Wednesday, September 3, 2008
The Nike Human Race Fiasco
Yesterday, I wrote about the Nike Human Race, the 10k Nike organized worldwide. At the time, I wondered why New York City was so slow, ranking a dismal 16th of 26 cities. I ended up getting messages on Twitter and in the comments that the race was a total fiasco. A blog search turned up much of the same. The main complaint: Nike chose an awkward course on Randall's Island that caused many runners to walk, not run. All the pictures on Inside Nike Running show smiling participants, all eerily dressed in the same t-shirt like they were in the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony. It doesn't show the frustration some runners felt at the late start and poor organization. The problem seems to start with the size of the race and location. Nike's a big company that wants to do big things, so it registered 10,000 people for the race. In Central Park, 4,000 is a recipe for disaster. But Nike held the race on Randall's Island, incredibly on a loop course that had runners crossing a narrow foot bridge. In NY, there was apparently even booing as runners came to an abrupt halt. (London might not have been much better, at least going by one commenter on Brandflakes for Breakfast.) These things happen. All runners have been in poorly organized races, and it's no surprise that this one would be disappointing. After all, Nike's main goal is in marketing, not organizing a race.
This fits with a pattern I've noticed with Nike's attempts to regain its prominence in running: it focuses so much on the mass of casual runners that it ignores "serious" runners. I try to avoid the runner divide of slower runners versus faster ones. By serious I mean runners who have goals and train to meet them, not those that commendably jog for health and well-being. Running is great in that everyone faces the same obstacles, which are mainly a battle with self. Nike hasn't impressed me as a runner. The Nike+ system was originally only for use with iPods. Now most competitive runners don't listen to music when running. (It's also dangerous, but that's another story.) Then, I tried out Nike+ Sportband. The calibration was off, then it simply stopped working when I wore it during a workout in the rain. Who doesn't run sometimes when it's wet out?
When I line up at marathons and look down, I see mostly Asics. I'm trying to run under three hours, so maybe that's not representative of all runners, but it shows to me that Nike, for all its inspirational commercials, doesn't really connect with competitive runners. And by putting on a 10k I've heard described as "chaos" and "a disaster," it reinforces this disconnect. Nike's blog unintentionally sums it up: "On 8.31.2008, 10,000 people stood together on Randall’s Island while thousands stood around the world for the same purpose. Where were you standing?"
5 miles, 40:23