So obviously Merrell didn’t send us all to NY just to stuff us all with delicious food, give us pricey swag (very nice shirt, shorts, hoodie, and of course shoes, all in a fancy bag), and to allow me to run a pretty epic mile down 5th ave. TANSTAAFL, after all. What did they want from us? Us being
Christian Peterson: Maple Grove Barefoot Guy
Jason Robillard: Barefoot Running University
Shelly Robillard: Shoeless Shel Bell
Justin Owings: Birthday Shoes
Tucker Goodrich: Yelling Stop
Kate Kift: Ramblings on Barefoot Running, Motherhood, and Life
Jesse Scott: In Search of Solid Ground
Peter Larson: RunBlogger
Dr. Mark Cucuzella: Natural Running Center
Amby Burfoot: a.k.a. 1968 Boston Marathon winner and former executive editor at Runner’s World
Warren Greene: Runner’s World
Adam Chase: Running Times
Jay Dicharry: UVA Enduro Sport
Nicholas Pang: Minimalist Running Shoes
Curt Monson: Playmakers Shoes
Pablo Paster: Treehugger Magazine
(List stolen from Justin, who stole it from Christian. See, there is honor among thieves)
And there were a few others, too. Lotsa people. So… why?
I got back to the hotel after the race, trying to get my head in the game. “Don’t be a cocky jerk. Don’t talk too much. Don’t try too hard to be funny. Don’t get all fanboy at Amby. Don’t bitch about Zem copyrighting Less Shoe, More You. AND DON’T BE A COCKY JERK.”
I waltz into the meeting room where everyone had gathered to eat and share ideas about the barefoot movement/cult/happening. “Dudes and Dudettes, you are looking at a sub-five minute miler. Feel free to worship my feet!” Crap. I broke rules one, two, and three with one sentence. “And did I tell you about what Zem did?” Ugh. I’m hopeless. Fortunately, everyone else was polite. They either knew me from the blog and expected such nonsense, or they figured such weirdos like me were part of the deal when in NY.
After chit-chatting, eating a tasty lunch, looking at Merrell’s new shoe line up, and eating some more, we settled down for the roundtable discussion. You can see some footage at Birthday Shoes. It looks like I’m taking copious notes, and then pick my nose. I was doing neither; the scribbling was just that. I doodle to keep myself focused, and my nose itched. I swear I wasn’t picking it.
I did take a few notes of things people said that stuck out, though. Here they are:
Truth over harmony
Cool to play again
We need a cashier shoe more than a running shoe
Primal = masculine
That last note prompted me to write down an observation of my own: we need more study of the lives of women in paleolithic times.
Looking over that list, I think I managed to sum up the discussion pretty succinctly. Wow. That’s a greater accomplishment for me than any race I could ever run.
Of course Merrell wants to sell shoes. But, and here’s one of the neat aspects of the whole free market thing, is that they stand to gain a LOT if they are at the forefront of a meme change. A shoe that leaves the foot alone instead of binding and cushioning and supporting would do a world of good for everybody, including the 97% of the population that doesn’t run.
I consider myself a barefoot (not “minimalist”) advocate, and felt a little exasperated at how shoey the whole “barefoot” event was. It was funny to go watch the “Kudus” talk later that evening about being barefoot, while surrounded by a bunch of tables covered in the latest shoes. But irony is such a rule of nature that it should be one of the laws of physics. My wish for bare feet to be more acceptable in society and for more people to join in barefoot yahoolery could very well be made possible by shoe companies like Merrell. I mean that, and I don’t think it’s all the free food and beer and swag talking.
“It was amazing,” said the Merrell reps (I’m paraphrasing). “When we brought Jason on board, and he gave our employees the barefoot spiel, people who never ran started to run. We cleared a four mile trail near our offices, and everyone is on it all the time. He turned Merrell into a running company.”
If they wanted to make a slam dunk argument that a shoe company has a place in the barefoot movement, they made it as far as I’m concerned.
Thank you Merrell for a wonderful weekend. It was great meeting everybody. I would love to do it again.
As the meeting wrapped up, I said to Amby, “this whole time I’ve been trying to think of something to pick your brain about. I got nothing. All I can say is that it has been an honor just to be in the same room with you.”
And down went rule number four.