Author: Justin Marshall

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Friday Inspiration, Vol. 221

A fun and super-scenic short about mountain biking in Newfoundland: (video)


Great story in Sports Illustrated (!) about Hilaree Nelson and Jim Morrison’s ski descent of the Lhotse Face, and the past tragedies that brought them together

One Man’s Quest to Bring the DeLorean Back to Life (yes, the 1981 car from Back to the Future)

The Washington Post sent disposable cameras to 25 women around the country, some famous, some not famous, and asked them to document their lives for a few weeks.

I am pretty sure I have read three of my favorite books of the past five years all in the past two months, and Brian Doyle’s One Long River of Song is definitely one of them.

I don’t know why I like these My Analog Journal videos so much, because it’s just a guy with two turntables playing records and drinking coffee, but I’ve been listening to the USSR jazz one on repeat for a week now. (video)

Observations I Think Strangers Have When They See Me In a Carhartt Jacket

Zoë Rom interviewed me for Trail Runner’s DNF podcast (and did a great job writing and editing it into a story) and the episode is live this week (podcast)


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How To Show Up

I looked at the menu at a booth in Morg’s, a diner in Waterloo, Iowa, on a cold morning this past January, sure of one thing: the joke I was going to lob at my friend Dave near the end of breakfast. I was not sure the joke would actually be funny, but I was definitely going to say it.

Dave and I get together almost every time I’m back in Iowa visiting my parents. He was my last roommate while living in Iowa, before I left to move West in 2002, a shift of geography that rerouted my life completely. We’ve stayed in touch since then, some years the thread of communication thinner than others, but still there. Most of the time when I come back, one or both of us has to drive more than an hour to make a meeting happen, just like this time.

Dave walked in, sat down, and said, “I think the last time we were here, I had just bailed you out of jail, a few blocks from here.” I said I was 100 percent sure that was correct, and I don’t remember if I even ate anything that morning in March 2002, or just sat across from him and smoked Camel Lights, which you could still smoke indoors in Iowa in 2002. The night in jail followed what would be my last night ever drinking alcohol, which is a separate, long story. In my fuzzy memory, I had called Dave from the jail phone, and told him I was stuck there until I could raise $3,000 in bail money. I am certain I called him instead of my parents because I had disappointed them enough over the past few years, and Dave would be less disappointed in me, but hopefully still understand.

Dave showed up at a bail bond place with the title to his car and $300 I might or might not be able to pay him back at the time, and I got to go home that morning instead of sitting in jail with a headache and the gut-punched feeling of what recovering addicts call “rock bottom.” But first, we went to Morg’s, for breakfast. Dave paid the bill, and before he headed to his shift waiting tables at a restaurant, he dropped me off back at the house we shared with our friend Nick. Over the next few months, and then years, my appreciation for what Dave did for me began to multiply.

The simplest way to explain it is: At that time in my life, I was an irresponsible person who was good at getting in trouble. I asked Dave for help, and he made a bet on me: his car. In order for him to keep his car, I had to change. Which was a big gamble at the time—as has since been pointed out to me, there’s a time and a place to cut someone off with tough love, instead of potentially enabling them to wreak further havoc. I don’t know exactly what Dave was thinking then, but I’m glad he bet on me that one last time.

Over the years since, I started to see Dave’s gamble as a symbol, or more accurately, the defining act of what constitutes friendship: showing up. I would argue it’s the most important element of a friendship. If your friend needs a groomsman or bridesmaid, help moving a couch, someone to talk to about something difficult they’re going through, a ride home from the airport, you show up for them.

A few months after Dave bailed me out, I moved to Montana, and eventually Colorado. Every year, I tried to remember to text Dave and say thanks for bailing me out in March 2002, just so he knew I never forgot it, and still appreciated it. The more I got into the mountains, the more I valued the people who showed up, whether it was on the belaying end of a climbing rope, a promise to switch their beacon to search mode and dig like a motherfucker in the event of an avalanche, or just be at the trailhead and ready at the time we agreed upon, even if it was 4:00 in the morning.

Dave and I both eventually found our way to a common sport: trail running. I casually mentioned a week in Rocky Mountain National Park this past summer, I was working on a guidebook, maybe he could come out for a few days and join me for some hiking and trail running. He decided to join for all 10 days, and to my great joy, we got Dave up his first 14er ever, Longs Peak, which is no walk in the park when you’re coming from the flatlands and have spent almost zero time navigating talus and exposed scrambling in thin air 13,500 feet higher than the house you live in.

When I was back in Iowa over the holidays, when Dave texted about getting together, I suggested Morg’s. As we sat in the booth catching up, I tried to remember what it had looked like in 2002, the last time we were there together. I thought maybe it had been more dimly lit, but I wasn’t sure. I remembered the pancakes, which almost hung off the edges of large plates. The server dropped off the check, and I snatched it off the table before Dave could even get a finger on it. He made the face you make when your friend insists on buying breakfast, and then I said a line I had been thinking about for days, or maybe 17-plus years:

“I’ll get it. You got it last time.”

We both laughed, more than was actually appropriate for the quality of the joke, and then I went on to say something along the lines of Come on, you bailed me out of jail, risked losing your car, changed the course of my life, taught me one of the most important lessons about friendship, etc., etc. etc., the least I can do is pay for your breakfast, which is, I believe, an advanced-level Sarcastic Midwesterner way of saying to another Midwesterner, genuinely but packaged inside a joke: thanks for being there for me.

longs peak summit



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Friday Inspiration, Vol. 220

If you have 60 seconds for something cute and goofy and oddly touching, please enjoy “Dinosaurs Fall In Love.” (video)

The Pudding analyzed 30,000 high school yearbook photos from 1930 to 2013 to figure out when the “Big Hair Era” really was.

A wild story about the American Airlines lifetime unlimited travel pass that turned out to be too good to be true

Morten Halvorsen’s mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s eight years ago, and her handwriting is changing, so he created a font from her handwriting.

There are many great things about the two-part interview Rick Rubin and Malcolm Gladwell did with Questlove, but the story about Obama really is the best part. (podcast)

I’m not sure if this is the best way to share this, but this Humans of New York story is pretty incredible (this is the first Instagram photo + caption of 11 total)

“Something extraordinary is unfolding for American female distance runners, and it’s making all of us better. Well into our 30s and 40s, we are performing at explosively high levels, levels that used to be unimaginable.

If you’ll be in Seattle on March 12, I will too: Speaking as part of The Mountaineers’ BeWild series. Come say hi!


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Friday Inspiration, Vol. 219

Herman Hoops, battling cancer and hauling five oxygen tanks with him, takes one last river trip through Desolation Canyon, and reflects on a lifetime of river running and activism. (video)

Is it possible to out-eat the price you pay at an all-you-can-eat buffet?

Headline: There Are Glowing Seesaws in Midtown and New Yorkers Are Losing It (thanks, Syd)

Molly Roberts of the Washington Post explores why Mr. Peanut had to die

How to Buckle Your Baby Into a Car Seat in 36 Easy Steps

Here is a funny tweet about spelling people’s names correctly

15 songs with misunderstood meanings (including Phil Collins’ “In The Air Tonight”)


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Winter Running Tips For Masochists

Winter is the prime season for lots of fun activities: skiing, snowboarding, ice climbing, ice skating, curling, and sledding among them. But you’d rather not have fun. You’d rather keep running through the worst weather of the year—getting wet, getting cold. Having your extremities go numb from cold and then electric with shooting pains when rewarmed, snot freezing inside your nose, breathing heavily in air so cold you wonder if you’re doing permanent damage to your respiratory system, in constant fear of ripping knee ligaments from a hard slip on some ice. No one but you knows why you do it, but that’s OK, you fucking weirdo. To keep you running through the dark, cold, miserable, lonely, demoralizing, uncomfortable, and hopeless, season that is winter, and to keep you as miserable, cold, and demoralized as possible while doing it, here are a few tips:

  1. First of all, stick with running, outdoors, even though you have heard of many reasonable cold-weather alternatives such as Nordic skiing, snowshoeing, spin classes, treadmills, and staying under a blanket eating pizza rolls.
  2. Do not wear gloves or mittens, or even long sleeves, unless the air temperature is in single digits.
  3. When wearing gloves, wear only very thin gloves. As you head out the door, say to yourself, “These should be fine,” even though in your heart, you know they are not sufficient at all.
  4. Avoid daylight as much as possible. Procrastinate your weekend runs so that they take place not in the middle of the day, when the temperature is the warmest, but in the cold, lonely, hopeless dark of night.
  5. Wear cotton for all your layers, but especially next to your skin to maximize retention of sweat moisture, which will then freeze. Overdressing in too many layers will enable you to sweat more, ensuring a good sweat-freeze a few minutes into your run.
  6. Buy some microspikes. Wear them when you do not need them, i.e. you see snow on the ground but your running route is 95 percent snow-free, so you just end up grinding down your metal traction devices on pavement or asphalt and sort of cringing the entire time, and only occasionally making contact with a small patch of snow or ice you probably could have stepped around, but what the hell, you’re wearing microspikes.
  7. When conditions are actually sketchy enough to justify traction devices, i.e. lots of ice and snow everywhere, and ice covered by snow, do not wear those microspikes. Talk yourself out of it, proclaim as you leave the house, “It doesn’t look too bad out there,” and then confidently stride away, making sharp turns whenever possible.
  8. If you slip on ice and start to fall, try to break your fall with your elbows, tailbone, kneecaps, or, if you’re really going for it, your face.
  9. Carry a leaky water bottle with you at all times to keep one or both of your hands soaking wet as you run.
  10. When it snows, find a running route where you can maximize postholing. Ideally, you will be able to find a trailhead where everyone else is wearing snowshoes—that’s a good sign that the snow is deep and soft enough that it’s impossible to enjoy it without flotation, and that it will be prime for miles of postholing shin-deep, or if it’s your lucky day, crotch-deep.
  11. If possible, find a route that runs next to spots where large puddles of dirty slush form, so you can maximize your exposure to sudden cold, wet, nasty showers of melted precipitation mixed with street runoff when cars drive through them and send the crud flying.
  12. On that route with all the street puddles, time your runs with the city transit schedule so you can enjoy being hit in the face by splashes from buses. Run with your mouth open.
  13. When you reach a point when you feel it’s just too horrible, when you’re exhausted from postholing, soaked from a city bus splashing you with brown slush, and your hands are numb, and you’re so cold you’re seriously thinking about peeing your pants just for a few seconds of fleeting warmth: Cry. Don’t stop running, but go ahead and cry. It’s OK. Let those tears flow, until they freeze to your cheeks as you plod along, only to be melted by more tears. And then tell yourself: “I am crying because I just love running in the winter so much.”


More stuff like this in my new book, Bears Don’t Care About Your Problems, out now.

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