Monday, December 28, 2009

The Good & the Bad: Brooks Running

I love Brooks Running. But every once in a while, my Midwestern passive-aggressive side flares up.

Any and all distaste I have for Brooks stems from the fact that I have lost count of the number of races I wear running in/promoting their gear (shoes, tights, sports bras, t-shirts, tank tops, socks), and yet month after month, race after race, I still don't make it into their Inspire Daily (I.D.) program. The I.D. program isn't that big of a deal -- until they constantly rub it in your face that you aren't a member, and boast to no end about letting in brand new members while you are still waiting for that acceptance (or in my case, rejection) letter. I love running, I register for countless races, and I inspire others to run/sign up for races nearly every month. And yet, I am just "not as inspiring" compared to the members for whatever reason, even though I fit all of their criteria for joining.

"Blah blah blah, try coaching, blah blah blah, try again next year, blah blah blah, okay you can leave me alone already," seems to be the feedback I receive after asking how to improve my chances of getting in the program. Thanks, guys. Maybe I don't get along well with kids. Maybe I prefer to promote running and Brooks by getting out there and demonstrating to my peers.

The discount that I.D. members get on Brooks apparel isn't a big deal to me, either; although it would be nice, it's the fact that they won't let me in because I fall into some grade-B plebeian class for not being a rock-star coach or athlete. I thought this was about everyday people inspiring everyday people?

On the other hand, I adore Brooks for the materials they use and how they are one brand that truly listens to comments/complaints/questions from their customers. They stand up for their products, are strictly focused on running and walking, are very earth-conscious, and all of their workers are insanely happy and extremely helpful. I work for a management consulting company, and I know how much employee engagement pays for itself. Brooks is the epitome of an engaged workforce. I admire them for all they do to keep workers and customers satisfied. They are doing something very, very right and other companies looking to boost morale need not look any further than the Brooks environment.

I also love Brooks for another undeniable reason: They saved my knees (i.e., they kept me from giving up on the sport of running).

I developed tendonitis in my last pair of shoes (I'll spare the company's name, as I'm sure their shoes are fine ... for other running types). I happened into a running store that overestimated my pronation, put me in a supportive shoe, and wore the tendons in my knees down like a pepper grinder. After seeing a doctor, taking time off from running, icing and elevating my joints after working out, and finally trying to change my gait, my knees were only getting worse.

I ran in The Other Company's shoes for years before my knees and I had had enough. I went back into the Running Store That Ruined My Knees and told them I thought there was something wrong with the shoes they were giving me. They re-analyzed my gait, looked at the wear pattern on the traction of said shoes, and apologized for their error in fitting me in the wrong type. They threw me in a Brooks neutral shoe, pushed me onto a treadmill, and I saw the light.

Without taking any time off of running -- by just wearing these new shoes -- my knee pain was gone within a week.

Thus commenced the "I Love Brooks!" phase in my life.

Well, until I realized they picked all the high school varsity kids to join their elementary kickball team and left me on the playground by my lonesome.

I guess I should say, thus began my love affair with the Glycerin 7 and all the Brooks clothing I could find that would make a complete outfit.

I recently learned that my savior neutral shoes are going off the market. Starting January 1, 2010, Brooks is going to roll out their new models. I've read about the improvements in the updated shoes, but Brooks is sort of an old-man shoe company in that their color selection is fairly non-existent. They are a durable shoe and a diehard company, but I don't know if they realize how many women run in their shoes and care a hair about appearance. I might not care about appearance very much -- okay, I lied; the "praying mantis" green Launch series could use a feminine makeover -- but I love my pink Glycerin 7s. Not the gold Glycerin 7s, not the baby blue Glycerin 7s, and certainly not the purple Glycerin 8s that will be on the shelves soon. Allow me to reiterate: I love my pink Glycerin 7s.

I had a moment of panic when I heard my pink Glycerin 7s will no longer be available. I thought about buying as many as I could from (hey, I still have that giftcard, right?), and I thought about buying out the stock left on Brooks's Web site. But then I knew I was being irrationally ludicrous. These shoes have lasted me 13 races this year, ranging from 3.1 miles to 15.535 miles AND all the daily training in between, and, especially after reading Born to Run, I'm not worried about the shoe "dying" and me being stranded because there is no padding left. After a dude wore his choice pair of shoes for 4,000 miles, I know my Brooks will last me just as long. I believe in Brooks, I believe in my shoes, and I believe that they have truly become an extension of my leg. My pink Glycerin 7s have become an everyday part of my life. They have become synonymous with my feet.

While enjoying my time back at work today, the miracle phone call came. A few weeks ago, I went into my new and awesome running store, Marathon Sports (sorry, Running Store That Ruined My Knees) to buy a balaclava and, in passing, I asked if they happened to have any pink Glycerin 7s in my size. They said no, they might not be getting any more in -- ever -- but they'll call me if they do. Today they got a pair. In pink. In my size. I freaked. And better yet, because the shoes weren't in when I originally inquired, they gave me an additional 30% off. Kudos to you for your need for customer satisfaction, Marathon Sports. You and Brooks make an unstoppable team.

Today, I'm the proud owner of these beautiful, soon-to-be-rare pink Glycerin 7s.

Yes, I am replacing a pair of shoes with the exact same pair of shoes. (And yes, I still plan on wearing my old pink Glycerin 7s for a long time to come.) My heart couldn't feel more full. I feel a renewed sense of love toward Brooks because of this satisfaction I am experiencing. I also understand their motto even a little bit more today: Run Happy.

These will probably be my last pair of pink Glycerin 7s until I have to surrender to another color or model. But I'll deal with that change 20+ years down the road. ;) I love my pink Glycerin 7s, and I love a great Marathon Sports deal. Merry Christmas to me. Again.

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