Mario Fraioli: Embrace It All

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Photo credit: Cody Mann

About this episode:
In this week’s episode, coach Hillary talks with The Morning Shakeout podcast host, writer, and running coach Mario Fraioli about prioritizing, staying curious, and embracing everything that comes with chasing your goals.

Guest Bio – Mario Fraioli:

Mario Fraioli is a Bay Area-based running coach, writer, and podcast host.

As a coach, he has guided athletes to personal bests, Boston Marathon qualifying times, national championship titles, Olympic Trials appearances, international podiums, world championship teams, national records, and even the Olympic Games.

He publishes the morning shakeout—a weekly email newsletter that covers running and other worthwhile topics—and also hosts its namesake podcast, where he gleans insight and inspiration from the sport’s top athletes, coaches, and personalities. From 2010-2016, Mario was the senior editor at Competitor magazine, where he interviewed and profiled many of running’s most recognizable figures, covered hundreds of events, including the Boston Marathon, New York City Marathon and U.S. Olympic Trials on multiple occasions, and directed training-related content for both the print magazine and website. His work has also appeared in Running TimesNew England RunnerTriathlete, and other publications. In 2013, he authored his first book, The Official Rock ‘n’ Roll Guide To Marathon & Half-Marathon Training.

As an athlete, Mario was an NCAA Division II cross-country All-American at Stonehill College in 2003 and has raced competitively from the 800 meters to ultramarathon distances. He has personal bests including 4:09 for the mile, 2:27 in the marathon, and 7:59 for 50 miles. He still steps on the starting line every now and again when the mood strikes him right.

A native of Massachusetts, Mario spent a few years in San Diego, and currently lives north of the Golden Gate Bridge with his wife Christine, their pup Tahoe, four bikes, and dozens of pairs of running shoes.

 

Read More About Mario Fraioli:

https://www.mariofraioli.com/

https://themorningshakeout.com/

https://www.instagram.com/mariofraioli/

https://www.twitter.com/mariofraioli/

 

Episode Highlights:

  • Making what’s important to you a priority
  • Staying curious and open to trying new things
  • Believing in your goals and yourself
  • Road vs. trail running and transitioning from one to the other

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Google Podcasts, or on your favorite podcast platform


Episode Transcription:

Hillary Allen:

Hey, guys, welcome to the TrainRight Podcast. Today we have a really special guest, Mario Fraioli. He’s a Bay Area based running coach, a writer, and a podcast host. As a coach, he’s guided athletes to personal bests, Boston Marathon qualifying times, national championship titles, Olympic Trial appearances, international podiums, world championship teams, national records, and even the Olympic Games. He publishes The Morning Shakeout, a weekly email newsletter that covers running and other worthwhile topics, and he also hosts its namesake podcast where he gleans insight and inspiration from the sport’s top athletes, coaches, and personalities.

Hillary Allen:

As an athlete, Mario was an NCAA Division II Cross Country All-American at Stonehill College in 2003, and he has raced competitively from the 800 meters to ultramarathon distances. There’s nothing this guy won’t try. His personal bests including a 4:09 mile, a 2:27 in the marathon, and a 7:59 for the 50 miles. He still steps on the starting line every now and again when the mood strikes him right. I think we have a lot to learn for this guy, and I hope you guys enjoy this podcast. Welcome to the TrainRight Podcast.

Mario Fraioli:

Thanks for having me.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah, so Mario, I’m so pleased to have you on, I already did a little introduction of you, you sent over a nice bio, and I’m just every … I mean, I know of you, I know you coach, and I know you a little bit, but just reading your bio, and just reading about you, it’s just I’m always so impressed. Just your running … you, as a racer in general, as a athlete is just so impressive, and then the athletes that you coach … I have so many questions for you.

Mario Fraioli:

Fire away.

Hillary Allen:

Well, first of all I wanted to ask … Well, a couple things. I’ll let you choose the direction. First of all, how did you get into coaching? But actually, I think I’d like you to answer this question first is kind of talk about your history as an athlete, because as a coach you coach a wide variety of athletes, but you as an athlete, I’d like to kind of get people aware of where you come from and what you’re best at.

Mario Fraioli:

Okay, so I didn’t start running until my junior year of high school, and the only reason that I started running distance was because I had gone to a basketball camp that summer, and one of the coaches who I became pretty close with, his name is Jim White, told me that if I wanted to gain an edge on people for the basketball season and improve my endurance I should run cross country in the fall. That’s what he had done as a basketball player himself, he said it would help me develop endurance, and toughness, and-

Hillary Allen:

Nice.

Mario Fraioli:

… it’s competitive and all that stuff and I said, “Sure, I’ll do whatever you tell me to do.” So, I signed up for the cross country team at my high school and we didn’t have much of a … we had a team, we had six guys on the team, we didn’t even have a full seven. Our coach, a guy named Jim Gonyea, really nice guy, but he was the janitor at the school, and he was a recreational runner who did 5Ks on the weekend, but he-

Hillary Allen:

Nice.

Mario Fraioli:

… and I don’t mean this to talk bad about him, he didn’t know anything about training. I mean, our weeks were Tuesday dual meet, Thursday dual meet, Wednesday we didn’t do anything, weekends we certainly didn’t run, and maybe on Mondays and Fridays we did like two to three and a half miles around town, and that was the extent of it. So, for me, I didn’t really care much about the training part of it. I didn’t think too much about it at the time. I loved to race. I love going to the Tuesday and Thursday dual meets, having one of the coaches say, “Go.”, and then we would just race around the course and first to the finish line wins. So, my competitiveness was really attracted to that part of running for me, but the training part of it, I was like, “This is just a means to an end. This is to get me ready for basketball season. I like this racing thing, and I’ll just do whatever I’m told in between.”

Mario Fraioli:

So, that’s sort of how I got started, and I showed some promise right away that junior year. I won a couple of our local dual meets. Our team never went to any of the big invitationals, but we went to the district meet at the end of the year, and we had no prayer as a team of making it to the state meet, and I didn’t really know what it would mean to finish as one of the top three individuals that wasn’t on the top two or three teams that would go to the state meet, but long story short, I missed by one spot. I was the first person not to qualify for the state meet, and that really lit a fire under my butt, because I was like, “Wow, I was right there, and this is my first year doing this. I don’t really know what I’m doing, and there’s no reason I can’t beat those guys.”, and that really motivated me. I still went on and played basketball that winter, but I quit like three weeks into the season to join indoor track, because I-

Hillary Allen:

Really?

Mario Fraioli:

… figured out at that point that running was what I was better at, quite honestly. I started … It wasn’t even like a letter from a college, I think the coach had forwarded me along this general inquiry form from one of the local schools that was like, “Hey, do you have anyone on your team who might want to run collegiately at a not very serious program?”-

Hillary Allen:

Maybe [crosstalk 00:05:46]-

Mario Fraioli:

… and yeah, it was just an info sheet type thing, and I was like, “Oh, wow. I’ve never gotten anything like that from a basketball coach before.” So, I joined the indoor track team, same sort of deal, I loved the racing part of it. We really didn’t do much from a training standpoint, but I was really interested in it, and that’s where my curiosity started to kick in. I was like, “Well, how do people train for these things? It can’t just be like show up at the races, and hopefully you get faster every time.”, and I mean, that all happened to a point, especially when you’re early on in your career. So, I went to the school library, because there was-

Hillary Allen:

No way.

Mario Fraioli:

Yeah, this was like-

Hillary Allen:

Oh, my God.

Mario Fraioli:

… I mean, this is like late 1990s, so the internet was … I don’t want to say it was in its infancy, but being able to find information on the internet was not nearly as prevalent as it is now. So, I remember going to the library, I still have some of these books on my shelf that I was getting these like Sports Illustrated Guide to Track and Field, like these … and I don’t mind … I mean, the overdue fee is probably super high right now because I got these things in like 1998, but I still have them on my bookshelf, I just kept them from the library-

Hillary Allen:

Oh, my God.

Mario Fraioli:

… and I just started to read about how people trained for distance events. I was reading about Emil Zátopek, and Jim Peters, and Buddy Edelen, and all of these old, old names, and I was like, “Oh, they do these things called interval workouts.” I remember going to … We had a track at our high school, but it was this outdoor track, and it was really strange, it was around a baseball field, it was kind of in the shape of a diamond. It was four and a half laps to the mile. We actually had meets on it, it was four and a half laps to the mile-

Hillary Allen:

Oh, my God.

Mario Fraioli:

… the 4×4 handoff was in a different spot, the 800 started like at the top of the straightaway, and then you’re in two laps of the track, it was really weird. But we had another track-

Hillary Allen:

[crosstalk 00:07:29] like really steep and hard curves to make if it’s a diamond, no?

Mario Fraioli:

Yeah, exactly, yeah. Really, really tight turns, and-

Hillary Allen:

Maybe that’s where your basketball skills could help you with that.

Mario Fraioli:

But I remember going to the track on my own one day and doing like 200 meter repeats really fast, because that sounded like one of the workouts that I had read about in the book, and I was like, “Well, if this is what these guys did to get faster, maybe this will help me, too.”

Hillary Allen:

So, where was that transition, because obviously you quit basketball, then you think, “Okay, I have this promise at running.”, but you still weren’t really taking training that seriously-

Mario Fraioli:

No.

Hillary Allen:

… like you said, you weren’t really doing that much, so where did that kind of click or it make sense, you’re like, “Okay, if I really want to get good at this …” You were obviously good at racing, like trying hard, but where did that click for you that you had to kind of do something more? It’s not like a ball sport where you practice technique.

Mario Fraioli:

Right, it was spring of that junior year. So, I was doing outdoor track by that point, as I just described. I’m reading all these books, and learning more about training, and on my own going to the track and doing interval workouts instead of just doing this like two, three mile loop around town. And going into the following summer, so this would be summer going into my senior year, I set this pretty audacious goal at the time where I said I wanted to win the state meet in cross country, which is pretty bold, because I didn’t even qualify for the state meet the year before. But that, I mean, I think that really speaks to my mindset in terms of athlete, I’m like, “Oh, I’m just going to try and win.” I really wanted to try and win.

Mario Fraioli:

I ended up going to a workout for a local running club called the Central Mass Striders, and I met a guy named Bill [Goedere 00:09:09] who was the coach, and they did these like Tuesday night workouts, which I’m sure they still do at Worcester State College, and he gave me some really good guidance. I was doing … He was a real competitive runner, we were doing workouts like four and 800 meter repeats, thousands, things like that. So, I started doing that in the summer going into my senior year, and he was great, he said, “Look, you really shouldn’t be doing too many of these track workouts in the summer, but you need to just run more and increase your mileage.”

Mario Fraioli:

So, for me, at the time, that was getting up to like 30, 40 miles a week in the summer going into my senior year, but I did it pretty consistently, and I met another high school athlete during that time named Sean [McEwen 00:09:52] who ran for a rival high school, Millbury High School, and that was Bill’s alma mater like years and years before. Sean and I became really fast friends, he’s still my best friend to this day. He was my best man at my wedding, I was in his wedding, we ended up running together in college. So, we ran together that whole summer going into my senior year, we raced against each other, he was a year behind me in the league.

Mario Fraioli:

And then going into my senior year I was just a different athlete than I was the year before. I was essentially writing and executing on my own training, because Jim, who was our cross country coach, he was fine with that. He was like, “Okay, if you want to go do more you’re welcome to go do more.” He was pretty relaxed about it. But I had a good senior year, and I didn’t win the state meet, but I finished seventh, so that was a nice improvement from the year before where I didn’t qualify. I stuck with track that entire year, ran indoors, ran outdoors, and then went on to run at Stonehill College, and it’s just continued to snowball from there.

Hillary Allen:

Man, this is … I mean, I already knew you were a badass, but just I want to meet that young Mario and be like, “Okay [crosstalk 00:10:57]-“

Mario Fraioli:

No, you don’t, he was a jerk.

Hillary Allen:

Stop, I doubt it. But I also just notice from your story is just that unyielding belief, you believed that you had something to prove, you believed in yourself, you took it upon yourself to do these things. I mean, I guess I’ll ask this question later, but I think that … did that have an influence in you kind of translating your personal running into coaching?

Mario Fraioli:

Yeah, absolutely. I’ve always had a curious mind, and I’ve always even interested in how people train for things. It’s funny, before I got into even running, or certainly coaching, when I was in high school I coached like CYO basketball, on like a volunteer type basis, and I was interested in that, too. I still remember reading books by John Wooden that I pulled from the school library, and reading about different defensive schemes, and offensive patterns, and things like that.

Mario Fraioli:

So, I don’t know, I’ve just always kind of had that sort of mindset, and I knew from a pretty early age, like as far back as junior high, that I’ve always liked helping people work through things. I was always the kid who would listen to his friend after they had gone through a breakup, or if they had a disappointment, or whatever it may be, I would just try to listen. I wouldn’t always have something back to say, because I had a lack of experience, and I certainly didn’t have any training but I felt like I’ve always been a good listener, and I’ve always liked to try and help put things in perspective for people, and that’s a lot of what I do now as a coach.

Mario Fraioli:

When I was in college, and we can get to this later on in the conversation I’m sure, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do from a get a job standpoint. I switched my major more times than anyone in Stonehill College history, I think, because it was as easy as going down to the dean’s office and filling out a form, and just putting it in the box. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I didn’t know if I wanted to teach. I eventually landed on majoring in philosophy and psychology, and I was like, “I’m going to go to grad school and be a guidance counselor. That’s what I’m going to [crosstalk 00:13:08]-“

Hillary Allen:

There you go, okay.

Mario Fraioli:

I thought I was going to be a guidance counselor. I never even got nearly that far, but that’s sort of where my head was at in college-

Hillary Allen:

[crosstalk 00:13:17] like that, but yeah, I think coaching is really [crosstalk 00:13:19] to being a guidance counselor, like you are guiding someone in their goals in life, and you become a big part of, and factor into their decisions.

Mario Fraioli:

Yeah, absolutely, and I think there are a number of different ways that you can go about coaching, but that’s part of it, and then there’s obviously a technical side of it, and a scientific side of it, and people come at coaching from all these different angles. You’ll have people who have advanced degrees in exercise science, and physiology, and yada, yada, yada, and then they come at it from that angle. You have people who come it more from the psychological side, which is the way that I sort of come at coaching, and I think you have to have a good knowledge, and understand, and grasp on both of those things. But that’s one thing about coaching that’s always been interesting to me, because you have some coaches that are highly technical and they have zero people skills, and then you have some people who have great people skills, and they just don’t have the technical knowledge to help the athlete get where they want to go.

Hillary Allen:

And so this is a question I have for, because you said you were a good listener, and you obviously had the skills, you had the ability to problem solve, and kind of figure out, almost train yourself, like you’re coaching yourself. So, you saw obviously a big improvement your senior year, and then you went on to college, but there was obviously a transition in there where you had to kind of go from self-coached, to trusting someone else in the process. Was that a difficult transition for you?

Mario Fraioli:

Yes, absolutely, and it’s still difficult for me. It’s interesting, as someone who has been coaching now for 15 years, and I’ve worked with a wide range of athletes, I am not a very coachable athlete myself. I’ve had a number of coaches through the years who I have learned quite a bit from, but I’ve had very few coaches who I have fully trusted, and gave myself to, and would do whatever they told me, and that was a tough transition into college, because when I went to college, I went to Stonehill College in Massachusetts, it’s a Division II school in the NCAA, when I got there, the program had been around for a while, but the men’s team had not had a great history to it. The school record in the mile is like 4:31, and I had run 4:36 in high school.

Mario Fraioli:

The coach who’d been there, his name is Dana Boardman, great guy, he started the program two or three decades prior, but it was almost similar to my high school coach, it was a hobby job for him. He had run recreationally himself, but he didn’t really have a program or a system, and for me, I am a pretty just skeptical person by nature, and long story short, I just … he didn’t have my trust right away when I got there. He was a very nice guy, and I wanted to run collegiately, and I liked the school, because it was only an hour from home, I knew I could run there.

Mario Fraioli:

I knew he only coached cross country, because the track coach was a woman named Karen Boen who ended up taking over the entire program my junior year. So, she was my track coach for all four years, but she only coached me in cross country my junior, senior year. I just saw her last weekend at the NCAA Division II Championships in Sacramento near where I live now, and I would’ve run through a wall for that woman. If she told me to run headfirst into a wall as fast as I could because it would make me a better runner, I would do it. I mean, that’s how much I trusted her, and-

Hillary Allen:

So, what was the difference? Can you define this? Because I think as athletes, I have the same thing. I’m a very skeptical person by nature, and I like routine, I like habit, and so when I found a coach that I really clicked with it took a while. I was friends with my coach, Adam, for years before I trusted him with my training, and still sometimes I’m like, “Adam, please explain this. I don’t get it.”, or like … you know what I mean? What is that trust that is the difference between these two coaches that you were able to actually run through a wall for someone, which is quite powerful?

Mario Fraioli:

It’s hard to pinpoint one thing exactly. I think it was her just being very upfront, and matter-of-fact, and frank with me on pretty much any topic that ever came up, pushing back when I would … as I said earlier, I was a little bit of a … I would question everything. But she would be very gracious in answering me, and giving me the answers that I needed, but at the same time she would tell me when to stop. I don’t know, she just built a level of trust we me right away where I was like, “Okay, I can trust you to take me where I want to go. I believe in you.”

Mario Fraioli:

I mean, she clearly knew her stuff. I mean, her background was in exercise physiology, she was a competitive athlete herself, I had seen the success that she had had with the women’s program prior. The way that she organized practices, and just carried herself, she was just very pro about it, and it’s what she’s been doing full-time for the last 25 years now. So, I don’t know if it was mostly the way that she carried herself, but she got me to buy-in right away, I believed what she was telling me. She was very upfront with me from the beginning, and she’s like, “Look, I think you have a lot of untapped potential. Here is what I see in you. Here’s what I believe that you can do by the time you graduate from here if you do these things.”, and I bought into it.

Mario Fraioli:

And then the other part of that is, and this has really had a lasting impact on me now as a coach, and certainly then as an athlete, she really cared about me, and she didn’t just care about how fast I ran, or what I was going to do by the time I graduated, she really wanted to develop me as a whole person, and I was very single-minded, narrowly focused on running. I jokingly say I went to college and I majored in cross country, and I minored in track, and the education was secondary to that. But she really wanted to impart upon me that, “Hey, you can take this running thing seriously and you can be a competitive athlete, but it’s only one part of who you are, and it’s only one part of what you do, and it’s got to fit in well with the rest of what you’ve got going on as a student, number one, as a member of your own family …”

Mario Fraioli:

She helped me to see the big picture and just how this running piece really fit into it, and she certainly cared about me as an athlete, and my results, and how my training was going along, and if I was injured how I would come back from that, but she cared more about me as a person that the rest of my life was in balance, and that school was going well, and I was having good relationships with my friends, and my family. I think that’s part of the building trust, and part of the buy-in. And speaking to you now, I mean, this is almost 20 years ago at this point, it’s just had a really lasting impact on me and how I coach, and how I live my life.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah. Oh, man, see and I think that that goes along to this whole idea of what, I mean, what I think, for myself, for just being an athlete in general is just being a balanced and happy person. I think that all of the areas of life, I think a lot of people, especially when they’re transitioning into being … whether it’s just they have a big goal, whether they’re trying to be a professional athlete, or just have a big goal and accomplish something big is that they have to sacrifice all these different parts of their life, but really it’s not about just having running be the center, it’s about having equal balance so that it’s important, but then basically the other aspects of life kind of positively influence it as well. I think it’s just like a circle, and I think … I mean, man, I want to meet this woman, and … Yeah, like-

Mario Fraioli:

Yeah, Karen Boen, she is a remarkable woman, she’s a great coach, she has-

Hillary Allen:

But still the-

Mario Fraioli:

What’s that?

Hillary Allen:

No, sorry. No, and she’s still coaching, no?

Mario Fraioli:

Yeah, she’s still coaching. She just gave up the head track and field job, she’s still going to work with the distance runners. I mean, she was director of the entire program until just this year, and now she’s still head cross country coach, and still coaching the distance runners for men and women. But I mean, she’s in her mid 60s now, so she’s given up the reigns of the entire program. I mean, to your point about sacrifices, that’s one thing she also taught me is that nothing should every be a sacrifice, it should be a priority if you really want to do it. You’re not sacrificing something for something else, you’re prioritizing it-

Hillary Allen:

Yeah, I love that.

Mario Fraioli:

… and I think just that diction, and that reframing of it is a really powerful thing, because then you’re not like, “Oh, I’m sacrificing this for that.”, it’s like, “No, I’m prioritizing this.”, and when you’re looking at something as a priority, whether it’s your running, or your career, or your family, and you could have more than one priority, it really helps you to weed out the inessential stuff, and that’s something that I’ve really taken to heart.

Hillary Allen:

I love that, and I mean, for … you said that you had really early on that you bought into what she was saying, like you had potential, and what you could accomplish, I just want to touch on that, because I mean, what did you accomplish in college, and how’d that … you kind of came from this just like, “Okay, what is running? I’m going to do this for basketball.”, and then now it’s become a major part of your life, and what were you able to accomplish in those years?

Mario Fraioli:

So, I went into college as a 4:36 miler, and a 9:52 miler, and as I said, seventh in the state of Massachusetts in cross country, so I was a good runner, but I was not a standout, I was not a scholarship athlete. I got no money to run in college out of high school, and I went to Stonehill, which is a Division II school with, as I said, not a history of great men’s program, at the time no scholarship money, and I knew that I had a lot of room to grow, and a lot of potential. By the time I graduated in 2004, I was an All-American in cross country, I was the first male to qualify for the National Championships-

Hillary Allen:

Nice.

Mario Fraioli:

… I was the captain of the team my senior year, the first time the men’s team went to the National Championships. I was just at DII Nationals last weekend in Sacramento, and that is the 17th straight year that the Stonehill Men’s Cross Country team has qualified for the Division II National Championships, and the first year was my senior year, which was pretty cool.

Hillary Allen:

That’s awesome.

Mario Fraioli:

It also made me feel really old, because a couple of the freshmen on the team were being born when I was running that race, but that’s another story for a different day.

Hillary Allen:

Oh, no, [crosstalk 00:23:58] talk about that.

Mario Fraioli:

No, let’s not talk about that. But I qualified for Division II Nationals in the mile, I’d run 4:09 for the mile, 14:39 for 5,000-

Hillary Allen:

Dang.

Mario Fraioli:

… and I was a pretty good runner for Division II, and yeah, I improved a lot. I mean, I dropped over 20 … or, I guess that would’ve been … Yeah, 25 seconds off of my mile time, and probably almost two minutes off my 5K time in the course of my career at Stonehill.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah. Oh man, and see, I think that’s just such a testament to … it’s one of the things that I love the most about running, but also just having a good coach, and good guidance, but the harder you work it seems like those things pay off, and I think that it’s the more that you believe in yourself, the more that you have a team that believes in you, I mean, you can just accomplish so much. So then after that, I mean, a lot of athletes actually when they do collegiate sports … I played tennis in college, and I became burnt out with it, like I didn’t want to touch a tennis racquet afterwards, and then that’s how I found running. But for you, how did it kind of … what did that look like postcollegiate running?

Mario Fraioli:

Well, I didn’t know what I wanted to do after college except run. At that point I had no real clear direction in terms of a career, I wanted to make a go of it as a professional runner. So, at the time, there were a couple of groups throughout the country-

Hillary Allen:

Get this [crosstalk 00:25:25] I love it, you’re just like, “I’m going to win state.”, and then it’s like you’re going national runner, and now you’re like, “I’m going to be a pro.” This is awesome, I love this.

Mario Fraioli:

Well, and I think the … it’s a cheesy quote, but the takeaway there is aim for the moon, and if you miss you land amongst the stars. I’ve aimed for the moon a million times in my life, I don’t think I’ve actually hit it once, but I feel fortunate that I’ve landed amongst a bunch of stars in different areas, and yeah, that goes from trying to win the state championship in high school to saying I’m going to try and make it as a professional runner, which, long story short, I did not.

Mario Fraioli:

But I’ve had a great just, I guess, life in general, at least one that I’m happy with and sort of how it’s all worked out, but there was never any clear path to get where I’ve gone now. But I wanted to become a professional runner, and there were a couple of groups in the country at the time that were taking what we would call developing postcollegiates. So, guys such as myself who weren’t winning national titles, but were All-Americans, and were like a level away from being really good, and developing them, but I wasn’t even quite there.

Mario Fraioli:

So, I remember like the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project, which still exists today, their standards at the time to get on the team were 14 minutes for 5,000, I think 30 minutes for 10,000, or maybe it was 29:30, or something like that, but times that I was like just off. I remember, I still have the email from Kevin Hanson where I was like, “Hey, I haven’t hit the times yet, but I’d love to be considered for your team.”, and he’s like, “Yeah, we really need people who are closer to 14 minutes, but keep at it, maybe we can talk in a few years.”

Mario Fraioli:

So, I was looking for groups, and the only two that I found who would give me a shot were a group that was in Eugene, Oregon, called Team Eugene, and it was coached by a guy named Matt Lonergan, whose wife is Marla Runyan, who is the blind Olympian for the United States, in … certainly 2004, maybe even 2000, and a guy named Brian Appell, who is the coach at the University of Utah. He was starting a postcollegiate group, and they both said like, “Yeah, you could come out here and train with us.”, and that’s all I really wanted. I didn’t expect to get a contract, or a job, or anything like that, even though both groups said, “Oh, we can help you out with finding a job locally.”, and blah, blah, blah.

Mario Fraioli:

So, long story short, I joined Matt’s group in Eugene. I moved out there in August of 2004. I spent that summer after I graduated working at my aunt’s McDonald’s, she was the manager of a McDonald’s-

Hillary Allen:

Nice.

Mario Fraioli:

… and I worked behind the counter for like, I don’t know, eight, nine bucks an hour, whatever minimum wage was at the time 30 hours a week.-

Hillary Allen:

[crosstalk 00:28:04] come on, we’re talking about the ’90s, it’s probably like just [crosstalk 00:28:05]-

Mario Fraioli:

No, it was 2004, so I mean, whatever the minimum wage was at the time, but I just worked behind the counter, I worked like 30 hours a week just to save some money because I had none, because I knew I was moving out to Eugene, and I didn’t want to have anything permanent. I moved out to Eugene with no plan other than I was renting a room from Matt in this house that he had for like 300 bucks a month, and he was going to try and help me find a part-time job, which didn’t really pan out all that much. I was going to train with his group, and he had a couple guys in the group who were 14 minute type 5K guys, a little bit faster, had been running in some of the road national championships with some success. He had a guy named Kevin Castille who was out there, who’s still one of the top Masters runners in the country today.

Mario Fraioli:

Matt was from Brockton, Massachusetts, and where I went to school bordered Brockton, Massachusetts, so we sort of had that kind of connection. I just went out there without knowing anyone, and without really having a job. I did have a roof over my head, and I was willing to give it a shot. The running was great. I had never been to Eugene before, but I was like, “Well, this is track town, USA, this is like where Steve Prefontaine was from, and Bill Dellinger, and Alberto Salazar, and all these guys. This is where my dream is going to become a reality.”, and the actual reality was that I couldn’t find a job. I had applied for one at a temp agency in Eugene. I couldn’t get a job at even Starbucks, because I didn’t drink coffee at the time, and I knew nothing about it, and to be a barista in the Pacific Northwest is like-

Hillary Allen:

Oh, my gosh.

Mario Fraioli:

… that is a good job to have, you got to know your stuff even at a Starbucks. So, couldn’t get a job at Starbucks, couldn’t get a job at … the local running shop that helped support the team, they could give me, I think they said like five hours a week, like one half shift a week, which wouldn’t even pay for my groceries, so I’m like, “Okay, that wouldn’t work out.” So, I went and applied at a temp agency, and through the temp agency I got a job cleaning out apartments near the University of Oregon, and it was, again, minimum wage, and I was trying to run like a hundred miles a week around it.

Mario Fraioli:

After two months I was just miserable. I was miserable, I was broke, I just was like, “I got to get out of here. This isn’t a great fit. I should move back home and figure out what I’m going to do next, because I got to start paying my college loans back, and I have no money.”, and it was just like a very … in retrospect I’m like, it was pretty bold of me to go out there as a 20 … What was I? 22 years old, not knowing anyone, not having any money, having no really plan other than to run, but I learned a lot in those couple months.

Mario Fraioli:

I moved back home to Massachusetts into my parents’ basement. I was scouring the want ads in the newspaper for a job, the classifieds, those little small print things, and I found a listing for a job at that newspaper, The Worcester Telegram & Gazette in the sports department for 16 hours a week, four four-hour shifts, from 5:00 to 9:00 p.m., and it was in the sports department answering phones, and taking stats from high school and college coaches. I would take those stats, and I would be the guy who created the box scores in the back of the newspaper, and then I would write these little two or three sentence roundups.

Mario Fraioli:

So, I got that job right away, and it just sounded fun to me. I’m like, “Oh, I read the sports page every day, this’ll be great. It’s my hometown newspaper. I’ve been reading it since I was like a little kid. It’s not going to be enough to pay my loans back, so I need to find something else.” I found another job at the newspaper, which was in the morning, working in telemarketing Monday through Friday-

Hillary Allen:

Oh, my God.

Mario Fraioli:

… it was like five hours a day, from 9:00 to 2:00, and I was cold calling people trying to sell the newspaper-

Hillary Allen:

Oh, my gosh.

Mario Fraioli:

… trying to get them to re-up their subscriptions. But one, it put money in my pocket so I could pay my bills, but it also offered health insurance, because I was losing that at the time, and my parents were like, “You meed to find a job with health insurance.”, and I was like, “Well, I don’t want to work full-time because I still want to train.” I was still thinking like, “Okay, what can I do so that I can still train at a high level, because I still think I can make it.”

Mario Fraioli:

I joined … Boston has a great postcollegiate running scene. There’re a ton of clubs that have been around for a long time, Boston Athletic Association, Greater Boston Track Club, then Reebok Boston, then New Balance Boston, now Battle Road Track Club, Whirlaway Sports, all these clubs, and just a great racing scene. I was like, “Okay, I think I can join one of these teams, and I can train with guys who are better than me, and I can still make it work.”

Hillary Allen:

Oh, my gosh. I absolutely love this, because you’re such a testament to not giving up on your dream, prioritizing what is important to you, and just going for it. I mean, to me, none of that sounds like sacrifice, it just seems like you found something that you’re passionate, and you just go for it, you’re all in. I mean, I think that’s probably … I mean, but when did the translation happen between … how many years did you try to do this before you actually kind of figured out that maybe coaching would fit into the mix? Because I mean, I want to touch on that. I have so many questions for you, but now you coach so many different types of runners, from road runners, to ultramarathoners, to people competing to try to get their big break at the Olympic Trials. Where did this kind of … and you’ve still had a lot of good results from your racing, I mean, your marathon best is what, 2:27?

Mario Fraioli:

Yeah.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah, I mean, I [crosstalk 00:33:40]-

Mario Fraioli:

So, that’s an interesting question, I don’t know when the flip happened, or if a flip has ever really happened. There was a lot-

Hillary Allen:

I mean, it seems like you’ve always been that way from the beginning of when you got into running, like you were coaching yourself-

Mario Fraioli:

Yeah. Well, so from the coaching standpoint how I got my start, so to speak, in coaching runners, I had graduated in 2004, and a number of my teammates that graduated along with me, and went on to work more conventional 9:00 to 5:00 jobs right out of school, still wanted to run, but we weren’t in that team environment anymore. We didn’t have our coach. They were all living their own lives. They knew how much of a nerd I was, and how much I studied training, and geeked out about that sort of stuff, and a few of them asked me if I would just write them training programs to either prepare for their first half marathon, or run the postcollegiate cross country scene in Boston, which was like Mayor’s Cup and a couple of other races, and just help them out with that just writing them schedules. I was like, “Sure, I’d love to.”, and that’s what I did. I would write them schedules, and I would email it to them every week. That’s sort of how I got my start helping other runners toward their goals.

Mario Fraioli:

I’m going to put the part about my own running on pause for a little bit to talk a bit more about the coaching side of it, but a couple years after I had started at the newspaper, I had picked up some part-time hours at a local running shop in Central Massachusetts where I lived called PR Running, and every day there were people coming in the store asking us certainly about shoes and apparel, but about injury prevention, about how to train for a marathon, what workouts I’d recommend, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, because you walk into a running store and you’re like, “Oh, these people should be experts on their domain.”, and they’re not always experts on their domain-

Hillary Allen:

No.

Mario Fraioli:

… and I certainly was not at the time. I had some experience as an athlete, but I was far from an expert in injury prevention, or training, or anything like that, but I did know more than most of these people walking in, and could just help lend some insight toward them. Some of those customers asked me if I offered coaching, and I said, “Sure, I’m happy to coach you.” I didn’t take any money for it. I remember there was this woman, Wendy, that I worked with, she was in her late 40s, she’d never run before, she wanted to run the 5K at this Disney event with her daughter-

Hillary Allen:

Oh, that’s [crosstalk 00:36:08]-

Mario Fraioli:

… could I help her run her first 5K? And I would meet her at the track every Wednesday, and we would run the straightaways, and jog the turns, and run the straightaways, and jog the turns, and I would write her a little walk/run programs. She finished her 5K, and caught the bug, and it snowballed from there, and went 10K to half marathon, and marathon, so I was working with that type of athlete. I was also doing some freelance writing at the time for, now RIP, Running Times, which is my favorite running magazine of all time.

Mario Fraioli:

I wrote for them for a couple of years, and I was writing training articles, not where I was the expert, but I was the writer, and I would go seek out experts and ask questions about training, and formulate an article about how to taper for a race, or different types of long runs that you could do. And I had some people reach out to me after reading those articles via email saying, “Hey, do you offer coaching?” I’m like, “Sure, I offer coaching.”, and I would help them train for their events. I didn’t have a website, I didn’t have any software that I used, it was just me emailing them schedules every week, and texting wasn’t quite as ubiquitous as it is now. You could certainly text, but it was a lot harder to do on those little flip phones-

Hillary Allen:

Oh man, I remember that, like … Yep, exactly, you had to press the number three times to get to the letter you needed.

Mario Fraioli:

Yeah, but I always had like three to five athletes that I was working with at any time while I was doing other things to make my living, whether that was I worked at the newspaper for a while, then I was like part-time at the newspaper, part-time at the running shop, then eventually I was full-time at the running shop and doing some freelancing, and then eventually I moved on to work at Competitor Magazine for six years, and coaching all along through this, but that certainly evolved.

Mario Fraioli:

It was always a … it wasn’t even a side hustle, it was just something I did on the side, because I mean, I didn’t make any money from coaching until probably like 2011. I always enjoyed it, and it was … I had my mind at the time like wheels start turning, in like, “Okay, I want to spend my working time coaching other runners, I really enjoy that. If I could find a way to do that for a living it’d be great.” I had no interest in coaching high school or college, mostly because I didn’t want to deal with bureaucracy, parents, or politics.

Hillary Allen:

Oh, yes.

Mario Fraioli:

I liked coaching one-on-one athletes, I liked coaching local runners, but I didn’t know how I was going to be able to do that professionally, and then I wanted to write. I’ve always loved writing, I majored in philosophy in college, and one of the reasons I majored in philosophy is because I didn’t have to take many tests. I had to write papers instead, and I’d much rather write a paper than take a test.

Hillary Allen:

Oh man, yep.

Mario Fraioli:

When I worked at the newspaper, as I told you, that first job that I had taking stats over the phone I had to write these little two, three sentence write-ups for high school and college games. That was a huge thrill for me, I loved taking these tiny little bits of information and forming a story out of it. That I hadn’t even been to the game, but I was like, “Okay, give me a couple little nuggets to work with, and will try to write the best two to three sentence roundup that I can possibly write.”

Mario Fraioli:

I got a huge thrill when I would see that in the paper the next day, even though my name wasn’t on it, but I was like, “Oh, I had just this little bit of information, and I told someone what happened in that game.” I thought that was pretty cool. I eventually started writing more, and I was doing some interviews for some now defunct websites, mensracing.com, fastwomen.com. So, I was planting a lot of the seeds for what I’m doing now as someone who spends most of his working time coaching, and then also writing, and asking people questions over my podcast.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah. Well, because yeah, exactly, you have a podcast, I’ve been on your podcast, The Morning Shakedown-

Mario Fraioli:

You have, one of my favorite episodes.

Hillary Allen:

It’s one of my favorite episodes, that sounds really weird and narcissistic, but it’s not-

Mario Fraioli:

Well, it was just a really great conversation, and I had no idea what to expect going into it, an hour and 42 minutes later we realized we had to wrap things up-

Hillary Allen:

I know, I feel like … Yeah, I mean, yeah, we could probably go for that long this time, too, but man, I just love talking about all the history and things. But to me, it sounds like just it’s been in your … I mean, I’m a scientist by heart, so I’m always just like it’s in your DNA, or just like in the essence of who you are that just coaching has kind of always been there. It’s just like it’s a way that you like to research, it’s a way that you like to help people. I mean, I think that running has taught me so much about myself, and it’s brought me closer to community, and learning more about other people, and building those relationships, it’s just such a cool sport, and I think coaching can be a really cool way to support someone in a very selfless way to help them achieve their goals no matter how basic or audacious they are, and-

Mario Fraioli:

There’s nothing more gratifying than that, really.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah.

Mario Fraioli:

To see someone accomplish something that they set out to do long ago, and taking that a step further, accomplishing something that they couldn’t even see maybe a few months or a few years prior. There is no better feeling than helping someone realize that, and seeing that … when you’re actually at the race, and you can be there to witness it, or just like … I don’t know, almost see the light bulb, you know-

Hillary Allen:

Yep.

Mario Fraioli:

… go off when things really start to click for them, and they’re like, “Oh, maybe I am capable of this, and it’s just going to take a little bit more work or whatever.”

Hillary Allen:

Yeah, and to be there every step of the way along with them, guiding them, and kind of learning from one another. I mean, the question that I have for you is because I mean, primarily, I mean, I’m an ultrarunner, and I know you coach ultrarunners, and I mean, with CTS we focus on ultrarunning, coaching people as well, I just think it’s interesting, because the world of ultrarunning, I think, is in its kind of infancy, at least in the United States. I mean, it’s a rather niche sport, but it’s growing in popularity, versus road running, it has a huge history, it’s “mainstream” especially in the United States, track, cross country, this kind of stuff, even up to the distance of the marathon.

Hillary Allen:

But there’s more and more people, I think, who are coming from the road side of things, maybe they’ve missed the mark with these super fast times of like an Olympic Trial marathon, they’re really fast, talented people, and then they’re kind of trying their realm in ultrarunning, and some of them blow up like they learn that maybe it’s not as translatable, but others are just having great success, and I see this crossover. Do you, as a coach, think that there’s a purpose for like road leading to trail, or if someone’s an ultrarunner should they run roads? Yeah.

Mario Fraioli:

That’s another interesting question, because people get into ultrarunning, as you just described, for a number of different reasons. I think speaking for some of the athletes that I coach who are now accomplished ultrarunners, and got into it from that competitive road backgrounds, not all of them, but a lot of them were just burnt out and bored on the roads. They wanted to do something other than chase splits all the time, or try and qualify for the Olympic Trials, or Boston, or whatever it may be. They just needed something new because they had been in this cycle of two marathons a year for five years, and it was starting to get old, and a little bit stale, and that sort of thing.

Mario Fraioli:

Tim Tollefson’s a great example, he’s lived in Mammoth Lakes, California for quite a while, he had run Olympic Trials qualifying time in the marathon, he’d run like 2:18:20 something. He was doing some training with Deena Kastor, he’s in these amazingly beautiful mountains, and they would run, they call it Green Church Road, back and forth all the time, he’d run the same little roads through town. He never went up in the mountains, and he’s like, “I’m in this beautiful mountain town, and I can’t even go up there and explore, because it’s not going to help me become a better road marathoner. It doesn’t really translate, and I might get hurt, and all this stuff.” He really just wanted to go see what was up there, like literally wanted to go see what was up there.

Mario Fraioli:

And he kind of gotten to a point where he’d run 2:18 something in the marathon a few times, and he’s like, “I am beating my head against the wall to take a few more seconds off of my marathon time, and I don’t want to let that define me as a runner to put all this pressure on myself that if I don’t run faster in the marathon then I’m not successful. Let me dip my toes in this ultra thing, and see what’s there.” And here we are, five years later, almost six years later, and it’s funny, speaking about Tim, I wanted to go back and actually train for another road marathon at some point to break things up, because he’s been all ultra all the time now for the last five or six years-

Hillary Allen:

He has, yes.

Mario Fraioli:

… but he’s had great success at it. I think, to answer another part of your question, you do have some faster road athletes who get into ultramarathons, and it humbles them right away, because they have this high level of fitness, but they can’t really use it yet, for whatever reason. But if they give themselves time, and they give themselves time to develop their skill, and get comfortable in those types of environments, and learn how to fuel properly, they are from a pure fitness standpoint, they’re at a different level than a lot than a lot of the people who are getting into ultrarunning from different backgrounds, and that puts them at a huge advantage. But oftentimes it takes a few years, because they have to gain a lot of experience, especially on technical terrain.

Mario Fraioli:

I mean, someone like Rob Krar is a great example. I don’t coach Rob, but Rob was a very good 1,500 meter runner at Butler, he’d run like 2:24 in the marathon. I remember him telling me that when he first moved to Flagstaff one of the first trail runs that he went on he was like, “What the hell am I getting into it? This is super technical, I’m going to break my ankle.”, blah, blah, blah, and now … this was many years later, he’s like, “Oh, I’ve learned that’s like the most mellow trail that I run now, and it’s no big deal.” It just took him a few years to kind of get comfortable with it.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah, and I’m … exactly, yep. No, and I remember running with him in like Chile last year, and he was like, “Hillary, this is the most technical trail I’ve run on.”, and it was actually a really technical trail, I was really proud of him, and of course, he comes in his little road flats, I’m like, “Rob, what are you doing?”

Mario Fraioli:

Yeah, this is a guy who ran Western states in Lunar Racers for the longest time, which is-

Hillary Allen:

Oh, my God. Oh no, I know [crosstalk 00:46:59] of road shoes, so insane.

Mario Fraioli:

… I mean, great.

Hillary Allen:

But no, I mean, so I know that you still coach people who are trying for that Olympic Trials, and then you also coach like a 5K runner, and you also coach ultramarathoners. Is it hard for you to kind of navigate the differences in a training plan for a short-distance runner versus a long-distance, or do you think it’s kind of the same overall recipe?

Mario Fraioli:

No, it’s certainly not the same overall recipe, but it keeps things interesting for me. I like working with a wide variety of athletes, and that’s both in terms of disciplines, experience levels, and competitive goals that people are chasing after. That keeps things fresh and exciting for me, because I’m working with someone one day who is trying to qualify for the Olympic Trials, and then I’ve got someone who is trying to finish their first 50K, or 50 mile, or someone who’s trying to get on the podium at UTMB, and that diversity keeps things interesting for me, and … I mean, I had zero interest or knowledge of ultrarunning prior to 2014.

Mario Fraioli:

I moved to the Bay Area 2014, I fell into a great community with San Francisco Running Company, all these guys that were suddenly my training partners were all preparing for Western States 100, which I had heard of, but I didn’t know anything about. My curiosity got the best of me, I started asking them questions. This is like Dylan Bowman, and Brett Rivers, and Jorge Maravilla, and Alex Farnum, “How do you train for these things? Do you go … someone for me is … we race a marathon, it’s 26.2 miles, a long run’s like 20, 22 miles. Do you go on 80 mile long runs? What do you do?” I had no idea.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah, because I mean, if you come at it from a marathon training point of view you would think so.

Mario Fraioli:

Yeah, I mean, like, “I have no idea.” I’m like, “Do you do speed workouts? Because you’re never really running that fast when you’re running 100 miles. How does this work?” So, I was really curious about it from that standpoint. As an athlete, I had raced marathons to that point, I had never gone beyond that, and within three months of moving here I ran my first 50K, and I still remember being out on a run with Brett Rivers, we were all running the Way Too Cool 50K that year, and Brett’s like totally serious, he goes, “Yeah, this is speed work for summer hundreds.”, and I’m like I don’t know if I can make it eight more kilometers for a marathon.

Mario Fraioli:

So, just the mindset of it was very different, and much like when I was in high school just getting into the sport, curious about how people train to run faster, I became very curious about how do people train to run longer, and run longer successfully? So, I just started asking questions of these people, started reading whatever books I could find. Wasn’t really into podcasts yet, but just trying to dig up as much information as I could find, and honestly couldn’t really find a ton on it, and-

Hillary Allen:

Well, I was just about to say, because ultrarunning, I think, from a scientific perspective, and as far as publishing, there’s not really that much published scientific data for ultrarunning. There is for maybe, I would think, like cross country skiing, right-

Mario Fraioli:

Yeah.

Hillary Allen:

… there’s like 50K races for that, or actually, when I was looking up this stuff it was like the most information I could find about endurance racing was from horse races.

Mario Fraioli:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Hillary Allen:

That’s, I mean, the birth of Western States, but literally there was like … and they would take it the same way, these stallions would race these 80 kilometer, 100 mile races like twice a year, and there’s all these training protocols for them, and I was just like, “Huh, okay.”

Mario Fraioli:

And a lot more has come out in the last five years since I first started dipping my toes in this deeper water, but for the marathon, and other events, but like 5K, half marathon … these are like very standardized differences and up to like the half marathon, you can run mile, 5K, 10K on the track or on the roads, but the trainings not really much different. Maybe you do more road workouts when you’re getting ready for a road race versus the track, but you could still do track workouts and get ready for the road, and the marathon, you can run a fast marathon, or you could run a hilly marathon.

Mario Fraioli:

But if you’re trying to run, just to use a round number, like you’re trying to break three hours in the marathon, you’re going to go to a course like CIM, that’s known as flat and fast, and that’s where you can get into that 6:50 rhythm and break three hours, it’s a different course than say, New York, which is hillier, and it breaks up your rhythm because it’s more of kind of cross country style, and your splits are going to be a little bit more erratic, but maybe there you run a similar effort, and you run like 3:05 or 3:06 rather than 2:59.

Mario Fraioli:

So, it’s like the difference in the amount of time that you’re out there is not that much from a “hilly” marathon course to a flat marathon course. Whereas I start looking at these ultra races, and you’re like, “Oh, well, here’s Way Too Cool …”, which is like a ‘fast’ 50K on the trails, and the top guys are running like three teens to 3:20, and the top women are running like in the 3:40s, 3:50s, versus something like, say, Speedgoat, which is like if you’re a top male you’re running not three hours and 15 minutes-

Hillary Allen:

No.

Mario Fraioli:

… but more like four hours and 34, five hours, I don’t even remember what-

Hillary Allen:

[crosstalk 00:52:13] yeah, I won that race in like six hours, 40 minutes, something like this.

Mario Fraioli:

Yeah. So, my point being, orders of magnitude in difference in terms of one 50K is not like the other 50K. So it’s like, well, you probably shouldn’t train the same way for a race that’s going to be three hours and 15 minutes versus a same distance that’s going to be like five hours and 15 minutes. So, it’s like, I just kind of got really curious, and I was coaching … I was still working for Competitor when I moved up here as my full-time job, but I was still coaching probably half a dozen athletes or so in addition to that.

Mario Fraioli:

Tim had reached out to me, we’ve known each other before he got into ultras, and before I started coaching ultrarunners, and he asked me if I would start coaching him for ultras. He had already won the U.S. 50K title on his own in his first go at it, and he kind of got into that cycle of like, “Oh, there are all these races, and all these opportunities. I need someone to help me put the brakes on, or I’m just going to burn myself out. So, I want to have a long career.”, and I was like, “Dude, I’ve never coached an ultrarunner. I’m interested in it, I’m …” but I’m like, “I’ve never coached an ultrarunner.” He’s like, “Well, I haven’t really run many ultras.” He’s like, “We’ll figure this out together.”, and I mean, the two of us have been working together for the last five plus years.

Mario Fraioli:

Right around the same time, YiOu Wang, who lives in the Bay here with me, I had gone running with her quite a few times, she knew that I was coaching, read a bit of my stuff. She comes from similar background to Tim whereas … I mean, she didn’t run collegiately, but she had run some fast road marathons, and half marathons, and had already dipped her toes sort of in the ultra world, but hadn’t had the success that she thought she could have yet, and she asked me if I would start coaching her to get ready for … this was the Lake Sonoma 50 mile the first year that she ended up winning it, but she hadn’t even finished a 50 mile to that point, and I told her the same thing, I’m like, “Look, I’d love to work with you, I’d love to coach you, but I’ve run one 50K.” I think I had run maybe two at that point.

Mario Fraioli:

I was like, “That’s my experience as an athlete, and I’ve never coached an ultrarunner, and I’m still trying to understand how to best prepare for these things.” But there was … I mean, they’d have to answer this question, but there was something that, I guess, about my background or experience that they wanted to work me toward this goal knowing that I didn’t have a ton of experience. I mean, they were essentially sort of my guinea pigs, and I’m fortunate that I’m still working with a lot of them today. But that was sort of my education, along with reading articles and books by one of your colleagues, Jason Koop, and I remember I still have Hal Koerner’s Field Guide to Ultrarunning.

Mario Fraioli:

I was reading through all this kind of oldish stuff, and I don’t know where I’m going as I’m rambling here, but that was like my education to coaching ultrarunners, but I was still also coaching marathoners, half marathoners, 5K runners, and I think as runners, and maybe as coaches you have people who will pigeonhole themselves, they’ll say, “I’m a ultrarunner.”, or, “I’m a marathoner.”, or, “I’m an ultramarathon coach.”, or, “I’m a marathon coach.”, or, “I coach beginners.”, and for me, I’ve never really tried to put myself in any one silo.

Mario Fraioli:

I love running. I mean, that’s one of the things about my entire career as an athlete, as a coach, as someone who’s worked in the media, I’m interested in all of it. I’m interested in why people get into something like an ultra race as much as I am how they train for it. All these different disciplines within running, I think people tend to stay with what they know, or maybe what they’re most comfortable with, or where they feel like they fit in the best, and for me, I have just always had a natural curiosity, but an interest in all of it. I want to understand all these different corners of the sport from a motivation standpoint, from a storytelling standpoint, from a technical and training standpoint, and I mean, I think that’s why I work with the range of runners that I work with from a coaching standpoint.

Mario Fraioli:

I work with ultrarunners, I work with marathoners, I had people this summer who were training for mile races on the track, and I love all of it. It’s the same with what I do with my podcast, I’ve had accomplished ultra and skyrunners such as yourself on, I’ve had fast marathoners on like Shalane Flanagan, and Des Linden, I have had people who are using running to do good in the world through stuff like Girls Gotta Run, or Back on My Feet. I’m just really interested in the different ways that people are using running for a competition, to do good things in the world, for self-improvement, and I think a lot of that is reflected in my work as a coach and as a media person, and also as an athlete, because I’ve raced everything, literally, from the 400 to, at this point, 50 miles, and possibly longer in the future.

Hillary Allen:

I love that. Oh, my gosh, I mean, I think this is a perfect place to end, and I think the overall take-home message, I think, is just to stay curious. I mean, we can learn together, and I think you’re right, running is running and you don’t need to pigeonhole yourself into one discipline, or one type of trail running, or like, “I only run this distance.”, or, “I only run nontechnical trails.” I mean, the whole world … you can learn so much about it, and if you’re just willing to try, I think that’s where the magic is.

Mario Fraioli:

Yeah, I think the takeaway from this conversation is be curious, ask questions, be open-minded, be okay with trying new things, be okay with failing at those things, and embrace it all. I think when you embrace it all, and even if you aren’t particularly attracted to running 50 and 100 mile races, get to know people who do, and understand why they’re going at it the way that they are, and vice versa. I think if we can all do that, we’re going to be more well-rounded, we’re going to kind of understand people better. I’ve learned a lot about, just from a training standpoint a lot of what I’ve learned over the years training 5K runners, half marathoners, marathoners I can apply to coaching ultrarunners, and what I’ve learned coaching ultrarunners I’ve been able to take back and switch some things up with how I prepare half marathoners and marathoners. I wouldn’t have that kind of perspective if I wasn’t curious, if I didn’t ask questions, and if I didn’t care to understand this whole other side of the sport that was previously foreign to me.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah, and to believe, to go all in in something that matters to you, you know-

Mario Fraioli:

Yeah, again it’s-

Hillary Allen:

… in whatever capacity-

Mario Fraioli:

… Yeah, it’s making it a priority, not a sacrifice.

Hillary Allen:

Yeah. Oh man, the wise words. I love this, it’s been such a pleasure having you on, thank you so much.

Mario Fraioli:

Thank you so much for having me, this was great. It’s always fun talking to you, Hillary.

Hillary Allen:

Ah, you too.

 


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