Podcast: Episode 168 with Alison Mariella Désir

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“What the marathon experience—that first marathon experience—did for me, was it gave me a perspective shift on life, which, wow, that sounds really lofty hearing myself say it back, but truly, everything was like so muddied and I couldn’t pull myself out. I had gone to really good schools and done all of the things I was supposed to do but I couldn’t pull myself out of feeling terrible and feeling like I was a failure and there was no blueprint of, ‘What am I supposed to do with my life?’ But the marathon gave me this very concrete training plan—like in 16 weeks, if you do this, you will get this—and never in my life outside of school had something been so prescriptive and easy. I mean, [it was] really difficult because you have to do that work but if even a stranger can promise me that if I do this work and I get that, then like f*ck yeah, I’m gonna do this. So I stuck to that training plan like it was my bible and what I saw was that it wasn’t magic but these physical challenges that I was doing really were very much tied to my mental ability to push through it and to stay in places of discomfort…You’re in a place of discomfort but you’re moving through it—like you don’t get stuck in the place of discomfort, so that was a really powerful lesson for me.” 

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I’ve been waiting a while to have this conversation with Alison Mariella Désir and it did not disappoint. Alison wears many hats: she’s a mom, athlete, and coach. She works as the Director of Sports Advocacy and an Athlete Advisor for Oiselle, she’s a co-chair of the Running Industry Diversity Coalition, co-founder of Harlem run, a community organizer, and a lot more. 

In this episode, Alison told me about her relationship with running, the ways in which it’s evolved over the years, and how she views her place in the sport today. We discussed how feeling out of place as a runner led her to create communities where people feel like they belong, we talked about the lack of diversity in the running industry and the work she’s doing to help change that, as well we her upcoming book, The Unbearable Whiteness of Running, due out in 2022. We also talked about identity and extroversion, competitiveness and community building, and a lot more.

There is no sponsor for this week’s show but if you’d like to support my work directly, you can become a member on Patreon at themorningshakeout.com/support, where, for as little as a buck a week you can help keep the morning shakeout sustainable and also gain access to some exclusive content like The Weekly Rundown, my Patreon only podcast that I co-host with my friend Billy Yang, the occasional “emergency pod,” and other perks that pop up from time to time. A big thank you to all of you who are already members—your support means so much to me and I cannot thank you enough for it.

Alison Mariella Désir: Website | Instagram | Twitter

the morning shakeout: Instagram | Twitter

Mario Fraioli: Website | Strava

Music and editing for this episode of the morning shakeout podcast by John Summerford.