Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 120 - Louis Serafini - RUNNING COMMUNITY

Like you mentioned, I did an internship with Kraft Sports Group in college. No one ever talks about that part of my life. And I just kind of fell into that. And it was basically just like, the Patriots have this outdoor mall called Patriot Place that’s connected to the stadium.

LOUIS: [00:00:00] Like you mentioned, I did an internship with Kraft Sports Group in college. No one ever talks about that part of my life. And I just kind of fell into that. And it was basically just like, the Patriots have this outdoor mall called Patriot Place that’s connected to the stadium. And my job was literally just to walk around with an iPad and ask people about their experience at Patriot Place. It was like a five minute, 10 minute long survey and I had it memorized by the end of the summer.

[Intro Music]

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JESSE: [00:01:16] Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I’m your host, Jesse Funk. My guest today has the running legs I wish I had. He’s a sub four-minute miler, qualified for the marathon trials both in 2016 and 2020. Currently working at Tracksmith, where he is the senior community manager, coaching a number of athletes. I think a couple 100 from what I saw, and then also, building a community of runners, which we’re definitely going to talk about. Welcome to the show, Louis Serafini

LOUIS: [00:01:44] Hey, Jesse. Thanks for having me on.

JESSE: [00:01:46] Yeah, thanks for spending the time this afternoon but like we said before we get going, you still got work to do for the rest of the day so I always appreciate people taking time out of their day to hang out with me, spend an hour chat running. Although, a lot of people are also working in running and building a running community. So, sometimes it’s a divergence from their everyday, whereas this is probably more closely resembles your regular work day.

LOUIS: [00:02:12] Yeah. Yes and no. I mean, it’s always flattering to get these kinds of requests, so I tried to make time for them when they rarely come along. But yeah. No, it’s nice to come on and like you said, just talk some running and talk community and that’s my job. So, yeah, I love when it overlaps.

JESSE: [00:2:34] Well, I mean, it seems like you’ve done a number of — I kind of looking at your LinkedIn. You’ve done a number of jobs that seemingly seemed to lead almost pretty well to where you are now. Like the series of jobs, I think you were for a very brief period of time, working at New England, the Patriots. And then moving on from there, and then eventually working at a retail running store, and then on to Tracksmith. It’s all a little bit encapsulated in the same kind of platform as opposed to one of the guests I spoke with this morning, for me, but last week for the listener. He has a shoe company and he’s been all over the — he’s done like everything. So, stand up comic at one point, and he had a TV show where he helped people diagnose computer problems in the 90s, and he’s been an internet marketer and just, all over the place. But it seems like so far, your career is a little bit more well encapsulated and kind of like marketing-ish in running.

LOUIS: [00:03:44] I’m glad that it seems like that that’s definitely not how it felt. But yeah, I don’t know. Like you mentioned, I did an internship with Kraft Sports Group in college. No one ever talks about that part of my life. And I just kind of fell into that. And it was basically just like, the Patriots have this outdoor mall called Patriot Place that’s connected to the stadium. And my job was literally just to walk around with an iPad and ask people about their experience at Patriot Place. It was like a five minute, 10 minute long survey and I had it memorized by the end of the summer. So, it was the only internship I could get that summer in college, but I’m a big sports fan so it was cool to — I watched Tom Brady walk by me one time. That was kind of cool. He’s very tall.

But yeah, I mean, I didn’t — This wasn’t the career path that I kind of set out for when I graduated from college. I just kind of wasn’t enjoying my day to day. I was working at a PR firm which was really fulfilling and I liked my boss and I liked the company, but I didn’t feel super happy. So, I just kind of fell into that job at Heartbreak managing their retail store. And I spent a long time there. And then Tracksmith reached out and was like, we’re building a running community, we need someone to manage the store.

And I was almost just kind of like it clicked. I was like, oh, community, that’s what I do. Like, I didn’t even know that was like a job or like a thing that I could do. But what they had laid out for me, it was basically everything that I had been doing.

So, when you look back at it, yeah, it looks like a perfect trajectory. But at the time, I don’t want to say I was lost, but I think I could have went down any number of paths, and just kind of happened to land here.

JESSE: [00:5:46] Well, it’s like, it doesn’t seem like you’ve done this, I’m kind of doing it for you in this particular case. But it’s like, sometimes it’s easier to look backwards and see things with clarity and be like, oh, of course it was [inaudible 00:06:00]. It’s a little easier to make up the narrative when you’re looking backwards than it is to try to look forwards and tread the path and say, this is the exact path of how I’m going to get to such and such place. But yeah, that happens with a lot of guests I have, where it’s like, they go, you’re sick in the woods. And you’re like, I don’t have any —

I mean, we can both relate to this, running cross country and running through wooded courses and you’re like, where the hell is this going to pop out? Like, I have no idea. And all you do is you take the turns that are flagged, you just keep running as hard as you can, and eventually you’ll pop out.

And the finish line will show up sometime. So, it’s like, I don’t know. I stopped framing stuff so much regarding running in life just because I’m not on a team anymore. College is a decade behind me. But still, internally, I feel like the metaphors of running can apply to life. So, many times. And it’s like, all those little lessons from such a complex yet simple sport.

LOUIS: [00:07:16] Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think that’s why a lot of runners are so fond of the sport. It keeps us centered, it keeps us focused, and yeah, really relatable, like you said. I mean, the big thing for me too, just like, in terms of my career was I just think it’s really important to meet people, form relationships and just say yes to opportunities when they’re in front of you. I went to Boston College, which it was a great school. I had a ton of fun.

A lot of my friends and teammates and colleagues there had a plan from the moment they stepped on the campus. Like, they were going to be a doctor or go into finance. They knew exactly the steps that they wanted to take to get to where they wanted to go, and I’ve never been like that.

So, oftentimes, I did feel lost in the woods on a cross country course. Like, I don’t know what I’m going to do or where I’m going to be. And at times, it can feel stressful and scary. And the thing that just kind of clicked for me in the first couple of years after I graduated was just like, just keep meeting people, keep talking to people, keep listening, keep learning. And if you do that, doors kind of can start to open for you. So, if anyone else that’s listening to this is kind of struggling to figure out what they want to do, or to find opportunities, just reach out to people, have conversations, buy someone a cup of coffee, like that kind of stuff goes a long way.

JESSE: [00:8:56] Well, I know for you listening, I don’t know how old you are, because I can look at the analytics and look at the age spread and stuff. But you, in particular, I don’t know. You the listener, not you, Lou?

LOUIS: [00:09:10] Oh, yeah, yeah. I turned 30 like four days ago.

JESSE: [00:9:14] Yeah. I was like you’re two years younger than me. But it’s like, thinking about saying yes or no opportunities and things, we’re both, I guess, early 30s now that you’ve turned 30. But it’s like the age part doesn’t matter. Even though I think both of us are in some ways, kind of settling in a little bit into careers, which a lot of people are at this age. There’s some people that aren’t, and I’ve spoken to those people on the podcast. So, if you’re listening to this episode, and you’ve listened, other ones subscribe and all that good stuff and go check out some other ones. But the consensus I get from people that take these kind of winding paths is you don’t necessarily know when the thing is going to open up, like when the right thing is going to come along.

I mean, taking like the gentleman I mentioned earlier, Steven Sashen, from last week. He’s done so many different things, and a lot of it has just been like saying yes. He has this company, this shoe company now. And he was telling me that he had basically been retired for like nine years before starting the shoe company. And it was like almost an accident. It was something he was interested in after reading Born to Run and they’re like, zero drop, like sandal kind of things. And it was like a personal interest, but then other people wanted it so he started producing them and then it just kind of snowballed.

He went from having a TV show, helping people with computers to having a shoe sandal company. Like, there’s no straight line in that path. And he’s, I think, middle to late 50s now. I think that’s right. So, no matter where you are age wise, if you continue that process, like you’re talking about saying yes and talking to people, you’re probably going to wind up in a way different place than you thought. But hopefully, a fulfilling place.

LOUIS: [00:11:20] Yeah. And that’s the other half. It’s like making sure you’re doing something that makes you happy. It’s really simple. I think if you follow your passions, you’re going to end up going to work excited about work as opposed to dreading it. So, that’s definitely the other half of it for sure.

JESSE: [00:11:41] And that’s where I kind of think — I’ve worked to try to work my way back here with my company and try and get related back to the running community and endurance community a little more even though the company isn’t, strictly speaking, have to be running related just kind of my particular bend. So, I kind of steer the boat that direction. But I find that people like us that are really into running, and have been for a long time, sometimes it’s just an itch that’s hard to scratch when you get beyond a certain point, where it’s like post-college, in your case, you’re fast enough to try to make the Olympics and do the Olympic trials and stuff. But many people, eye roll, I know.

But still, that’s still an objective goal that you can train for, right? I guess I could train for it. But realistically, that’s probably not an attainable goal for me. So, many of us end up floating around like, well, what the hell do I do now? But I often find those kinds of people trying some way to wind their way back to a running-related kind of profession just to have some tangential grab on that experience that they grew up with.

LOUIS: [00:13:14] Yeah. No, it’s definitely, I don’t know. I know a lot of people that keep running close to their lives in some capacity. Whether it’s work or joining a running club or something just as simple as signing up for a race. I’ve so many friends and colleagues, people that ran collegiately or in high school that kind of lose the sport for a number of years and then come back to it later in life. And then on the flip side of that, people that didn’t run but maybe played another sport or didn’t, but then find it later in life. And it’s kind of cool to see those two types of people kind of collide. And yeah, running can be super meaningful to a lot of different people in a lot of different ways.

JESSE: [00:14:03] So, I want to dig in deeper to like what your job actually is at Tracksmith. But I want to take a divergence a little bit because you’re talking about people coming to running later in life. You had a tweet about this, I think, correct me if I’m wrong, the Twilight 5,000 races. I don’t know that I understood the entire scope of it, but we’re taking people and doing track 5K’s races. So, you’re probably seeding out times and having people self-seeded into groups and then breaking them out into whatever, 20-30 people at a time for a race, something like that?

LOUIS: [00:14:44] Yep. Yep.

JESSE: [00:14:45] So, how does that all come together? Because I think somebody replied to your tweet about it, talking about being excited to do it, and you talking about people never having been on the track or let alone race on the track before. How does the genesis of that come about? How was the experience? I think it already happened unless I’m wrong, and then you did some pacing there as well.

LOUIS: [00:15:15] Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, Twilight 5,000, it’s cool to look at it now and see how it’s kind of evolved over the years. So, I’ve been at Tracksmith for about four and a half years, and now I kind of oversee all of our community team. And we kind of focus on things a little bit more broadly. But when I first started, I was hyper-focused on the Boston community. That’s where our only retail store is, and that’s where we’re based and we just really wanted to form a strong community there.

So, we do run clubs, a Wednesday evening workout that’s like speed or tempo, and then a Sunday long run. And I just felt like, I guess it would have been, three or four years ago. I think it was my second summer with Tracksmith, things were just feeling a little stale in the summer, which makes sense when you think about it, right? Like, people go on vacation. There’s not a lot of races to train for because it’s hot. Maybe you’re starting the early seeds of a fall marathon build. But generally, it’s a quieter time for racing. And I felt our workout groups were thinning a little bit.

So, I was just sitting in the lounge one day and I was like, let’s just mix it up a little bit. And I created a Facebook event. It was just for a free summer 5K on the Charles River, which is totally flat for those people that are in Boston. And the concept is really simple. It’s just like, we’ll make it really accessible, it’ll be free and we’ll get pacers for different pace groups, and just get run clubbers, we’ll get someone to run 15 minutes, 16 minutes, 17 minutes all the way up to 30 minutes. And it was pretty good.

We did it three times, spaced one month apart. I think we had about 75 people show up for each of them. It was pretty unsanctioned, a piece of chalk down on the sidewalk, mapped out the distance with a GPS watch, nothing fancy, got some volunteers to come out, like really grassroots, hand-timed, everything. And I just felt like that event injected a lot of energy into the community that summer.

So, the following year, we panned it out a little more. I thought, let’s bring this over to a track, give people a little bit more of an enclosed environment where they can focus on this. And it was even better that year. We had probably double the amount of runners come out for that one. We branded that as — we called it $5 5K guy, so it wasn’t free anymore. We just charged five bucks. The whole thing was like, let’s just cover our costs, we’re not trying to make money on this, and keep it super grassroots, still hand-timed, everything, same concept. And then we had a year off, obviously, and then we came back this year. And I still just felt really good about this concept and started to think about it a little bit more.

And we’re like, what is what makes $5 5K really special and unique and different. And I think what it is, is like, is boiled down, is a lot of athletes, runners, they’ve done local 5K’s and beer runs, and maybe some of them have even gone out and run a BQ or something like that. But a lot of people don’t have access to the type of race that an elite or a sub-elite athlete would have where you go to the track, there’s a pacer, there’s music, there’s an announcer, it’s under the lights. So, the conditions are really, really good. All those things where you’re just like, you’re really set up for success from the moment you step on the starting line; that type of environment is not really available to the greater running community.

So, you stripped down that is basically the concept for what’s now called Twilight 5,000. We have a couple of community managers in New York now. And we also have a really strong relationship with Mill City Running which is a run specialty shop in Minneapolis. So, we were basically like let’s bring this concept to a few more places and just see what happens. So, that’s what we did. We’ve had two in New York so far, two in Minneapolis so far, and we actually have our second one in Boston this Saturday. So, we’ll be doing that. And it’s a ton of fun. Like, we have six heats, usually. It’s anywhere from 25 to 40 runners and we’ve got pacers in every single heat, just like I said.

And for a lot of people, it’s either their first time running a race on the track, or it’s their first time running a race on the track in a very, very long time. Like I said, they’re set up for success and people are walking away running faster than they ever thought they were even capable of running. Because the only 5K they’ve ever run was a hilly road loop where the focus of the event was getting a free beer afterwards and a T-shirt that sits in their closet. So, yeah, reading the feedback it’s been pretty positive, just about people that ran faster than they’ve run in years or faster than they ever thought they could run just because of the atmosphere and the environment that we set up.

So, that’s sort of the goal. It’s set up as a grassroots community event, kind of like an all-comers track me but has the nuts and bolts of what an elite or sub-elite would have if you were to go to a diamond league race or something like that. Obviously, it’s not elevated to that point. But the bare bones of what you need to run fast are there. My dog, sorry about that. Let me go close the door. One second.

JESSE: [00:21:19] Okay. Yeah, sure.

LOUIS: [00:21:34] Sorry about that. She should calm down in a second. She just woke up from a nap.

JESSE: [00:21:39] Cranky when she wakes up. No, I mean, that’s a really cool concept and it’s just, I think you even said in the tweet something about, I’ll say elite or sub-elite. Maybe I’m sub-sub-elite. But I still have — like if I want to go and run it like a collegiate meet, like I’m still fast enough I can go run it, some of the local collegiate meets and go mid 16’s or something like that. Where it’s like it’s not — I’m not setting the world ablaze. But I can run with the guys and it’s fine. But I don’t think I think about the vast majority of people can’t just go and run with collegiate athletes on a track and try to run like a new PR.

LOUIS: [00:22:30] Yeah. And it’s bringing pretty much a brand new sport to a lot of people. A lot of people, maybe they’ve seen track on TV, maybe they ran in high school, and kind of know what it is. But it’s different than doing a road race. You’re locked in for 12 and a half laps and it’s just really an opportunity to push yourself in ideal conditions. And then the other thing too is, you know, we worked really hard on this.

Obviously, Tracksmith, we push ourselves. We all were competitive athletes. We do attract that committed runner who’s trying to get better. But we work really hard to make it a very welcoming and not intimidating environment for people. That’s why we have pacers, that’s why we bring in an announcer and make sure that the crowds are good, and everyone’s getting equal treatment across the board as best as we can. So that even if you’re running your first 5K ever, and you’re kind of at the back of the pack, you’re getting total support from the entire community to run the best that you can run. So, yeah.

JESSE: [00:23:46] So, how are you getting — With the crowd, is it largely going to be other runners? Are you actually getting community members to come out to watch? How are you building that portion of it?

LOUIS: [00:23:58] Yeah. So, I mean that one, it kind of depends. If you look at the photos from the final heats in Minneapolis or New York or Boston, you feel the crowd a little bit more. That’s the thing that would be the hardest, I think, to fan out across all six seats. Because what we do is we encourage people like when you’re done running, to hang out and spectate. Some of the venues we can get food and drink permits and people can grab a drink or a slice of pizza or whatever and hang out and kind of soak in the environment. And cheer on races and we can bring people down on the track and cheer and stuff.

But yeah, I mean people bring their friends and family. We’re actively trying to get more community members involved for next year. I think one thing that would help would just be getting the word out a little bit sooner. You know, with the pandemic, we’ve kind of had to wait and hold and make sure we were going to be able to do it this summer.

But yeah, I mean, the crowds are largely driven by the community. So, we’re trying to build these really strong, organically grown communities and all these different cities so there’s not a lot of work needed on our end when we drop an event down like this, because people are excited about it. Their friends are already going to it. They’re following us closely. And same thing, like we talked about not being intimidated if you’re new, because it’s a really like, friendly, organically grown community. If you’re new, you show up and the hope is that you feel instantly welcome, and then you’re just going to keep coming back. So, that’s the goal, at least.

JESSE: [00:25:44] Well, generally, I get the maybe like, trepidation or intimidation to, let’s go, five down the track, especially if you’re unfamiliar. But also, just like runners in general, I find, are a pretty welcoming, warm, friendly community. Like, if you want to come out and run, we’re happy to have you. It doesn’t matter if you’re going to run-walk, or if you’re out to set a world record. Like, come out, you’re going to get treated pretty well because it’s something that we’re passionate about. So, if you’re passionate about it, you’re in Like, that’s the only qualification you need. And I guess I’ll even amend that and say, you don’t even need to be passionate about it, you just need to be slightly interested.

LOUIS: [00:26:37] Yeah, yeah. That’s generally how it goes. I don’t need as many group runs as I used to, but I still probably need at least one a week. And I take pride in making sure that everyone that shows up to a run club has a good experience. And it’s hard. Like, if 150 people show up for a long run, you physically cannot talk to 150 people and check in with them and make sure that they’re having a good time. So, in a lot of ways, you do need to rely on that community.

And hope that people are going to be inclusive and welcoming. And I think we as like community leaders can set that tone. And it’s super important that we do that, and that we make sure that people are being friendly and welcoming. We’ve got pacers that we bring in over a six month period. So, we’re not — they know the deal. They know how to be group leaders and to help them drive that energy.

And it sucks when you get feedback from someone that’s like, oh, you know, it just wasn’t for me, or I felt ignored. And that stuff happens. And it’s tough to get that feedback, because we all love the sport so much, right? Like, we want everyone else to be immersed in it too. But it’s part of the job, and it’s part of the challenge. And that’s the type of environment that we’re trying to cultivate in as many areas as we can. That’s my job is, let’s spread our love of the sport very, very broadly and bring as many more people into it as we can.

JESSE: [00:28:18] I mean, if it can be broken down this way, what does your typical day look like? Are you just sending emails off to people? Are you out for group — What are you actually doing from day to day?

LOUIS: [00:28:36] Good question. Far from a typical day. I will say my job changed significantly during the pandemic. We obviously were not posting group runs for a very long time. So, I took much more of an active role in the day to day marketing and community building. And we do a lot more planning and a lot more newsletters and trying to engage with people on Slack and in Strava and virtual things. And so yeah, but now we’re back to normal. So, there’s also that in-person piece of it now too. So, it can be a lot. I also work in a lot of different partnerships and collabs and things for us.

So, generally, my day is pretty much filled with meetings. So, I actually still work remotely. I would say about 95% of the time. You’ve heard the dog. So, I’m up. I try to get my run in the morning if I can and take the dog to the park. If not, if it’s a lazy morning, I’m up, coffee and opening the laptop pretty much first thing and diving into emails. Because once the workday starts, we’re pretty much in meetings for 70 to 80% of those hours, whether they’re internal or external, chatting with other people on the marketing team and the community team about ongoing projects, and things that we’re planning. And also, just trying to make connections and grow.

And then outside of those nine to five hours, or when there’s time in the day, it’s working on the projects that we have ongoing, the events that we’re planning, answering emails, trying to delegate to a team, that’s something that’s new for me. And that’s kind of like, I would say, that is the Monday to Friday. And then on top of that, we have the events that we’re hosting. There’s a Wednesday evening workout, like I said. So, I’ve got some community leaders in Boston that help me with that. But oftentimes, I’m there at 06:30 PM, that’s the in-person part of my job. And then a really important piece is the Sunday long run out at the track house in Boston, where that’s the run that we get anywhere from 75 to 150 people, depending on the weekend.

And then we have the Twilight 5,000 events, and there’s things like that happening kind of year round. So, it’s definitely not your typical desk job, you’re expected to do one thing. And that’s kind of not what I signed up for either. At the end of the day, Tracksmith is growing, and we’re doing great, or we think we’re doing great. But we’re still small, we’re still a startup. Like, there’s 35 people at the company, it’s a lot of zone defense, it’s a lot of wearing different hats, filling in when needed. And people, I think, know that when they sign up. So, it’s definitely, definitely a fun thing about the job. So, yeah.

JESSE: [00:31:47] Well, I mean, I can obviously relate to this having a small business myself, and then having an assistant who you would have talked to, and that’s how we got you signed up to talk to me on podcasts and a video editor. And then hopefully, my wife will come on board in the next year or so, maybe we can get to that point. But there’s something, like, it’s obviously challenging to wear a lot of hats. But at the same time, I find sometimes it can be fun to be able to be nimble, right? And it seems like even in your role, even if you’re not in charge of the company, you probably have some latitude in terms of like, I think this could help our objective.

Like, you know whatever Tracksmith’s internal objectives are for your job. So, you know, A, maybe this could help us do this. And you get a little bit of creativity to be able to do that. So, talking about the Twilight 5,000, I’m like, that’d be cool to do. I’m like, I need to talk to my college coach, he’s now the head athletic director at the college I went to and just be like, could we do this? He’s a big track guy, he ran hurdles instead of distance, but he’ll probably be down for the idea. So, now I’m like, think of that nimble kind of creative nature. I’m like, hey, could I Co-Op that idea and take it off and — [crosstalk]

LOUIS: [00:33:09] We do want to expand it to more cities.

JESSE: [00:33:10] Yeah. I know. And I’m sure we’ll talk about it a little more once we get done recording, because it would be great to have help figuring that out, and working together on pretty stuff together. There’s something nice about being in a small company, because you get a lot more freedom. If you’re in the right environment, you don’t get micromanaged by somebody whose only job is to micromanage you, you know.

LOUIS: [00:33:40] Yep. I think it’s a gentle balance, right? Like, I was, I think, the ninth employee and there were seven of us when I was hired. So, I remember the days when we didn’t have an office, we just had the store which is two floors. It’s a retail space and a lounge. And we were all just working open like floor space in the lounge together. And the head of products on one side, the CEOs on the other side, and the head of marketing was right in the middle, and we’re all just kind of tag teaming it together. And a lot of the people that were on the team then are still on the team now.

So, I think I’m really fortunate that I was able to come in at the time when I was and have these relationships with all these different people at Tracksmith. And I feel comfortable enough to reach out to them cross-functionally. And at the same time, I think that we do a pretty good job of keeping doors open. Even though most people are remote right now, I think there is a comfort to be able to go out to whoever you need to at a small company and feel okay to do that. We’re like a family and we try to be really inclusive and be able to keep those doors open.

On the other side, it’s like we’re growing. And I think when you’re wearing a lot of hats, often, it can be difficult to do your job as effectively as you ought to be doing it. So, yeah, the other side of it is being focused on kind of what your goals and objectives are, being really calculated, and oriented towards what your ultimate thing you’re trying to accomplish is. And then just focusing on that, and getting that done. So, I know for me, that’s something that I’m constantly working on. Like, doing things more impactfully, as opposed to just doing a lot that’s less impactful. So, that’s kind of my goal right now.

But for sure, being at a small company, it’s different than being at a big company. If you’re at a big company, you may never be in cross-functional meetings, forget to chat with other people. And I think that’s one reason why I really like being at Tracksmith because we can still do that kind of stuff.

JESSE: [00:36:11] Yeah. Well, it’s like, I can refer somewhat to what you’re talking about is like shiny object syndrome, where it’s like, there’s a lot of things you can do. But what are the things that are the most effective? And then self-selecting to prioritize the things that are effective. And that doesn’t necessarily mean the things that you want to do, but the things that are going to drive the most results for whatever you’re after. Here I am on the podcast, and it’s like if I look at my own company internals, I could say, well, the podcast is a waste of time. But I have a vision and purpose for the podcast, and part of that is growing a community, and not just being a company that just sells shit and tells people to buy things.

It’s like, no, let me introduce you to cool people like you that are doing some cool stuff. And hopefully, we can all learn from each other. So, I have that kind of challenge and balance myself sometimes where it’s like, like I said, you focus on what works, which is not always what you like. But then I go, if I like it, does that mean that it’s not being effective? And I have that balance where I go, is it simply an indulgence? Or does it actually take a real role in what I’m trying to accomplish?

LOUIS: [00:37:41] Yeah, I know we talked about saying yes, but sometimes you have to also say no to things, and focus on the important tasks, for sure.

JESSE: [00:37:48] Yeah. I get that a lot of times. And anybody that’s listening to the podcast long term will often hear me talk about random things with guests as I am kind of thinking about them as things I’d like to do, much like the Twilight 5,000. Which is actually probably a little more accessible for me. But I remember speaking with — I’m blanking on her name, a bronze medal swimmer from 2008. Oh, I can’t think of her name right now. Anyway, it’ll come to me, talking about doing a pros versus Joes’ swim meet because there’s that idea — and you could do the same thing with running, although it’s a little more accessible.

You know, there’s the idea like when the Olympics come around that people just don’t have the perspective of quite how fast people are in the pool or on the track or whatever it is. And if they can actually see it somehow, have a demonstration of like this is average Joe swimming or running versus like the best in the world, like how much different that is than — like, maybe there’d be more of an appreciation for the time, work, and effort it takes to get to that level.

But anyway, so I’m down my own rabbit hole here. But I often mull about these different things on the podcast that don’t come to fruition or at least not yet. And I get excited about them because they’re like personal indulgences. You know, like having a swim meet, I don’t know that that would help me achieve any business objectives. But it’d be a heck of a lot of fun.

LOUIS: [00:39:41] Yeah.

JESSE: [00:39:43] So, with the 5,000 on the track, you got the pacers and I think that — Did you have a sub-elite heat where you’d have guys going like 15, sub-15, that kind of thing?

LOUIS: [00:40:05] Yeah, builds. Yeah. I mean, Minneapolis had a guy run like 14-15, or something fast, super fast like that. But no. I would say 15 minutes is probably like, that’s the barrier that is trying to get broken in the last heat, which is cool. Like, that second year, we did in Boston, the first year we did on the track, we had three guys in the same heat break 15 for the first time in their lives. And that was really special, you know. So, that’s why I jumped into pace too. It’s cool to be a part of that, and yeah, bring someone through.

JESSE: [00:40:45] I mean, that scenario, where you’ve got — I assume you’re running the slower heats first and the faster heats at the end, which is pretty traditional. And then you’ve got people hanging around that were in the slower heats, can see that as the pace gets faster, and faster and faster. And they go along. It’s like, I don’t know, it’s boring for some people, and that’s fine. But there’s something just like, more visceral about watching somebody actually run that pace, versus even when you see it on TV, it doesn’t quite translate. We can watch the Olympics, we watch the 10K and they’re going 26-minute pace, and you’re like, oh, they look like they’re out for a jog. Like, yeah, because they make it look so easy. But they’re going ridiculously fast. And I just — it doesn’t translate quite as well as to if you’re in-person and watching them do that.

LOUIS: [00:41:41] Yep. Yeah. I mean, that’s piece of it too, is, we want to make track more accessible for people. You know, we’re sharing our passions with as many people as we can. And yeah, watching a 14 35K is pretty cool, something that a lot of people haven’t seen.

JESSE: [00:42:00] Yeah. Are you going to end up — Are there thoughts to expand the events, like, 1,500 in the 5,000. And we’re just sticking with the 5,000 for now?

LOUIS: [00:42:09] I think probably keep it to the 5,000. It’s a really accessible distance and relatable distance. And often, we get people that are training for the fall marathon, so it’s nice to work on a little speed in the summer. So, we do love the mile too. So, somewhere down the road, we’ll plan something with a mile. But I think for now keeping the branding really strong around the event and [inaudible 00:42:38] scale is probably more important.

JESSE: [00:42:40] Right. Right. I’m not trying to push you in a particular direction. It’s just my brain going, what about this and what about? And so I just had the opportunity to ask you about it. So, I do. So, you kind of rolled your eyes at me earlier when I was talking about the Olympic marathon trial qualifications.

LOUIS: [00:43:03] I was rolling my eyes at you saying that trying to qualify for the Olympics?

JESSE: [00:43:08] Well, I mean maybe it’s a pipe dream. Maybe you have a good day.

LOUIS: [00:43:17] Yeah. No, I think about it. I mean, I’ve run 103 on a hilly course, wired to wire, so I know that there’s something there. And yeah, I’ve got a couple of years to figure out the marathon. But yeah, you definitely — you need the stars to align for sure. And there’s a lot of guys out there that are dedicating a significant more amount of time to their training than I am. You know, they’re doing it full-time. So, it’s not to say that I can’t go out and mix it up with those guys, and maybe I’ll have a day, but it’s definitely something that’s pretty deep in the back of my mind at this point, I would say.

JESSE: [00:44:03] Yeah. No, and that’s fair. That’s fair. But I’m just saying that even if you’re saying okay, all I can do is go to the trials and have a go, even if I don’t expect to do well, it’s like, I still feel like — I think you said — I don’t know if we were recording when you said this, but you said, well, it’s all relative. And that’s true. But it’s all relative from other people’s perspectives too, where a lot of people go, that’s ridiculously fast. Like, I’d be thrilled if I was fast enough just to make it to the trials. And so it’s like, but, then trying to think about it from your perspective. Like, okay. Well, if that’s all you could do, is it worth it? And that’s only something you can decide on. Like, I can’t tell you, of course, it’s worth it, Lou. You should spend all this time training for it. No, only you can decide if it is.

LOUIS: [00:45:03] Yeah. I mean, I think — I guess I’m just like, I have a co-worker actually, Nick, and he’s run I think 2:09, maybe 2:08. But we’re competitive over every distance shorter than the marathon and in the marathon he kind of crushes me. But we were out at the Olympic trials in Hayward field for work, the track trials, not the marathon trials, and just running. And the mentality that someone like him has is incredible. I would pay thousands of dollars to have that mentality. It’s like, oh, I’m going to make the team. Like, I’m going to go out there and I’m going to put it all on the line and that’s what I’m training for from now until 2024. And that mindset will get you to the starting line, it’ll get you competitive, it’ll get you up in the lead pack.

My mindset is a little bit more, I guess, realistic and calculated. And that maybe is sometimes a bad thing in running. Like, you need to be a little, like you need to be feeling yourself, you need to be a little arrogant and cocky. And not to say that — anyone who knows me knows that I’m definitely a little arrogant and cocky. I think it’s a big reason why I’ve gotten to where I am. But for me to get on the starting line at an Olympic trials and believe that I could make the team, I would have to probably do something leading up to it that would make me feel like I can make the team. Like, I’d have to run a 2:09 or 2:08 at some other marathon or run like a 1:01 half and finish second or third in a tune up race or something like that.

Otherwise, I just — it’s going to be hard for me. But the way that I approach it is more like, you know. And the reason I keep doing it I guess is where I’m getting at, to answer your point. I see the possibility to get there. It’s like I’ve run these times, I’m just a couple steps from being at that level. And that’s the thing that gets you out the door in the morning, it gets you training hard. And my end all be all isn’t to make an Olympic team. I have other goals that I want to accomplish before I stop running. And that’s the cool thing about the sport. That is what makes it all relative. Like, your goal could be to make the Olympics, it could be to win a medal at the Olympics, or it could be to run a BQ, or even simpler, to just finish a race. It’s really cool, it’s all very equally motivating, I think. And it’s totally relative to whoever you are. And that is the coolest thing about the sport.

And the other cool thing about it is no matter how fast you are, even if you’re the fastest person in the world, you can always set a new goal after you accomplish the one that you want. So, that’s what keeps people coming back over and over and over and over again. And I think that that’s what makes it one of the most special sports in the world, is you can go hit your lifelong goal and then have another one staring you right in the face. So, yeah.

JESSE: [00:48:27] Well, I think that we’re — not that it happens often. But there are just sometimes days where my high school coach would say you capture lightning in a bottle. Things just work out and when you PR, you PR big. It’s not even close. So, in the marathon, we’re going to be talking minutes. Not like, oh, I shaved 20 seconds off. Like okay, great. It could be the course or it could be a little bit of wind to your back or something, but something big. And that’s, I don’t know, some of the — I haven’t experienced in quite some time since I transitioned to triathlon post-college and I’m just now coming back to running by itself in the last year.

But having one of those big days where everything works out and your legs are just cranking harder than you thought you could, you feel good or maybe you feel terrible, but you’re still going. I don’t know, maybe it’s like chasing a specter in some aspects. But I’m sure you’ve had days like that. And it’s like, you can’t rely on it. You can’t rely on it to show up and just, all of a sudden, be there for you. But I feel like if you put in enough time and consistency, one of those days will show up sooner or later.

LOUIS: [00:50:01] I agree to an extent, but I also think the best runners at any level are the ones that show up with a positive mentality and believe that they can run well that day no matter what they feel like. And I think, in a lot of ways, and I guess I’m just playing devil’s advocate more than anything because I do agree with you that you have those days for everything clicks, but — [crosstalk]

JESSE: [00:50:25] Right, right, right. No, that’s fair.

LOUIS: [00:50:27] But yeah, I think what separates some of the best runners is just like, every single time they step on the track or they step on the starting line, they believe that they’re going to run to the best of their ability that day, regardless of what their legs feel like. I’ve come across a bunch of competitors in my life where I’m just like, I just can never beat that guy. Like, he just, second half of the race, he’s always tougher than me. For whatever reason, he just guts it out every single time.

And the season that I broke four, I felt different — I had three attempts, and I felt differently in each one. But every time I got on the starting line that day, I just told myself that I was going to go out, and I was going to compete, and I wasn’t going to overthink it, or overthink how I was feeling. I was just going to take it one lap at a time, and just really focus on the person in front of me, and doing what I came to do. And I think if you have that mindset, and you just stay really focused like that, then it clicks.

And then I think the other important piece is you just have to put in the work. If you’re fit, you’re fit. If you’ve done the training, if you’re training for a marathon, if you’ve done your long runs, and you’ve done your one workout a week, consistently over 12 to 15 weeks, you should be able to get on the starting line and feel confident. That was one of the first things my coach ever told me. I’ve been working with him for about four and a half years now. And the first race he trained me for was Boston in 2017. And yeah, I mean, he was basically like, you go out, you run 90 miles a week, take one day off, do your long run on the weekend, do your two workouts, do your mid week long run, do a couple push ups and sit ups throughout the week, do your strides, and that’s it.

And then you just want to be able to get to the starting line and tell yourself, on any given day, I’ve done everything that I need to do to prepare for this. I’m just going to go out and give it my best, and we’ll see what happens. And the mentality piece of it, it’s hard to teach. Some people I always say like have that killer instinct. And I’ve seen it click for some people and it’s just like, I honestly think that this sport is so much more mental than we give it credit for. I know we know it, but yeah, I don’t think it’s like a coincidence that Kipchoge wins race after race after race. He knows how to prepare, he has the mental edge. So, yeah. Anyway, to play devil’s advocate slightly.

JESSE: [00:53:16] No. Well, and there’s always nuance, right, where it’s like, nothing’s this way or that way. And even though we both have a number of years in running, we have different experiences and different mental backgrounds, different coaches, different — so many different things. So, it’s like even something as, as I said, complex yet simple as running. Like there’s still all the little nuances to try to figure out. But as we’re starting to wind down in time, there’s a question I ask everybody each season, I have a different question each season. And this season, my question, which is for you today is: how do you stay motivated after failing to reach a goal?

LOUIS: [00:54:03] I’m trying to think of an example of one that happened. But it’s definitely challenging. One thing that I tell a lot of the athletes that I coach is I’m trained for what excites you and what motivates you. So, I think one thing, if you have a very specific goal that you’re trying to accomplish, and you don’t hit it, it can be super, super demoralizing. And I think you either need to really know, like, come out of that training cycle and say, okay, I’m going to change it up and train for something else, and switch gears a little bit. Or you’re still really motivated and you’re going to go after it again.

I think people get really beaten down in this sport when they have a goal that they’re trying to accomplish really, really, really badly, and they just over and over and over and over again, come up short. And I think that’s where people start to fall out of love with running. I think it’s really important — There’s a reason why I’ve done the mile and the marathon and I go back and forth. I trained for what is exciting me at the moment, because I know it’s going to get me out the door every day and keeping me working hard.

So, I think what I would tell someone who came up short of a goal is, take a week, think about it, think about where you came up short, do some reflection, and ask yourself is this something that I want to commit myself to for another 12 to 16 weeks? Or is there something else that’s exciting me? Because I was a miler in college and ran 4:08 in 2011. I never thought I’d run another mile again in my entire life and then broke four in 2018.

So, just because you’re not hitting the goal that you want to hit in the moment doesn’t mean you’re never going to hit it. A lot of times, you just need to change it up or a renewed mindset, or try something slightly differently. So, yeah, I think the biggest thing is don’t press. Keep it chill, make sure you’re training for something that motivates you, don’t overthink it, and if you do all the important things, it’ll click. If you want it bad enough, it’ll click.

JESSE: [00:56:36] Lou, where can people find you, get in touch, see what you’re up to, all that kind of stuff?

LOUIS: [00:56:43] So, I am on Strava. You can follow my training there. I’m on Instagram as well. I post there, maybe twice a week, a lot about my dog, and my partner, but also a lot about my running, and my job as well. I’m way less on Twitter although I’m on Twitter every day. I just don’t — [crosstalk]

JESSE: [00:57:15] But still say, like, way more than me, which is basically not at all.

LOUIS: [00:57:21] I have a lot of friends and co-workers that are on Twitter and are tweeting several times a day. I just like, I can’t. [crosstalk]

JESSE: [00:57:27] I don’t know, that’s too much. I think you’ve got — I would say, so it’s Louis Serafini — [crosstalk]

LOUIS: [00:57:35] Yeah, I’m Louis Serafini1 on Instagram and Louis Serafini [crosstalk] on Twitter, I think.

JESSE: [00:57:44] I had the Instagram pull up. The Twitter’s definitely up. I would say you’ve got a healthy amount of tweets. I would say that, in my opinion for what that’s worth.

LOUIS: [00:57:56] Yeah. I haven’t figured out Twitter yet. I’ll say that. Actually, I haven’t figured out Instagram either.

JESSE: [00:58:03] You’re not alone, man. Anyway, thanks for hanging out with me today and for sharing all your insights.

LOUIS: [00:58:11] Yeah. Thanks again for having me on. Have a good weekend. And hopefully, we’ll cross paths at some point.

JESSE: [00:58:17] Absolutely.

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