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An open letter to Pearl Izumi

In response to ads like this one, this one, and the latest one to appear in the new issue of Runner's World magazine:

THE MARATHON. ONCE A TEST OF WILL, NOW A TEST OF PATIENCE. The marathon used to be an elite athletic contest. These days, it’s an all day affair where some people mosey across the finish line seven hours after they started. Now don’t get us wrong. we don’t want to take anything away from these “finishers”. But we are fairly certain that Pheidippides wanted people to beat more than the sunset. In our humble opinion, the marathon is a race that was meant to be, well, raced. Because when you race the marathon-when you truly give it everything you have and then some- you honor the spirit of the marathon. And that is exactly what it will take to keep running the most venerable race alive and well. So the next time you’re toeing the line, respect the marathon. Run like an animal.

 Dear Pearl Izumi,

I'm not sure who told you that alienating the largest part of the running demographic (slow runners, especially beginning runners) was good business strategy, but let me tell you that it's not. Also, let me enlighten you (in case you didn't know) that Pheidippides promptly dropped dead after he arrived at his destination. I'm not sure who told you that encouraging your clientele to engage in running at such an intensity as to drop dead is good business practice, but let me tell you that it's not. If all your customers die, and everyone else refuses to buy your products because your advertisements are insulting, elitist drivel, then you'll be up a creek without a paddle. And you don't seem like you're the sort of people who respect aqua-jogging.

Who exactly are referring to, when you talking about people moseying across the finish line? Nobody moseys by the end of a marathon, no matter what speed you've been going. I've walked a few half-marathons, and I've always finished with a slight limp. People who are seriously walking in a serious marathon walk hard. It's true it takes them all day, but we can't control our appropriate speeds. Now, I'm operating under the assumption that it's not good to die at the end of a marathon (a belief that you don't seem to share), but I tend to believe that marathons should be run/walked/completed at a pace that won't cause injury. For some people, that pace is a 6-minute mile; for a lot of others, it's a 17-minute mile. Either way, it's never a mosey. And considering how lots of races have a finish time requirement, very few of them are all day affairs.

Do you have some sort of magical mind-reader laser beam that can tell when people are like, "Oh, I'm going to take it easy for the MARATHON, I don't want to wear myself out"? Do you, as a big running gear corporation (but not even the biggest one anyway - oh hi, Nike!), have the power and the authority to infer people's motives and thought processes and intentions when they decide to train for a marathon?

Stop being d-bags. The beauty of the marathon, and indeed of running in general, is that everyone can do it. Some people have more talent for it than others, but if you can put one foot in front of the other properly and with some propulsion, then you can run, and if you can run and you have the will to train, then you can complete a marathon. WITHOUT dying.

And choosing to walk or run slowly does not invalidate the accomplishments of those who are faster or more experienced. All marathoners, at any speed, have to be at a certain base level of fitness and ability to even complete the training program, let alone complete the marathon. It doesn't cheapen the marathon. It's not like "true" runners do the full 26.2, and we "joggers" are doing only 20 and then calling it the same thing. 26.2 is 26.2, no matter who it is that finishes it, or how fast. If you need something to separate yourselves from the rest of us unwashed masses, that's what your finishing time is for. But if you're butthurt because you "ran" and someone who "walked" finished in approximately the same time as you, then tough noogies.

Runners are people who run. Period. It doesn't matter how fast. It doesn't matter if it's outside or on a treadmill. It doesn't matter if you wear ratty tshirts and gym shorts, or matching spandex outfits. It doesn't matter if you run the whole entire time or if you do a walk/run interval. It doesn't matter if you're training for a race, or if you're just trying to get healthy. You're a runner if you run. If you run and are obsessed with status and labels and elitism? Well, you're still a runner, but you're jerk too.

Pearl Izumi: Why don't you spend more of your adspace encouraging people to be runners instead of encouraging people to be jerks?

Thu. A RUNNER who runs just slowly enough so she can have some energy left to kick your ass for being jerks.


  1. In this modern age of marketing, companies don't sell products, they sell feelings. And in this case (which is not that uncommon), what the company is really selling is an entitlement to a sense of superiority over others.


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