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

41 comments:

Tyler Hurst said...

Very disappointing.

But seriously, what kind of running instrument can't get wet? I've ruined things before with swear alone. I'm disappointed in Nike's offerings.

I also wear Asics.

David Mullen said...

To your point about Nike being about marketing, not organizing races...

I agree that is a major part of the problem. P&G recently began opening dry cleaning locations under the Tide brand name and car washes under the Mr. Clean brand name. But P&G has no expertise in running dry cleaning locations or car washes.

I can understand that there's some relationship between Nike and running and Tide and laundry, but Tide doesn't mean "dry cleaning" to me. These brands should stick to what they know. For Nike, that would be making running shoes and sponsoring races, but leave the organizing to the experts.

It's the same reason why I'll never buy chicken wings or a toasted sub from Domino's Pizza.

Robin Seidner said...

Asics are a better running shoe. I don't know any distance runners who wear Nike.

Christopher Fahey said...

The user experience of the Human Race web site is a disaster. I signed up (not to do the mass event in person, but just to contribute my own miles as an individual). I couldn't figure out how to make sure my miles would count towards the race. It happened automatically later that day, but I still don't know how it happened and I don't know what happened and from the beginning I never knew what was supposed to happen. This is too bad, because so much about the Nike+ ecosystem is really great.

I also got burnt by a Nike+ Sportsband crapping out from dampness after I ran under a sprinkler. After getting home, I watched a small steam cloud grow bigger and bigger inside of the watch display, until a few hours later the display itself started dying. Soon the whole thing was dead.

I *love* the Sportsband's physical design, but the quality of the device is unfortunate. It would make sense for them to increase the price by even as much as $20 to make it genuinely waterproof (as a triathlete, I'd love to even be able to use it swimming).

You have seen the slow running campaign by Reebok? They did this to distinguish themselves from Nike's more serious/competitive image. Your analysis is especially ironic in light of this.

Finally, I wear some flashy Adidas shoes, but I put the Nike+ sensor in an external shoe pocker.

Jacqueline S said...

My experience in the Nike HumanRace in Los Angeles was a similar fiasco. I have six reasons to explain why. 1- as @christopher fahey commented, the website was continually crashing, and getting vital information prior to the race was difficult, 2-no one lined up according to pace, so the first 2 miles were a waste of energy for anyone who cared about their final time, 3-the course in Los Angeles was gawd-awful; we ran down and back Figueroa St (with 2 minor offshoots); 4-it was dark and the streetlights were often TURNED OFF!, 5-the course went over streets which were in the middle of re-paving, so avoiding the bumps and creases in the road was impossible since there was no light, and 6- Nike had about 15 people running bag check for 12,000 runners, so getting a sweatshirt or ZipFizz after the race and before the Kanye West concert was impossible. Most people watched the concert cold and wet at 11pm in shorts and a race t-shirt. Not a fun experience.

I agree with Brian that Nike is more concerned with casual joggers than with actual athletes. I'm going to take that idea a step further and say that for the Los Angeles race, Nike was more concerned with creating a photo-op than creating a safe or viable running environment.

Sergio Valladares said...

Well. Mexico City isn't different.

I 've been running for 5 years now, i do it for fun & health. My average time is 49-51 mins.

This race have 4 narrow points. I have to walk for almost 1 mile.

TunaTacoGrande said...

Name me the top 3 brands of running shoes, from the perspective of a 3-hour marathon type guy.

Anonymous said...

Brian,

You pretty much summed up Nike's problem when it comes to running. The division is no longer run by hardcore runners, so it is not surprising they cheaped out by choosing not to have NYRR organize the 10K. How hard could it be?

FWIW, I worked on the biz at Wieden, and I can tell you that (at least then) this is normally a company obssessed with "authenticity" and they actually spend quite a bit on R&D (more about that later).

That said, most of their running shoes are indeed aimed at the casual (and heavier) runner. My main complaint with the majority of Nikes is that they are so stiff, thick and overbuilt. From the Shox system to the unwieldy new Pegasus +25, these are shoes built for seriously big people (not making a value judgement here...).

The mind boggling exception is that their competition shoes (racing falts/spikes) are truly exceptional. You just can't buy them anywhere (for the most part).

Sammy Wanjiru and Paula Radcliffe wear the Air Marathoner. Kara Goucher wears the something-XC. These were at one time available at retail, but Nike's (very short) product cycles ran out so they discontinued them. Yet the fact that they continue custom making them for elites is terrific testimony to how good the shoes are. Why not keep them in the marketplace? Because Nike essentially views many parts of their business as fashion, not function and that necessarily pulls them away from the authentic roots and demands that they update product.

You're right when you say that you Asics on more "serious" runners' feet than just about anything else, including the racing flats. they work.

The other thing about Nike running lately is that too many of their products are piss poor knockoffs of existing and better executed gear. Water belts, reflective vests, heart rate/distance monitors were all already available (in superior form) from companies like Polar, Fuel Belt, etc. Even Nike+ is just Polar + iPod.

All this said, I actually support Nike for getting at least some people to get off their duff.

Anonymous said...

tuna,

in no particular order the top 3 brands among "serious" 3 hour guys like me are asics, new balance, brooks (yes brooks) and adidas.

pearl izumis, puma, reebok, (most) nikes are a joke.

runwitme said...

Hi! I ran the Singapore leg of the Nike Human Race. I enjoyed the run very much...It was a fantastic way to get people in the world to unite through running.

Kim said...

Nike has pretty much always seemed more about 'marketing' than running.
I haven't worn a pair of Nikes since my first pair of running shoes..which were not bought at a running store.
When I think of shoes for running, the brands Saucony, Asics, Brooks come to mind. Not Nike or Adidas.

I don't know why people would even think they could run fast in a 10,000 roster race.

Brian Morrissey said...

Thanks for the comments. It seems like there's a general agreement that Nike has, in many ways, strayed too far from its running roots. I'm going to do follow-up post on what Nike can do to reclaim its DNA.

PLe1 said...

In response to the comments from "anonymous" of W+K

In the states the overall running team for Nike consists of a multiple time marathoner/half marathoner who just did Hood to Coast, and has run the NYC half all three years. Under her is a former member of the Oregon Project and an Olympic alternate in the 10K. A number of the extended team ran at the collegiate level. So to say they're not "hard-core" runners running the division couldn't be further from the truth.

NYRR certified the course, were involved in making the course, did the logistics of the race on raceday, etc.

Nike has two technologies aimed at heavy runners - Shox and the 360/180. Neither has been a push for over three years. Since then the focus has been the Bowerman series which have been terrific. Shoes like the Elite and Skylon are hardley made for heavy runners. In terms of flexibility Nike has been a pioneer of natural motion technology and shoes like the Skylon, Vomero, and Elite are extremely flexible through the forefoot. The Peg 25 has gotten rave reviews from youth and regular trialers and is a huge improvement over the 2007.

Niketown on 57th has Kantaras, marathoners, Zoom Forevers, Waffle Racers, Jana Stars and a few other models. Most the specialty stores in the city do as well. Or they're all available online.

The only stories I've heard of custom made shoes are the Jasaris. The Marathoners are still made. So are the Kantaras, so are the Lunaracers - which have been huge. Nothing out of the main line has been discontinued since the Jasari and the Ventalus which they brought back. They're all available at most running specialty stores. You're obviously not going to find stuff like that at Footlocker.

Asics definitely has a strangle hold on the NY market. No doubt about that but in flats for competitive runners their numbers are well behind Nike and Adidas. And this isn't anecdotal. I'm looking at shoe counts from the NYC Half and Nike and Adidas are the primary brands coming through until around the 1:45 finishers when Asics finally is the most common model (and continue to be so for the rest of the race).

In my experience casual runners are actually more likely to pick a brand like Asics or NB due to misconceptions perpetuated by threads like this that make invalid points with inaccurate information. Or like the comment above from someone who is making assumptions about a shoe brand while proudly admitting that she hasn't tried Nikes in years (so how do you know if they're good or not?)

Nike dug it's own hole several years ago by losing focus, but over the last three have made tremendous strides with their products - and have aggressively sought to promote this on the grassroots level - setting up run clubs, going to youth running events, sponsoring teams like CPTC. There isn't a single running brand who is supporting runners on more levels in more places than Nike is currently. The programs in NYC are clear indicators of how committed they are to sponsoring runners - you don't see that from NB, Saucony, Brooks, or Asics.

But I think the biggest point, and I've made it here before, is that Nike isn't after the casual runner - casual runners don't need to replace their shoes, they don't need lots of gear, they don't need $15 socks...Nike is looking to take the casual runner and make them a serious runner, the serious runner and make them a competitive runner, the competitive runner and make them elite. Because the more people run, the more miles they put down, then the more stuff they need to buy, the more shoes they go through. It's not just about running snobs, or three hour marathoners, it's about reaching runners at all levels shapes, sizes, and speeds. And if you're not a runner Nike wants to make you one. As a business model it's the only thing that makes sense. So a race like this was definitely geared towards more of a beginner runner but it's hardly a bad thing - it's actually kind of a great thing.

Nike hasn't strayed from it's running roots - if anything it's spent the last three years immersed in reclaiming them. It's just amazing how quickly a brand can build a negative perception, and how difficult it is to build perception after the fall.

manuela said...

Great post and interesting comments. As a runner I've found Nike's sneakers uncomfortable, however, the women's apparel line for the most part is well made and comfortable. My only issue is finding my size at most stores. For me, it comes down to how the equipment performs, not the perception of it. Happy running!

Ana Andjelic said...

To Ple1: I don’t think the people above are talking about negative PERCEPTIONS, they are talkig about negative EXPERIENCES. Actual, real-life, first-hand, negative experiences with the various components of the Nike+ system (shoes, Sportsband, website). This is a runner’s blog (see above), not a marketing blog. So, people come here to talk about RUNNING. If it happens that they mention negative experiences with a race (as in this case) this has hardly have anything to do with brand perception (they are not talking about Nike ads, do they?). Their perception is not based on the brand image that Nike wants to project (through its slogan, ads, running events, and Nike+ website). Again, it is based on their plain experience with the brand.

So if Nike wants to change perception, it actually needs to invest in making the experience better and more relevant for different types of runners and for different types of runs. As it is, its current Nike+ system supports only a specific type of running experience – and a person’s got to have THAT specific running experience in order to be able to use the system. If I don’t have THAT particular running experience, the system is useless to me.

This is the problem with all closed systems (and Nike+ is one of them) – they break all too easily (see the comments above) and are good for a limited number of uses only. All of this would be totally fine if Nike+ didn’t claim that they provide super-customization for ALL runners. Um, no.

Otherwise, why would all these long-distance, serious runners above be complaining then? Because they experience (not perceive) that Nike+ is not for them. It is for casual runners (no matter what it claims). Because casual runners DO like to have brand new, fancy shoes, and $15 dollar socks. Serious runners usually have beaten-up gear and are usually emotionally attached to their sneakers they remind them of a specific great achievement (marathon, super-difficult run, etc). Like, just look at the photo of Brian above (does he look like he’s wearing anything new? Does he look like he even cares what he’s wearing?). Serious runners replace sneakers when they have to. Casual runners have multiple pairs of sneakers (for different running “events” – with my prospective boyfriend, with my friends, for my 10K race). Serious runners usually run alone and pray to god that no one they know sees them. And they don’t listen to music because they run for intrinsic rather than material reasons. E.g. they don’t have a fitness goal, or stress-reduction goal, or any other material goal. Their goals are immaterial – they run for running sake. And they don’t want to miss out any part of that experience (sound of breathing, footsteps, heartbeat, thoughts, whatever). When I first ran 5 miles further than usual, I have done it on a whim – as a pure accident - not as my conscious personal goal stated on the site. That’s because all serious runners know that motivation comes only from inside (that pigdog that brian talks about) and that the only reality in running indeed is “pain is inevitable, suffering is optional”.

All of this is relevant in order to distinguish serious runners from casual runners who are externally motivated. And yes, you can turn them into serious runners and then into long-distance runners and then to elite but then they will not come to your site anymore. Because their motivation for running will be QUALITATIVELY different. They will then be running for completely different reasons than those they started from. I think it would be actually useful and helpful for Nike+ to recognize this and not to pretend that they offer a “super-customized” service for all runners. If they want to be a brand-as-system and not a brand-as-image, they need to pay attention first to the limits of their system (and maybe think of ways to make it more open – like, let the system grow with its runners).

But while its marketing people still think like the above: “the more people run, the more miles they put down, then the more stuff they NEED TO BUY” (whoa, the old salesman is back), it’s going to be more about the brand and less about people who it is supposed to serve. The actual continuation of the sentence should have been “the more people run … the more HELP they need”. That help being shoes, gadgets, and yes, some smooth 10K runs.

That’s the reality of today’s branding: if you don’t help me [do something better], you don’t exist for me. That’s why I wear Asics.

Anonymous said...

hey... they made 500.000 people run!!! come on... I don't care who does it... we all love to run... I had great run with nobody around... using nike+

Anonymous said...

ple1—

w+k anonymous here.

thank you for the very thorough post and different POV.

i stand corrected about staffing and product issues. i was, of course, aware of skylon, lunar trainer/racer, skylon (an xlnt shoe btw), and bowerman series, but wanted to save a little space.

i no longer live in NY but my own perception is that many specialty retailers display the heavier, clunkier overbuilt shoes i referenced. they may have peg 25 and vormero, but they have more of the big heavy stuff on the shelves.

i was v surprised to hear that marathoner, katana, etc are still available at 57th street. why aren't these available at nike's own online store anymore? can you direct me to the online retailers? (i haven't seen them in ANY specialty retailer in some years.)

again, thank you very much for taking the considerable time to think and post here. you have certainly added many more shades of gray to my opinion of the swoosh.

PLe1 said...

Ana, this is a running blog written by someone who works in the field of digital advertising, and per the comments after his last post this has evolved into a conversation about whether or not Nike cares about runners. That's what my response was to.

Additionally, I really didn't mention Nike+ or the race, only footwear and how Nike has been progressively improving the quality of their running shoes over the last three years and currently are offering some amazing shoes that have been changing perceptions that are based off past products, (too narrow, too stiff, only for heavy runners, too heavy, only fashion shoes not running soes, etc.) But I have commented on Nike+ before on this blog so you can go back and read my comments from that conversation here http://internalpigdog.blogspot.com/2008/05/sense-of-pace-internal-odometer-vs.html, and if you want to learn more about using the system you can read up on a series of posts I made here http://ple1.blogspot.com/2008/06/working-for-nike-ive-been-running-with.html.

I don't really like the terms casual runner or serious runner or the idea of seperating people out based on their speed, their weekly milage, what their goals are, or anything like that. I've definitely been guilty of it in the past, and I certainly tend towards a running snob mentality, but your definition of what makes a runner "serious" is terribly narrowminded. Some "serious" runners definitely wear beat up shoes, ratty clothes, run alone not counting miles, not training for anything inparticular, etc. But believe it or not there's a whole world of serious runners who train with a group or a team, don't leave the house without their Garmins, have a different pair of shoes for long mileage, tempo runs, track workouts, 10Ks, halfs, marathons, who listen to Rage Against the Machine on their iPod during their tempo runs, who are training to drop their 5 mile PR, who look forward to their run after a stressful day, and have thousands of variations not listed in your romantic assesment of what is and isn't "serious". Sometimes my personal motivation comes from inside, sometimes it comes from teammates, sometimes it comes because I'm striving for a goal, sometimes it's because i have a race coming up, sometimes it comes because I'm in a Nike+ challenge and I refuse to let my coworkers beat me. The running experiance is different for everyone and using your definition of "serious" is pretty insulting to the 98% of runners who don't fit your mold.

I don't understand what you're refering to in terms of the "specific experiance" for Nike+, or how a "super-customized" experiance was promised. I think it may be something I've addressed here in the past?

The more they need to buy comment speaks of a business plan - trust me, Asics has one too. So does, NB, Mizuno, Saucony, and even Pearl. The goal for every brand is to sell more shoes, gain more market share, gain more floor space in running stores. Again, it's romantic to think otherwise but these are buinesses. But to your concept of offering runners help, Nike's programs in the city include a FREE Run Club that has runs 5 days a week, a Runners' Station on the WSH open 6 days a week, a mobile tour that does HS clinics throughout the northeast, a marathon training program for a tenth the price of NYRRs, as well as a ton of other benifits. So Nike actually is doing exactly what you'd like them to - offering help to runners in a variety of ways that no other brand is currently even coming close to offering - least of all Asics who doesn't drop a dime for experential marketing.

So per your definition of what appeals to you in terms of branding there's a lot of brands that don't exist but Nike certainly shouldn't be one of them. But keep enjoying those 2100s - it's a great shoe.

Anonymous - For Marathoners: http://www.nike.com/index.jhtml?l=nikestore,pdp,_pdp,gid-116122/pid-116121 looks like they're out of stock here, but they have them on East Bay: http://www.eastbay.com/catalog/productdetail.cfm?model_nbr=57263&sku=10407161&SID=8032&inceptor=1&cm_mmc=SEO-_-Feeds-_-Froogle-_-null. And actually have a really good selection of other flats there (plus when they change colorways they get dirt cheap.) I'm kind of surprised you can't find them at retailers. I've been in a lot of stores and typically it's one of the more common flats you can find - even if they only have a couple models the Marathoner tends to be one of them. It could be a regional thing? But in most stores flats pose difficulties. Not as many people get them so they don't move as fast, they take up space, you end up stuck with them if they change colorways, you run into problems with sizing, and with how easy they are to get on the net it's just a losing battle. So most stores rarely stock more than a handful. Niketown has made a real effort to stock some flats, some spikes, some of the more specialty shoes (like the Mayfly,) and really offer stuff that runners buy, (which considering the consumer there is virtually all tourists is actually taking up space for the kinds of stuff the euro crowd would be more interested in buying.)

anaandjelic said...

PLe1: why are these people - who think of themselves as serious runners - complaining then?

based on your post, there seems to be nothing to complain about.

and yes, every running experience is different and this is precisely why the Nike+ system does not [seem to] work for all of them.

i am well aware of what brian does, but again - call me naive - to me this seems like a blog about running.

that said, i will look at your previous posts that you are referring to.

re: business model. of course. i just think that if the Nike+ system was experienced as something helpful to more people, they will come back. focus on experience (rather than products) tends to generate long-term loyalty. but i am sure you already know that. again, i would like to know then why are all of the people above complaining then.

PLe1 said...

There seems to be complaints about the race which are founded - though slightly misplaced. There seems to be complaints about the SportBand not being durable - which it's not and it's something that Nike is working on and (rumored to be) doing a mass recall on. There's a complaint that the fuel belts and accessories are cheap knock-offs - which is true for some of their stuff but they also have some really good stuff. It's actually a very interesting part of their business that's kind of not in the same silo as some of the other running stuff. Tyler apparently ruined something by using harsh language - impressive.

But when it comes to actual complaints about shoes (which is what I was addressing and the true testament of a "running brand") there seems to be no complaints based on actual usage, but rather a lot of comments from people who haven't tried a pair of Nikes in the past three years, "don't know anyone who uses Nikes", haven't worn Nikes since their first shoe, think Nike isn't used by competitive runners, or other opinions that seem based on a limited scope. I happen to be kind of immersed in the running field, Nike specifically, in programs that are particularly geared towards people trialing and running in Nike footwear, and offer a tad wider perspective than most. From that vantage I can tell you that a lot of the comments from the people here aren't "wrong", just misguided and again - based on a false perception rather than the reality.

For instance - if you don't know anyone who wears Nikes how do you know that Ascis are better shoe? That's a perception.

The anonymous poster claimed that Nike discontinued certain models that appealed to runners because they weren't marketable - that was actually false, and in learning that he has a different perception of the brand.

It doesn't really matter to me if you wear Asics, Adidas, Saucony, Brooks, Mizuno, Rebook, Saucony, Pearl, Puma, NB, or those illegal shoes with the springs in them. Nike having to continue to prove themselves in the marketplace is the reason I get to have a ridiculously awesome job. But the initial question being addressed was:

It seems like there's a general agreement that Nike has, in many ways, strayed too far from its running roots. I'm going to do follow-up post on what Nike can do to reclaim its DNA.

Which is a statement I emphatically disagree with. And I hardly think that the fact there were logistical complications with a 10K course, or durability issues with one of their gadgets, or that Robin doesn't have a friend who rocks Pegs, add up to the fact that Nike has strayed from their running roots (or at least is continuing to stray). Like I say, name another brand proactively giving back to runners like Nike has been.

But I do think that the fact this discussion exists, and this isn't the first time I've come across it, is pretty indicative of why what I do, and my programs, are so important in reasserting the authenticity back into a brand that many have dismissed. Which makes me happy that I matter (kind of). Even if it means I've spent the day commenting here. Time for a run...

anaandjelic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anaandjelic said...

Ple1: I hope you had a good run. So, to try to make things simple. If Nike – as you claim – wants to “support runners on more levels and on more places”, isn’t that place also right here and right now? Isn’t your job – as the present voice of Nike brand right now for us – to enter dialogue and to try to correct any misconseptions that there may exist?

People are loyal/not loyal to a brand because in particular situation a brand failed or not failed them. If all those people claim that they can’t find running shoes they want, or a gadget doesn’t work, or a site crashes, or a run is poorly organized – that’s where they have been failed by Nike brand.

Then your job might be to maybe try to mend those breaking points (and not to create another sore point). You can do that by providing useful information, by listening, and by taking notes so you can make next experience better. You can mend a maybe broken relationship though THIS experience - the experience of our present conversation with the brand. So why don’t you enter dialogue, and ask us (not fight with us) what can you do to help me run better?

The information you got here in this discussion is that not all runners are convinced that Nike is the best shoe choice for them. So the good marketing/branding strategy should then outreach and target exactly those people – who have bad experiences and/or bad perceptions of Nike running shoes. You’ve got hell lot of free information here – and turn them into actionable insights. [their goal being: let’s try to reach out to those passionate runners who for some reason don’t wear Nike shoes and target some of our marketing efforts towards them].

What all of us (you, me, and the rest of this crowd) have in common is the passion for running. That’s a good starting point – and a common ground - for a conversation. We – both the brand and the runners - all want to make it a better experience. Help us with that.

Anonymous said...

ple,

just checked your profile. you are in a marketing position, not a design one, which is what i was referring to earlier. can you 100% confirm that the designers in beaverton that work on running shoes are 100% "serious" runners?

Cheap and Evil Girl said...

I cannot even begin to tell you on how poorly organized this race was - in some cases, completely unsafe. At one point, we had to stop running as the lead pack came by or risk falling down an embankment into the East River (no thank you). They stopped us again the footbridge - literally - stopped us - explaining the lead runners were racing for time and couldn't be imepeded. That didn't go over very well either. A NYRR official said this was all Nike's doing, butthey have to take responsibility too. Never again.

Steve said...

Not sure if anyone's reading this anymore, but I have a couple of things to say about the Nike+ Human Race LA run. LA had honor-system corrals, which are always sketchy. Not sure how they could have done it better though, because people generally looked to be first time runners or, dare I say, not "serious" runners. Which is fine, except I'm not sure that they knew their per-mile pace. The only bit of advice I'd give to Nike for future events of this nature would be to have 5, 6,...10, 11, and 12 minute corrals, then one in the back called "Just here for Kanye" (or whoever the performer in your city happened to be).
I lined up in the front of the 7-minute corral, which put about a hundred or so runners ahead of me. Right off the bat, a 90-degree left turn. You can imagine how that went. Must've been much worse behind me too. I've done plenty of races of varying distances, and I've never been shoved and elbowed more in the first 2-tenths. Part of it was the left turn, but people also sprinted out of the gate shoving their way through the crowd. Mostly kids - teenagers - who probably have never run something like that before. I'd put them in the "Just here for Kanye" corral next time, because they didn't last long at that pace. I think it's great they're out there, but I do think that Nike has some responsibility to educate those who are new to events about conduct during the race. Some bumping and elbowing is unavoidable, but in most races, such a thing is usually followed by a "sorry" or some subtle gesture that suggests it was an accident. In this event, it was shoving, and quite unapologetic.
Nike had everyone in the corrals at 8pm, and showed some marketing vids and introduced a mess of celebrities/athletes, and had some trainer sort of warm everyone up. A couple of words during that half-hour about the purpose of the corrals and a word of caution about physical contact may have been wise, and seen by seasoned runners (there were a few)that Nike is trying to put on a quality event for everyone, even those who weren't there to see Kanye.
Course was dark, as mentioned before, and I noticed streetlights that were off. Also, as mentioned, construction and wavy, potholed, patchy blacktop through some intersections. Not terrible, but the Nike trainer who was announcing repeatedly boasted that Nike was putting on the best events in the best cities on 8/31, and had the best courses. I actually liked the course, but to say that's the best course in LA is ridiculous.
A couple of minor things that could be fixed -
Hard to find water or any liquid for that matter about an hour before the start. For whatever reason, I was thirsty, and even found an Arrowhead Water tent, with pallets of water bottles. However, the girls working the tent wouldn't give out the water, saying the purpose of that tent was to recycle water bottles for a free t-shirt after the race. They didn't know where I could get water. I asked at all of the various sponsor tents and nobody knew where to get water or Gatorade or anything wet. This is nit-picky, but the water they handed out at the end of the race was warm. It had obviously been sitting on pallets in the sun all day. I understand that, but hey Nike, how 'bout some ice?
Finally, disposable (perhaps biodegradable) gloves for the water station volunteers. Nit-picky again, but if your hand is going to be in my water...
As I write this, I realize I could solve all of my problems by bringing my own bottle(s). But, this was my first Nike race, and given the excessive promotion, and Nike's experience on the subject, I looked forward to a top-notch operation.
This was my second race of the day, having run the Virginia Beach Rock 'N Roll half marathon earlier in the day, before catching a plane to LA for this event. I naturally compared the two races, and Elite Racing put on a better event than Nike that day. That said, I did have a great time at the Nike event. There is room for improvement --but really, there always is.

John at Hella Sound said...

@Ana Andjelic
I'm callin' BS. Looking at Brian's pic, I see someone who's wearing a technical (meaning moisture-wicking, non-cotton) sleeveless tee, probably some low-weight technical short; I'll bet you my left one he is conscientious about changing out his shoes after X miles and does not run in an old pair of chuck taylors. And I'll bet his socks are another masterwork of synthetic fibers and technology. I'd also bet he's got a Garmin on--not some old Timex he picked up for $5 at Wal*Mart.

You make some valid points about consumerism, but I think what you're saying is passing through an idyllic fantasy vision of what a "real" runner is.

Just my opinion. Only Brian can verify if he runs in a shirt he painted his apartment in a week ago. Brian?

Brian Morrissey said...

John,
The truth, as always, lies somewhere in between. I'm wearing a five-year-old Sugoi wicking shirt. I wore it in something like 10 marathons before retiring it. I'll save you the details, but parts of it had hardened. The shorts are those RaceReady ones with the pockets for gels. I'm sure I have some kind of $10 wicking socks on. My sneakers are Asics 2100s or whatever they were at that point. No Garmin for me, just a Timex Ironman. You can get them pretty cheap at Campmor oddly enough.

JPS said...

Maybe belated, but some thoughts about the Nike brand came to mind.

Nike is at an interesting point in their brand history/future. I think they clearly have the history and a foundation to build something that's real to real runners, but they've not been the best brand stewards over the past few years.

When I was doing Levi's work, we had one guy - one guy - at the agency who was the final word on how things impacted the brand. He was the steward, he had an instinctive feel for what fit and what didn't, and how that applied to different lines of Levi's business. It wasn't until after he died (at a young age of lung cancer), and the Levi's leadership who bought into his thinking had departed, that Levi's lost their way and lost touch w/ their key demographics (high school kids basically). I was there for that part, and it wasn't pretty. Incidentally, the Levi's leadership who left went to Banana Republic and was responsible for their rejuvination in the mid- to late-90's. They ran the same playbook.

To me, branding is very much a mix of art and science, and is not something that can be managed with McKinsey ppt presentations. It takes a real focus and understanding, and also some faith that someone or some group is doing the right thing. I suspect that Nike now has many different lines of business in multiple geographies, with nobody having final authority in asking "is this right for the brand?".

anaandjelic said...

@ John at Hella Sound,

You already got a response from Brian re: what he was wearing. Sure thing, my position can be seen as "idyllic", but it is also based on experience (my own and other people's). And of course there will be a ton of variation in what people are wearing when they run. The point i was making was a response to ple1's assessment that it is "serious" runners who wear expensive gear (and it seems to me that you imply the same). That kind of thinking reveals a marketing position that focuses too much on its own brand and its own products, and not enough on people and their experience (that does not concern what they are wearing). my shoes are not my running experience.

John at Hella Sound said...

@Brian
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

@anaandjelic
[snip]"and it seems to me that you imply the same"[/snip]
Nope, not fully. I was mostly speaking to your reference of Brian's pic and, frankly, what I read as generalizations on your part.

I guess--if truth be 100% told--in talking with a lot of runners and reading a lot of runners' blogs, my perspective would be that "serious" runners do splurge on *some* gear, whether it be a favorite shoe, a Garmin, socks or whatever. Whether or not it's Nike is a different story.

anaandjelic said...

that is probably very true. it is also hard to take the argument from a specific case (brian) and to apply it all "serious " runners. i was mostly thinking that running gear is not what running experience is about. [at least not completely]

PLe1 said...

My apologies on the delayed response Anonymous...the head of the Nike Innovation Kitchen (the Nike R&D Department/design studio) is Tinker Hatfield who ran under Bowerman at Oregon. Kind of a real runner.

I've met a handful of the developers at Boston and NYC and I really don't know how "serious" of runners they were, though definitely runners, but they did gait analysis for hours and spent the whole time gathering feedback from runners. They were very interesting to be around because they understood the product and it's development so well. It was really a great experience.

TunaTacoGrande said...

I have a pair of Brooks, but I am a very terrible runner.

scotjs said...

Great Post! As an avid runner I have found Mizunos to suit me the best.

Silents said...

OK, so I am a little late to this party, but I did want to answer Anonymous's post on Septemebr 5th about the designers at Nike. Please check out the team results for the 2008 Hood to Coast Relay (www.hoodtocoast.com). The Bowerman Athletic Club won that race by 20 + minutes, with an average chip pace of 5:10 / mile. The designers, product managers and yes some fo the marketing team make up the Bowerman Athletic Club.
So with that said, YES they are runners, real fast runners.
And to Ana, your main complaints about Nike seem to be around the runner's experience. Can you name one runner's experience in NYC (other than the NYC Marathon and without 'Google - ing') that is sponsored by a running brand other than Nike?
A person's perception of what is good is based on input from a variety of sources. Feel and fit are usually the two most important when selecting a shoe, but what role does a friend's opinion play? or the sales person at your local RSG? or the reviewer in you favorite running publication? All of those play a part in a person's opinion. All PLe1 was saying in his original post was that Nike make makes good quality footwear on par with other companies. You have made up your mind and I can respect that, but don't dare say that I am not a real runner, becasue I run in less than 6 month old shirts, shoes and shorts. I have planned my running for the past 20 years, including 7 marathons, 6 half marathons, numerous 5 and 10K's and thousands of miles....all in Nike. Maybe you heard of their founder, a Mr. Bill Bowerman. Who had coached 31 Olympians, was the Track Coach of the U of Oregon for 24 years and universally credited with bring running as a means of physical fitness to the US from New Zealand in the early 60's.

anaandjelic said...

Hey Silents,

What are you trying to say here? That we should be happy that someone is organizing crappy races and that IS in fact an accomplishment because NO ONE ELSE is doing so?

That's a flawed reasoning and, truth to be told, not very unlike what is a schoolbook example of arrogant brands: "take what we offer because you don't have an alternative".

I like 5K Revlon Anti-Breast Cancer runs. Revlon is not a running brand, but seems to do a good job.

Keywords: HUMILITY & LISTENING

Silents said...

Ana
Please do some research and you will see that NYRR puts on Revlon's Races and the Human Race. They are the race organizers, they lay out the course and certify it. The City of NY does not allow races in Central Park on the Sunday of Labor Day, so where would you like the race to take place. I too have heard it wasn't the greatest race and yes there was problems but at the end of day, the race genreated millions of dollars for three charities. I don't see arrogance in Revlon or any brand that pays to have races that raise money for charities, I see humility and generousity. The only two entities that make money on a race is NYRR and the City of NY.
Maybe what NYC needs is a competant race agency and an City Events Department that actually cares about runners?

ana said...

Silents,

I don't think that Revlon race had anything arrogant about it (for me, it emanated exactly what you said - generosity and humility). What I do see as arrogant is how some Nike people (see ple1's comments above) did not respond in a humble manner to the criticism displayed here. It is great that Nike race generated millions of dollars for three charities. What is much less great is that people who donated that money - the runners - were unhappy about the race.

I appreciate that you admit that Nike's Human Race had its flaws, and I hope that Nike can learn from its mistakes. I also hope that comments above can be helpful in planning the Human Races in the future.

What I do not understand, however, is if NYRR (and not Nike) should be blamed for the "fiasco" of the NYC September's race?

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