Bloomberg Businessweek

Growing at an Athleisurely Pace

It got the running nerds. Now Brooks has to conquer the jogging herds.

According to the people at Brooks Sports Inc., I’m not a runner. I’m what’s known within the company as a person who runs. “There’s a difference,” says Brooks Chief Executive Officer Jim Weber, who’s run three to five mornings a week, every week, for 35 years but apparently isn’t a runner either. When he says this, I give him a look, because, frankly, that’s ridiculous. I’ve been running for more than two decades. I run on business trips and vacations. I track my weekly mileage and voluntarily eat packets of electrolyte-enhanced goo that—why does no one talk about this?—tastes like mediocre cake frosting. In 2016, I ran my first marathon, an experience that melded transcendent euphoria and throbbing pain into an entirely new emotion I can’t really describe, other than to say it was both the best and worst thing I’ve ever felt. How am I not a runner?

“That’s a self-defined runner,” Weber explains, not a runner in the competitive, professional sense. And that’s all right, because—and here Weber lowers his voice like he’s gossiping about someone behind her back—“Running’s not really a sport.”

He has a point. Every year, 19 million Americans participate in some kind of organized road race—five times the number of people who play in basketball leagues—but most aren’t competing to win anything. Some 28 million more run regularly but don’t race. “Nobody remembers who won the Olympic marathon and what shoe they were wearing,” Weber says. So for Brooks, the 104-year-old Seattle-based company that makes running gear, and only running gear, to persuade those 47 million people to drop $100 to $180 on a pair of

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