Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Sun, 7 Apr 2002 16:49:41 -0400

Just Wear It

RUNNING COMMENTARY 408

My average run has jumped in length by 50 percent since December. Stating it this way makes the number sound more impressive than it really is. The jump amounts to less than two extra miles a day.

Yet I'm happy to run a little more and to do it problem-free. (The last time I tried to take a step upward, a hip rebelled and kept hurting for much of the next year.) I could give lots of reasons for the current increase, but some of the credit must go to what I'm wearing: Nike Pegasus 2000s.

I've never been much of a Nike man, which is odd. I have every reason but one to wear no other brand but the Swoosh.

-- It's a home-state company. Nike started in my hometown of Eugene, in the workshop of Bill Bowerman, whose statue I now pass several times a week at Hayward Field.

-- Nike Inc. was first known as "Blue Ribbon Sports." Before developing its own brand, BRS imported Tiger shoes. Tigers carried me through my first marathon, and many other races before and after that.

-- I know the prime movers of Nike -- Phil Knight (who once came to my office with his new shoes in hand, begging for publicity) and Jeff Johnson (who mailed my first Tigers).

-- Nike supported the grassroots sport when no other company cared. Its promotional efforts go back to the 1970s. My first pairs came from promo man Tom Sturak.

-- Nike supported me with paychecks for many years in the late 1970s and early '80s -- first through the International Runners Committee, later through Running magazine, later still through contributions to my newsletter (which carried no Nike ads).

I'm not anti-Nike. Its bigness doesn't disturb me (why pick on the company for being successful?), nor do its alleged labor practices (which probably don't differ from other companies that manufacture abroad, as they all do).

I, and we, owe much to Nike. But I've seldom worn its shoes for the simple reason that they never worked well enough for me. This reflected the weirdness of my feet and not the quality of the company's shoes.

Only while working for Nike's magazine did I show my loyalty to the company. It's no coincidence that those were among my worst years of foot health.

The job ended, and my loyalties reverted to what they are for other runners. Those are two: the left foot and the right. As soon as I switched to another brand, my feet felt better.

One of Nike's failures for me back then was to become one of its greatest successes in the marketplace. Pegasus is a proud old name in running shoes.

Various incarnations of this model have stuck around for about 20 years. No other shoe has been on the market longer, but only the the name is the same.

Pegasus 2000 little resembles its early namesake. Recently I stumbled onto the 2000 while shopping for something else.

My in-store test of a shoe has nothing to do with its newness or popularity. I ask only that its heel feel soft to the squeeze on both the outer and inner borders (no harder "supportive" layer on the inner, please) and that the forefoot flex easily. The Pegasus 2000 passed these tests.

The truer test comes on the road: Does the shoe treat me so kindly that I'm hardly aware I'm wearing it? If the shoes "speak" to a runner, it's usually because they're causing problems.

These Nikes run so "silently" that my active models are all Pegasus. Finally, the loyalties to my feet and to the company nearest to home are a match.

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