On a random Thursday in July, I called in a PTO day and drove myself up to Boulder for a full day of trail running with New Balance. Truthfully, I’m not sure how the New Balance PR team found me online but I was super jazzed and humbled to be invited to attend the launch of their new Foam Fresh 980 trail running shoes.
But let’s back up a bit first.
In college, I had and loved a pari burnt orange New Balance classic style sneaks. I wore them everywhere to the point of wearing multiple holes into the toebox fabric and my then-boyfriend-now-husband was on the verge of refusing to be seen with me in my tattered shoes. I hadn’t thought much about New Balance after that until I attended a marketing conference in Boston last year and the Director of Global Marketing and Brand Management for New Balance, Hillary Keats, spoke about their Runnovation initiative, telling inspiring runner stories and, ultimately, redefining running as a social activity. The presentation was super interesting and I liked what I heard from Hillary Keats; New Balance was back on my radar.
Fast forward to this July. When the PR contact emailed me, inviting me to participate in this trail running event to celebrate the Foam Fresh 980 shoe launch, I excitedly wrote back, I’m in! I had no idea what I was signing up for but knew I wanted to be part of the ‘runnovation’ I’d heard about last October in Boston.
On that Thursday, after meeting the full group of ‘media’ – which included some friendly faces I already know! Heidi, Marissa, Heather and Kia were also invited – and elite runners – like Anton Krupicka, a dude who WINS 100 mile races – we all hopped on a bus bound for Fowler Trail in Eldorado Canyon near Boulder to take a pair of brand spankin’ new Foam Fresh 980 trail shoes out for a spin.
We set out on a (hot!) 3 mile trail run. And when you set out a bunch of blogger friends out on a trail run, you can absolutely expect we will stop to take photos on pretty trails.
What I failed to mention is that while we bloggers were beginning our 3 mile loop, the elite runners were (probably) finishing their 3 mile loop. They’ve got speedy, speedy legs! New Balance team runners included Anton Krupicka, Dominic Grossman, Gina Lucrezi and Brandy Erholtz.
After the trail run, we headed back to Boulder for some lunch and a Q&A with the New Balance elite runners. It was incredibly interesting to hear about their race perspective, training schedules and daily lives. I (foolishly) assumed that because each person was a New Balance sponsored athlete, they didn’t work ‘normal’ jobs but that is so far from the truth! Brandy is a new mom and balances training (and winning races) with parenting, being a wife, a full time job as a teacher and coaching track. Dominic is an engineer and manages employees at an office. Until recently, Gina also held a full time job but is now able to dedicate herself to her running full time. Anton was the only one of the group who runs full time.
It felt like an ‘ah ha!’ moment, realizing these elite runners, while definitely kickass at running, are normal people like the rest of us. They work to find time to train AND have lives, they face race disappointment and injury, they are realistic and down to earth. And while their bucket list races are VERY different than mine, they have races they aspire to run and crush.
One of their closing remarks was about being approachable and it really struck me. They’d been asked about how to foster community in the ultrarunning world and they all echoed the same thing. Be approachable. You (read: they) might have just won a race but that race kicked your ass just as much as the person who finishes last. You’re all in the same mental and physical fatigue pain cave at the end of a race – just because you’re faster doesn’t mean the slower runners didn’t work as hard or don’t feel as tired. So if you see these folks at a race, go say hi! They’re super nice, very personable and really interesting.
I left the event feeling super inspired – almost convinced I should sign up for a trail ultramarathon! But then I came to my senses and remembered super long distances aren’t my thing. At all. I’ll leave the ultra running to Heidi and Paula.
But what about the shoes, right?
Well, I’ll get a full review up soon but I really, really, really like them for trail running (and walking). The shoe is super cushioned – as you’d expect with Foam in the name – but also super stable and grippy on rocky trails.
I’ve been running in only these shoes on trails since New Balance gave them to me; they make my feet and knees feel really great on uphills and downhills alike. I also brought these guys on my road trip for hikes at Arches National Park, the Grand Canyon and Mesa Verde National Park – super comfortable for long walks and hours standing/walking. More to come but I am definitely a big fan of these shoes.
tl;dr New Balance Foam Fresh 980s are a super cushion-y trail running shoe and the New Balance elite team runners are badasses. Say hi when you see them.