It was a simple purchase. Buying new road racing flats. But I am these days convinced it really was a plot of some sort. A clandestine experiment to see how much joy in running a human being could take.
It was those Nike Air Edges. You probably do not know about this shoe. They were only manufactured for one year. This is clear evidence that the controlled experiment was confined to a small group of individuals like myself who fell for the tragically insane comfort and responsiveness of these racing flats made by Nike, the grand masters of shoe addiction around the world. Did you see the recent London Olympics? Almost every distance runner wore bright yellow Nike racing spikes. Tell me that wasn’t a planned coup! But I digress.
If the original Nike Air Edge racing flat not been some sort of corporate intrigue by Nike, then why were the shoes discontinued when they in fact produced incredible effects in the people who wore them?
Let us take my humble participation in this secret experiment for an example. And perhaps my bravery in exposing this massive intrigue will encourage others to confess their dependency on favorite shoes as well.
The Nike Air Edge was a brilliant combination of air sole in the heel and hugely responsive shoe foam in the forefoot. This enabled this simple racing shoe to absorb shock through the heel when you needed it, but did not slow you down when you were a forefoot striker doing 5:00 pace or better.
Yes, I know. That’s absolutely insidious, isn’t it? To make a shoe so good that it works two ways. And it was awfully wonderful to be a victim of the design genius of this particular shoe.
That year I raced 24 times, won 12 races and set PRs at 5K, 5 miles, 10K, 15K and 10 miles. Yes, it’s a tragic story already, I know. But it also involved PRs at the half marathon and 25K as well. Do you see what I mean? This was an absolutely cruel game for Nike to play, tantalizing me toward a full, absolute commitment to running. But here’s the tricky part: I could no longer tell if it was the shoes or me that was doing the work.
The Nike Air Edge was an evil, brilliantly conceived scheme to take over our lives, you see. In fact, the very next year I got married in a pair of silver Nike Pegasus. It’s true. And I gave Nike Pegasus to all the groomsmen, who wore them in the wedding as well. What kind of person does this? Never mind that it was my wife’s suggestion to make the Nike
Pegasus our footwear of choice, and that the shoes matched wonderfully with our silver and charcoal tuxedos. That’s how this whole conspiracy addiction thing works, you see. They rope you in and then even your closest associates and loved ones become enablers. You begin to wear Nikes for all sorts of other occasions. Even at nudist camps, for God’s sake. It was a conspiracy, I maintain. It really was. The voices in my head told me so.
It has taken years to get over the Nike Air Edge addiction. Treatment has included wearing racing flats by adidas, Puma and Asics, but nothing worked completely or as well as the Nike Air Edge. And once you’ve had a pair of perfect racing flats, it’s just like being an alcoholic. You can’t just settle for just any old shoe, or race and train halfheartedly. It’s either all or nothing. All in or all out. But I have only myself to blame. Putting one foot in front of the other in a pair of Nike Air Edges was like being hooked on smack. They don’t call it the 12 Step Program for nothing.
The joy of the perfect Air Edge lasted just a year. Then Nike tried to wean us distance runners off the perfect shoe. But it wasn’t easy. The Nike Air Edge appealed to those of us who fell easily for cosmetic gifts as well. For starters, the Air Edge had two different colored Nike swooshes, red on one side and blue on the other. I know, that’s really mean-looking, right? And the texture of the exterior surface of the shoes was almost velveteen. You could have sex with those shoes they were so sweet.
And the tread. Oh, God, the tread. The Nike Air Edge had fabulously designed tread that, get this, actually swayed to the arc of its curved last. Now that’s just cruel. Because it made running so natural and clean, and the rubber on the insole never failed to grip the road surface, not even in wet conditions. I recall running straight through puddles on my way to victory during the Frank Lloyd Wright 10K that year. Splish splash splush. And the water didn’t even seem to soak in, I was going so fast. Tra la la. That is really not something you can sustain forever, you know.
That kind of fearless running is not healthy or realistic. And I think that’s why Nike decided that despite the tremendous success of their experiment, they simply had to discontinue the Nike Air Edge or there would be dire consequences. Like, runners who ran themselves to death. It would not do to have runners collapsed in the ditches with news media standing around, holding out recorders and cameras while the vapid runner gasped his last words, “It was the Air Edges.”
To wean runners off the Nike Air Edge, the company turned the model into an all air-sole shoe the following year, but it was absolutely not the same shoe. Too much cushiony air under the forefoot actually slowed you down.
But now I realize: The “new” Nike Air Edge with an all airsole was like methadone. Not the same rush as the original, but it did serve to mask the the effects equipment addiction and allowed you to again function in society.
Oh, those of us involved in the experiment would still show up at 10ks with that hopeful look in our eyes, dreaming that the new Nike Air Edge would float us to victory. But it was never the same. Not without the original Nike Air Edge.
I once met with a counselor who told me it was important to confront unresolved issues in your life. So this is the first time I have confessed being part of Nike’s Untold Equipment Addiction Conspiracy. It feels good to get it out there, and confess. Tell the world that yes! I wore Nike Air Edges and I’m proud of it. Never mind that I never set another PR on the track or road racing again. It was worth it, damnit! I’m glad they used me and then spit me out. It was wonderful being used, and I’d do it again. And again. And Again. And AGain. Well, I think you get my point. It was wonderful. It really was.
But God I hope they never issue the Air Edge again.