories about running as long as I’m alive. Sure, some day I’ll coach quite a few less people than I do now and maybe eventually the newsletter and podcast won’t be a weekly thing (and/or they’ll take on different forms) but I can’t imagine not doing what I do to some degree as long as I’m physically and mentally able. To echo Olson, “I never loafed,” he admits. “Sure I’ve earned it. But hey, I don’t want to.”

Check out the complete morning shakeout issue #202.

Podcast: Episode 81 with Steve Jones

By Mario Fraioli |
Photo: PhotoRun.net

“That’s how my whole career, my whole running career went—it was always trying to beat the guy in front of me, always trying to catch the guy in front of me. And that helped me—not just the training, it wasn’t just the training, it was that attitude going into races. And like I said, when I started winning races, I didn’t want to win them by one second—I wanted to win them by 90 seconds or 2 minutes. It was always about beating the opposition, annihilation I used to call it.”

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This week’s episode is a really special one. I got to have a conversation with my favorite runner of all-time, former marathon world-record holder, Steve Jones. Jonesy, who is now 64 years old, broke the world-record in the first marathon he ever finished at Chicago in 1984, running 2:08:05. He won the race again a year later in 2:07:13—splitting an incredible 61:42 at halfway—just missing the world-record by one second.

What I have always loved and admired about Jonesy is his no-nonsense approach to training and racing. He describes it as “running simplified” and it’s a philosophy that’s had a profound effect on me as both as athlete and coach over the years. The guy was probably the fiercest competitor of all-time: he didn’t chase records, he just wanted to run as hard as he possibly could to beat as many people as he possibly could. He once said, “If I’m still standing at the end of the race, hit me with a board and knock me down because that means I didn’t run hard enough.” In short: the guy was a total badass.

I absolutely loved this conversation and I think you will too: We talked through his two Chicago victories, his New York win in 1988, and what made those triumphs so special. We got into his training philosophy, where it came from, and who influenced him over the years. We discussed how the sport has changed in the last few decades and where he sees it heading in the future. We talked about why he continued to hold down a day job as a mechanic in the Royal Air Force after breaking the world record in 1984. We also got into his current role as a coach, how his relationship with his athletes has evolved over the years, why club running is important to the overall health of the sport, and a lot more. (more…)

Podcast: Episode 80 with Sally McRae

By Mario Fraioli |
Photo: Brandon Flint

“There was definitely a time in my life where I had to tell myself, ‘It’s OK to be broken.’ That’s OK. The goal in life isn’t to be perfect—nobody’s perfect. There’s no one in history that we can point to that’s lived a perfect life. So, the reality is—and you said this so wonderfully when I was at UTMB and I was like, ‘I know this,’ when I was so disappointed in my performance, I was so down—and you said, ‘It isn’t about how you finish, it’s about how you respond to this journey and how you continue on.’ And I’m like, ‘I know this, I know this,’ and that is just a great reminder for everything in life because life, when it comes down to it, it’s the journey that’s the most fulfilling part.”

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This week I sat down with one of my most requested guests: Sally McRae. The 40-year-old mom of two is a professional ultrarunner living in Southern California and—in the interest of full disclosure—I’ve been her coach for a little over two years now.

Earlier this year she won her first race on the Ultra Trail World Tour, the Mozart 100, and more recently she finished 23rd at the UTMB, her highest ever finish at that event, in what was one of the grittiest races I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness firsthand.

This is a long episode folks, coming in right at about 90 minutes, and it does not disappoint. So much to take away from this one about relationships, communication, competitiveness, learning to give yourself grace, recognizing our victories, remembering what’s important in life, and so much more. (more…)

Podcast: Episode 79 with Jonathan Pierce

By Mario Fraioli |

“That’s the most dangerous place to be—is to think you know it all. I always just try to go into problems being curious. I’m always just like, ‘I wonder if I can solve this. I wonder if we can figure this out.’ And really, it’s not me, it’s not about me. It’s me and the athlete, or me and the athlete and the coach…and it just becomes this problem-solving thing, and a curiosity, and we’re communicating, ‘Hey, how do you feel with this? Do you understand? Yes. Is that what you sense too?’ You’re working with the person to get the outcome. You’re just the facilitator. The ego has to go away.”

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I recently sat down with my friend Jonathan Pierce, who I met in 2007 when we both competed at the national club cross country championships in West Chester, Ohio. He placed third overall that day to help ZAP Fitness win the team title and let’s just say that I finished way, way back in the field.

The 36-year-old Pierce had a great running career—he competed collegiately at Stanford where he was an All-American steeplechaser, and then ran professionally for ZAP Fitness and later the Mammoth Track Club—and represented the United States at the World Cross Country Championships in 2008.

And for as good of an athlete as he was, Pierce is an even better manual therapist. Since 2012, he’s worked with some of the top athletes in the world, including national champions, world and Olympic medalists, world-record holders, and elite CrossFit competitors. A few years ago he opened Kinetik Performance, a multidisciplinary sports rehab and performance center in San Diego, where he and his staff treat everyone from Olympians to everyday athletes who just want to stay injury-free.

We covered a lot of ground in this conversation, from Pierce’s running career and his trajectory as an athlete, to his influences and what he’s learned from them along the way, to his current career path and the steps that led him down it. We talked about competitiveness, how it spills over into different areas of his life, and knowing when to turn it down. We discuss the importance of mentorship in his life and the advice he’d give his younger self. He also provides some actionable takeaways for any athlete who wants to stay healthy, and a lot more.

Podcast: Episode 78 with Jeanne Mack

By Mario Fraioli |

“Why did it take me so long in order to decide that I needed to pull the plug on running? What was it that made me cling to the idea of running a little bit banged up for so long? [Figuring out the answers to those questions] is really cool. I’m getting deeper into figuring all that stuff out so that when I come back, I’ll have hopefully a really sturdy foundation to build on but then I’ll also have that knowledge to help me get a little bit further.”

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Excited to share a conversation I recently had with Jeanne Mack, an Olympic Trials qualifier in the marathon who moved to San Francisco from New York just a few months ago. Mack works as a copy writer at Strava, where she also hosts the Athletes Unflitered podcast. She ran 2:39:04 in her second marathon last fall at Chicago and she’s currently working through an injury so she can be at the top of her game for the Olympic Trials in February of 2020.

This was a fun, wide-ranging conversation: we dug into Jeanne’s relationship with running and how it’s evolved over the years; what it’s been like for taking time off from running to work through injury and how some of the conversations she’s had as a podcast host have helped her in that regard; the differences between the running scene in New York versus here on the west coast, the lessons she learned—and how her training changed—from her first marathon to the second one; the professional path she’s traveled to land where she is today; her thoughts on the current state of running media, and a lot more. (more…)



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