Thursday, February 7, 2013

Why I "Run Happy"


You may have figured out by now or not that I have a fond liking to Brooks Running. Brooks is one of the leaders in the running footwear category and also makes a plethora of gear from undergarments to jackets for those sub-freezing temperatures. Back 4 years ago, I was picked up...or sponsored for their "Brooks ID" program, or Brooks "Inspire Daily." There are several categories from the elite runners to the race directors to the folks who are more like ambassadors of the sport and the brand...the media sponsorship. Blogging and my deep involvement with Western Reserve Trail Running back then got me in the door. I started the WRTR newsletter with a few hundred subscribers and it ended up with over 3000! Since then, my sponsorship has grown and I was picked up yet again for year #4 in 2013. I can't discuss the details of what sponsorship entails but I can say that I agree to wear the brand in all races and be a true ambassador of the brand. What's REALLY cool about this is that I honestly, truly LOVE Brooks Running. I could rattle off a long list of "likes" but I'll give you just a few highlights.

Brooks Pure Project Pure Flow 2s (casual Friday!)
1. Quality: from short runs around town to 100-mile trail races, I have beat road and trail shoes up alike and it's rare to have a defect. Are they perfect? No. But they do create a quality product. There was a pair of Glycerins (their high end neutral road shoe) that I ordered about a year ago and a thread was protruding up on the upper and I could tell it "could" end up opening up the shoe...not good. I called Brooks, based in Washington state, and an employee immediately picked up. No long hold, no transfer to India...just a fellow Brooks-lover who was ready to help. I described the problem, shot a photo to him, and he replied on e-mail that a new pair was heading out via FedEx immediately. I offered to send the defective shoe back but instead, he suggested I simply run in it or donate it to an organization looking for shoes. Fellow runners have had similar experiences. They don't skimp on quality...either IN their product or serving their customers who wear it.

2. Business: I have my MBA so I've done lots of case studies on businesses, taken classes on economics, studied marketing, etc. I love to watch a business grow and see how they do it. Brooks is on the constant up-tick and this past year had another banner year. Instead of sitting on their tail ends being comfortable, they're reorganizing, thinking more global, re-imagining their business and marketing plans...trying to stay fresh, competitive and always-inventive. I love to see that and love to see them continue to be prosperous.

Brooks "Nightlife" headband vs. Snow Plow
3. Listening: They genuinely listen to the customer. I'm not only a Brooks ID member but also a wear-tester. I've worn about 5 pairs so far. You can apply to be one, too. Basically, you build a profile with them and when they wear-test a product you fit the profile for, they e-mail you and ask if you're still interested and to confirm your profile. A few days later, the "top secret" shoe arrives and you start running! After a few months, a few hundred miles, and a few surveys, it ends. So far, I've been able to keep all of the shoes but one. That one I didn't like at all and guess what, they never released it. They listened! Want to apply to be a wear tester? Click here

They also listen to trends in the running community and even if you don't run, you've probably seen in the news about minimalist running. The craze started with the bestseller, "Born to Run" and was fueled by those Vibram FiveFingers "shoes." Demand increased and now nearly every brand has some kind of minimalist shoe. Brooks' version of this is the Pure Project line. You'd think that someone like me at 200lbs, 6'2" would not do well in a lightweight, minimal shoe. Oh so wrong! I have had HUGE success. Because of the drastically reduced cushioning, especially in the heel, I now run far more efficient as I land more mid-foot (as our bodies were designed to do) and my old injury from the 2009 Oil Creek 100-miler has completely disappeared. The change in my gait has been amazing and I swear I'm faster, too. :-) Just over a month ago, the 2nd generation of the Pure Project line was released and I already have 2 pairs of the Pure Flows. LOVE them!

4. Earth-Friendly: From packaging to their shoes, they are making further strides to reducing their carbon footprint on the Earth. Many of their shoes now are made with BioMoGo which is designed to go away faster in the landfill...more earth-friendly. From the factory to the landfill, they are making strides in doing what's right. Their whole initiative is called "Running Responsibly." You can read more about it here, if you're interested. From environmental to social impact, they care.

I have to tell you how I found Brooks. Until the Akron Marathon came around, I was a hard-core Asics runner. The Nimbus was my shoe of choice and you couldn't get me to try anything different. Well, Brooks jumped onboard with the Akron Marathon from the very beginning and in the early years, ALL finishers of the marathon distance got a FREE pair of shoes. FREE. They simply went to a local running store after the race and got fit for their new pair of Brooks. That was the beginning. I fell in love with them and who knows how many thousands of miles I've run in Brooks since then. From hats, headbands, tech-tees, jackets, underwear, base-layers, socks, pants, shorts and of course, SHOES...I love it all and wear it all. If it was garbage, believe me...I'd find somewhere else to support. Are they perfect? Of course not. Are there other brands out there making quality products? Of course. I'm just proud to lace up everyday in a pair of Brooks and wear their brand in nearly all I do. Heck, tomorrow is casual Friday in my government job and you can bet I'll have my Pure Flows, socks, and new 1/4 zip long-sleeve tech tee on. Maybe I'll even "Run Happy" before work, too. :-)

Here are a few photos as of late that are Brooks-related that I thought I'd share with you. The top one is super cool. It's from just a few days ago. It's my footprint in the snow. The shoe is the 1st generation Pure Connect. I think it would be great on a black Brooks tech tee...don't you?!

Pure Flow 2
Pure Flow 2 and Spartan Pant II - Tall
Brooks Cascadia Trail Shoes
Highly coveted promotional watch! :-)
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Run Happy, friends!

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