Man, I can't believe I held this secret in for so long, but I'm proud to announce that I have signed a two-year contract to be part of Nike's new "Grinder"-brand running campaign. It's part of a new line of shoes and apparel that Nike is marketing to the grinders of the world, those of us who can't run fast but sure can run far. I'm one of 10 people in the United States who is part of this new branding, and Nike plans to expand the campaign worldwide in the next few months.
When I agreed to be a part of this a few weeks ago, it was under strict confidentiality, I couldn't even tell my wife! Needless to say as April 1 got closer I have been ready to burst.
It's a cool thing...myself and the other Grinders will be featured in print and TV ads, will receive free race entries, get to travel to race expos and, of course, get free gear and shoes. We also get to pick a color scheme and name our own style of Grinder shoe. Mine will be the "Grinder Redbird", named after my high school mascot. It will be red with a black Swoosh and black laces.
Pretty sweet, right! It's so amazing, but what is even more crazy is the story behind it.
When I was out for a run in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico over Christmas break, I was stopped at an intersection when two guys came up to me and asked if they could join me on my run. At first I was a little intimidated because these guys looked hard core. They were the stereotypical runner -- tall and thin, and they looked fast standing still.
A bit reluctantly, I said "sure!". Just a few minutes into the run I could tell these guys were really cool. Both of them worked for Nike: George Glass was in the design department, and Sidd Finch worked in marketing. They asked a lot of questions about my "story" and I told them about me and what running has meant to me in my life. They didn't seem too interested in talking about themselves, so I just rambled on. I do that sometimes.
When we arrived back at my hotel, I was delighted to find out they were staying there too. In fact, they had just checked in and wanted to get a run in while their wives took a nap. We agreed to shower up and meet at the bar down by the pool for some drinks later in the afternoon.
It was a really hot, sunny day, so once we saddled up to the bar, the rum punches started flowing. George, who looked to be in his early 30s, had started running right after college. His wife, Jan, was a college runner and he jumped in and began running 5Ks with her. He later jumped to the marathon and ultimately ran in the Olympic marathon trials.
Sidd, who by the way liked to run in army boots, had given professional baseball a try, but arm problems led to the loss of his huge fastball, so he went back to college at the University of Oregon and was approached by the great Alberto Salazar about running with a group of guys on the Nike campus. He and Salazar had a falling out when Sidd wouldn't give up his army boots for racing flats. He wasn't as serious of a runner as George, but he was good enough to place in his age group from time to time.
The two of them started telling me about a campaign they were trying to put together featuring everyday runners who didn't fit the "typical runner" profile, but worked hard at trying to get better and accomplish goals. Skinny runners were out, they said, they were interested in people who truly represented the masses. The "Grinder" name was Sidd's idea, he had gone to training camp with the 1985 Mets, a team that featured guys like Wally Backman and Larry Bowa, players who were short on talent but loved the game and gave it all they had every day.
I had told them about my blog during the run and they said they had read it in their rooms, and after seeing my rugged good looks and 240-pound frame, they knew they had their guy. Since I was leaving the next morning, they said they would call in a couple of weeks with more info.
I kind of blew it off a little, but three weeks later Sidd called and said the project had been greenlighted and he wanted to get started. First, I had to come to Oregon to meet some Nike higher-ups and give my ideas about shoes, colors and apparel. They wanted to keep it a secret, and things worked out perfectly because the week they wanted me there was the week Darcy and I were supposed to go to Dubai. So as a cover, I sent my twin brother Scottie, and no one was wiser.
I had a great time in Oregon, the people were great and I met a lot of awesome people, including Mo Farah, a personal hero of mine. After spending a few days on campus, going over the shoes, picking my colors and taking some test photos, I was sitting across from Phil Knight himself, who had a contract at the ready.
So I signed it! All these weeks later, I still can't believe it's real. My gear started arriving this week, and I'm so excited to be busting some of that stuff out in the next few days. Look for it on all of my social media platforms. I'm also looking forward to getting to a lot of races -- I'm still finalizing my schedule -- and meeting a lot of my virtual running partners.
Heading into this year I really wanted to make it a special one when it came to my running. Little did I know how special it was going to be!
Happy April 1 everybody! ;--)