As the fall racing season wore down in 1983, I managed to race twice in November, a 32:08 10K on the 6th and a 32:26 10K in the Vertel’s Turkey Trot on November 20. The splits in that race indicated that I was reaching the end of the racing peak rope. 5:00-10:06-15:22-20:40-25:56 and 32:26. After six races that fall, I was tapped out.
Then an invitation to join the Running Unlimited Racing Team arrived in the mail. The agreement outlined the basics of being a semi-sponsored runner.
- Qualifications: the criteria for becoming and remaining a member of the Running Untld. Racing Team are (loosely) defined as follows:
Frequently enter and complete races of middle to long distance (1/2 mile to ultramarathon)
Usually place first, second, or third in age-group competition in major races (i.e., races with hundreds of entrants.
2. Responsibilities of Running Unltd.
Running Unltd agrees to:
Provide the Racing Team member each year with a running uniform consisting of a pair of racing shorts, a singlet, and a Nylon training suit, each bearing the name, logo, etc of Running Unltd.
Provide running shoes as needed for training and racing at a cost to the Running Team Member of 30% less than the dealer cost including shipping.
Provide other running gear needed by the Running Team Member for his/her personal use at dealer cost.
Pay the Running Team Member’s entry fees for up to 10 races per year, mutually agreed upon in advance.
Pay automobile mileage charges, to and from, up to 10 races per year, mutually agreed upon in advance.
Provide shoes and running apparel for purchase by the Running Team Member, for the use of members of his/her immediate family, at 17% discount from Running Unltds/ usual retail price.
3. Responsibilities of the Running Team member
The Running Team Member agrees to:
Maintain (him/her) self in a state of fitness appropriate for high-level competition.
Wearing the Running Unltd. uniform, run a minimum of 10 mutually agreed-upon races each year, with emphasis on races in the geographical area primarily served by Running Unltd. i.e., the Northwest Chicago suburbs.
Purchase from Running Unltd, at the Running Team Member’s personal discounts defined above, only those items needed for his/her personal training and racing.
Share transportation to and from races whenever possible, to decrease the cost to Running Unltd.
4. Termination of this agreement.
Running Unltd. and the Racing Team member agree that this agreement can be determined immediately upon notification of one party by the other.
Ten races per year…
I didn’t think the ten races per year was an unreasonable expectation. I’d raced ten times on the roads in 1983 with good results throughout the year. I didn’t include the indoor two-miles I’d run in 9:29 early in the year or the Vertel’s Turkey Trot at the end of November, which I ran after making up this list.
We mutually signed the Running Unltd. document in January of 1984. The store owners Frank and Carolyn Gibbard welcomed many other exceptional runners to the team that year. They included Jukka Kallio, a 2:19 marathoner of Finnish descent, the Macnider brothers Jim and John, both D3 All-Americans from North Central, along with Rick Stabeck, Bill Friedman, and a few other quality guys as well.
The uniforms were Nike gear. I loved the blue and white theme, as it echoed my Luther College Norseman days. Going into the year, I purchased the best racing flats I’d ever known, the Nike AirEdge. They offered the best grip I’d ever felt in a road racing shoe. The white shoe material had a modest sheen with semi-iridescent Nike Swoosh logos that were blue on one side and red on the other. I absolutely loved those shoes. If my memory is wrong about the year I purchased and wore those, I apologize. Perhaps my love for that shoe spread too wide. But in 1984, I’d add a pair of Nike Eagle racing shoes to the mix, also red-white-and-blue.
I also purchased a set of Nike Pegasus training shoes, one of the first editions introduced to the market. They were gray with a blue swoosh, and went smashingly well with our all-blue Running Unltd. nylon warmups in blue and gray.
To say I was pumped going into the New Year was an understatement. I’d been studying my training from the previous year and learned a few things from the progression, and wrote in my journal, “Read some good articles on rest and mental attitude. The athlete who learns to accept pain, to maintain concentration in spite of pain’s distracting presence is the athlete who succeeds. I’ve failed mildly at that––in Sycamore, in Aurora. Those “places” don’t seem to matter during the discomfort. Actually the rationalization takes place going into the pain, not during it. The “depositioning” that occurs is an excuse for letting up––slacking the tempo is a grievous mistake. Instead of competing at this point––find a tempo and concentrate on matching it. You’ve never failed when the chips are there to be had. You always sprint, Christopher. Don’t just go for it, work for it.”
It would be four more years before the Nike slogan “Just Do It” would be introduced to the world. But I seemed to anticipate that philosophy in my 1984 journal. I guess you could say that when it came to a commitment to running, I was “all-in” for the Olympic year and everything that came with it. While my personal philosophy wasn’t on a par with the Nike campaign Just Do It, my motto going forward was indicative of my state of mind: “Sign me up.”