by james dodds:
Do you guys remember watching Tommy Boy? There is that scene where Richard and Tommy are driving along and neither likes the other’s station. They land on the soft, love station where they have this exchange, “Lame … Totally. You can change it if you want … It’s up to you … I can live with it if you can.” And then of course you know the rest. The next scene you find them singing to the top of their lungs, “Don’t you remember you told you love me baby!” And it is funny. And everyone laughs. And everyone laughs because it isn’t just funny but we can all in some way relate. We all like certain things we know we aren’t “supposed” to like. There are certain, unspoken rules we live by. We call them “social norms.” I learned about this stuff in my freshman psychology class at the University of Texas.
This wasn’t all I learned in that class. I remember learning deeper stuff on the topic. We watched this film called, “Tough Guise.” It was about the “Macho Paradox” and how we have this image of what men should be based on the big screen and how it isn’t real and in many ways could be damaging. Worst of all though they told me John Wayne wasn’t really “John Wayne.” I discovered Wayne’s real name was Marion and off the screen he had soft hands and really like to wear three-piece suits and fashionable watches.He was supposedly a GQ of his time. They really crushed my worldview then. At the core of all this learning, was the idea of moving past “what we think we should be” and in a sense, “just be!” It was about being authentic.
In Austin and especially at Rogue we love that word: Authentic. It means you are genuine. There is no facade. What you see is what you get. But even authenticity is tricky because those damn social norms exist everywhere. They aren’t rules that people live by in New York and LA and we sit back and judge them from Austin. Rather, in Austin we have certain norms we live by too. At Rogue we have social norms we live by and even if you cannot fully articulate what those norms and unspoken rules are, you know they exist and you live by them. And one of them has to do with the Nike Free.
The Nike Free has long been known as the “kickin’ around shoe.” You can buy it and wear it to work or out as casual wear, but you DO NOT RUN in the Nike Free. C’mon, when is the last time you saw someone actually running in the Nike Free? I mean like a runner running in them and not the “cool guy” with huge abs, an ipod, and basketball shorts? You probably see ME wearing them more often than you see me NOT wearing them, but honestly, have you ever seen me or anyone else on their long run rockin’ the Nike Free? Probably not. Well I say all that to say this.
The other day Jordan and I were getting ready to go for a long run and we had ourselves one of those “Tommy Boy Moments.” I could practically hear the Carpenters in the back of my head. We had both gotten ourselves ready for the run and met in the living room both wearing our Nike Frees. We at first sorta laughed. I mean I knew she loved wearing them to work. But running in them? Surely not. We don’t get to run together as often as you would think. Jordan is of a different breed. She only needs about 5 hours per sleep each night. She is a nurse and works 7-7. That means she leaves the place about 6:15. Which means she likes to start making her oatmeal at 5:15. Which means she runs at 4:15. Which means James and Jordan do NOT run together!! So when she leaves for work I always see her walking out the door in her scrubs and Nike Frees but I had no idea those shoes had been up and down Shoal Creek hours before. I just assumed she ran in her adios or 1400s and then went to work in her Frees. Nope. She had actually been running in them … just not talking about it.
So we start this run and I am crazy curious to pick her brain. I told her I had been running in mine but it all started by accident. I forgot my “running” shoes the last time we traveled and instead of skipping the run, I actually ran in my dress shoes (my baby blue and red Nike Frees). I feared my feet would fall apart and it would be the end of my marathon season but the only alternative was to take a zero day and I just don’t do that. So Nike Frees it was. And I loved them. And they disappeared on my feet, which is what Schrup always says to look for (I am not saying Schrup endorsed this blog but I am anxious to hear a response, Schrupsta). And they have this slightly higher arch that not only helps the fit feel comfortably snug but it also serves as a minimal form of stability for a guy whose arch collapses when he runs. And so I really liked that. It is like adidas’ aegis which in adidas’ words “achieves stability through geometry.” They don’t actually add any technology to these shoes, they just have raised foam to break the collapse or over pronation should that occur through the run. This is the same thing New Balance does with the 890s. But back to the Nike Frees – they also feel firm under foot which surprised me because if you pinch them from the sides they feel like the same ole foam used on the big, soft Pegasus. So my brain wasn’t sure what was going on. It didn’t make sense to me that they “fit the bill” or “passed the test” because they are “kickin around shoes.” I just kept running in them and enjoying the runs but didn’t talk about it because I am a different kinda guy anyway. I know I am not quintessential Austin. I drive a huge ass truck. I LOVE LeBron James and have never even ttrriieeedd to hide it! I have a receding hair line and still try to rock the back half of a fauxhawk. My nicest dress shirts come from Old Navy and worst of all I have a Gold Card from Starbucks. Of course THAT GUY would like Nike Frees. But that is not Jordan.
Jordan IS quintessential, granola, Austin, Rogue. She shops at Wheatsville and buys quinoa. When we were first “talking” back in college she told me she had couscous for dinner and I said, “What’s couscous?” And she lives two blocks from her work and rides her bike or scooter when possible. Her carbon footprint is smaller than mine is large. She makes her coffee at home in a French-press. She keeps multiple recycling bags handy even though our backwoods apartment complex does not offer recycling (I hate carrying all those little bags to the dumpster when she isn’t looking). She doesn’t mind spending hundreds of dollars per pound on meat because “it’s local and organic and grass fed and I just feel better when I eat this instead of that HCF bag of chicken you like to buy at HEB.” More importantly to the topic at hand, she is a great runner. She is practically like best friends with Meb (actually she just took a picture with him once … but still) She listens to her coach. She doesn’t care to “win workouts.” She PR’s in every marathon she runs. She is confident enough to simply run one good one each year. She has qualified for both New York and Boston and needless to say I admire her on many levels and greatly respect her opinions. And there she was. SHE was starting a 20 miler in NIKE FREES?!?!?!?!? WTF?!?!?!?!
We spent the entire first hour talking about it. We both had no idea the other had been training in the Frees. We spent even more time talking about how it’s funny that even if you like the Frees you feel like you can’t tell anyone. Her top training shoes have been; the kinvaras, the 1400s, the green silence, and the adios. These also happen to be some of the most highly endorsed shoes at Rogue. She has good things to say about all of them. But she too has been gravitating to the Frees. She had been wearing them most every morning. (Let me clarify she wears the Nike Free 3.0 … I wear the 5.0. She always trains in a slightly lighter shoe than I do). She loves that the upper is super flexible. Her favorite shoe EVER is the Kinvara 2 but when Saucony made the update to the 3, they widened the toe box and used a stiffer material for the upper and the shoe is actually slightly less flexible underfoot. I am not saying this is bad, however, in Jordan’s case it sent her back to the shoe closet and she tried on her Frees. The rest is history. And there isn’t much more to say here from a technical standpoint. Jordan does not work for Rogue and does not care to give any technical or sophisticated explanations as to why she likes a shoe. She just loves running. She is good at running. And she is currently running more miles in the Nike Free 3.0 than she is in her 1400s, adios, and green silence. And I am right behind her. I personally put more mileage in my 890s and mirage, but I have been pleasantly surprised with how my “kickin around shoe” turned trainer.
Do I think you should go out a buy a pair of Nike Frees or switch your current training shoe? No. I am not saying that. I am however saying I think there is this unspoken social norm concerning the Nike Free among “serious runners.” I told Warren that I did my last 20-miler in the Frees and he simply said, “Did you really?” It may be because you see so many non-runners flashing them around. It may be because Nike is so “main stream” and fashion oriented. Maybe it is because we look to Nike for spikes but not for trainers. It may be that Nike changes things on their shoes every week and so one experience in one pair of Frees shapes your current view of the current Frees. I don’t really know. However, I will say I am authentically and genuinely enjoying my runs in my Frees. This is me dropping the “guise.” This is me letting go of John Wayne and accepting Marion Morrison. This is me just singing … don’t be afraid to sing along:
“Don’t you remember you told me you loved me baby? You said you’d be coming back this way again baby. Baby, baby, baby, baby, oh baby. I love you, I really do.”