PUMA Ignite, Middle School, and Chasing Carl Lewis

On my run today, I test ran a pair of new shoes. I always love the feel of a new pair of running shoes. And I love how they smell. The smell of a new pair of shoes is like the smell of food before its eaten.

There’s a lot of commotion lately about running shoes. It never used to be that way. When I was growing up running in the 1980s and 1990s, people didn’t take such care in the type of shoes they wore to run. They just ran in whatever was comfortable.

Now, with so many runners around the world, there’s a lot of pairs of feet out running on the streets. And there’s no shortage of shoe companies trying to fit those feet with their shoes. The shoes I wore today was the PUMA Ignite. I haven’t worn a pair of PUMAs since the track spikes I wore to race the 100 meters and 400 meters in middle school. Those spikes were classic. So putting on the PUMA Ignite was a flashback to middle school. For that reason alone, I liked them, because I was pretty quick in middle school. So anything that reminds me of middle school track and field is already on Jason’s list of favorite things.

PUMA2

PUMA

I also wore a pair of PUMAs the day I raced Carl Lewis. It was the summer before my junior year of high school, and I was racing Carl at a fundraiser track meet at his high school in Willingboro, New Jersey.

Although I was quick as a kid, somewhere between eighth grade and reality it occurred to me that I wasn’t blessed with a sprinter’s raw speed. But as I stood in front of my blocks at the starting line in those PUMA spikes, it was time to reawaken my long over-slept fast-twitch muscle fibers to get me through this race.

To my right, there was nothing but the awaiting faces of the spectators. To my left stood a man six feet, two inches tall, wearing a skin-tight, spider-webbed, half-body suit that revealed a muscular cocoon so defined it was as if it had been sculpted by Rodin. His shoes were dazzling, silver and purple, flew-in-from-Milan jobs that must have kept Mizuno shoemakers working around the clock to perfect.

“Runners, take your marks,” said the starter, and I coiled myself into the blocks.

“Set…” he raised his voice and the rectus femoris muscle in my legs flexed in anxious attention.

As the gun smoked, I catapulted out of the blocks and sprinted down the track. I had a great start, and I was in the lead. Carl is known as a slow starter, but at any step I expected him to catch me. For the first ten meters, I could feel my spikes grabbing the track, pushing it behind me, propelling me forward. At twenty meters, I could feel my arms cut through the slight breeze like a knife. But where was Carl? Thirty meters, and I was still ahead. It wasn’t until forty meters into the race that I realized for the first time something that I had been dreaming about for years–I was beating the fastest man in the world. But then he came, like he comes in every race he has ever run. I was running faster than I ever had before, but the next 20 meters passed me in slow motion. As I felt Carl gain on me, like a Ferrari on a station wagon, I disobeyed Satchel Paige’s maxim and looked back. It was a small glance, out of the corner of my eye; I couldn’t help myself.

And suddenly, at 60 meters, when Carl was finally even with me, an excited chill ran up my spine all the way to my ears. I wanted that one moment to last forever. I spent the last 40 meters watching Carl’s graceful strides and powerful arm swing as I tried to reach the finish line as fast as I could. But I didn’t want to see the race come to an end. I crossed the finish line in the lights of the photographers’ flashes as they focused their cameras on Carl. I got a chill today just thinking about it.

And that’s what I thought about on my run today in the pair of PUMAs. Very comfortable shoe. Thanks, PUMA, for the memories.

This post is sponsored by FitFluential on behalf of PUMA.

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