Pearl Izumi and Pussy Apology

I think this is the first time I’ve ever typed “Pussy Apology”, but I did NOT mean to call anyone a pussy— I just wanted to say that first.

Where to begin?

Here’s the apology I stuck up on The Marathon Show wall:

Hi all, sorry for the delayed reply. Yes, I took down the post because I didn’t mean it the way it was interpreted and it was just better to delete than to explain/argue on tons of separate threads. I’m sorry if anyone was offended, my intention was to spark some healthy debate which sort of got out of control. My main point was – I wasn’t offended by the ad campaigns, and if you’re a runner you know who you are. You’re not defined by campaigns/products, etc. But I either didn’t say it right, or something got badly misunderstood. I certainly wasn’t trying to call anyone a pussy. I’m trying to form a better apology/response on the blog, but in the meantime please accept my humble apologies.

In case you went to bathroom and missed my entire last post—I wrote a piece that I hoped would be an engaging debate on Pearl Izumi’s last ad campaign. It went viral immediately and in a matter of seconds I got a flurry of personal attacks. You guys are really fast readers.

I did not in any way intend to be:

  • Offensive
  • An asshat
  • A jackass
  • Shameful
  • Stupid
  • Immature
  • A bad representative of ____ (insert noun)

Or any of the other things that were mentioned.

Although I didn’t mean any harm, I do want to take responsibility and apologize to anyone who was offended. I think “pussy” was definitely the wrong word to use here. (Title: Pear Izumi Separates the Runners From the Pussies… I Mean Joggers)

All who reacted negatively were people who don’t know me, whereas I got positive comments from those who do know and follow me. I hope this speaks to my real-life character and reflects the more-positive spirit of my blog.

  • I do NOT apologize for my opinions—like the fact that I like the Pearl Izumi ads.
  • I do NOT apologize for feeling out of place in the mainstream running community. Or being different.

Here is what I do believe, and failed at expressing:

Runners are runners. Runners KNOW they are runners. Runners are NOT defined by an ad campaign.

I also want to add:

In life, people are going to call you names. EVEN if I truly meant to call you pussy. EVEN if Pearl Izumi called you a Jogger. So what?

Know yourself. Be yourself. And own that.

Don’t waste anger or negative energy on what others are saying. Life is too short. And do not EVER let an ad campaign put a label on you.

Part of me died a little inside when I deleted my last post because aside from the misunderstandings, I do stand by my opinions. I’m a strong believer in free speech and I believe a blog should be place where people are free to express themselves, regardless of how stupid their opinions are.

That said, my blog has now grown to a point where people are actually reading and sharing it in larger numbers. People know where I work and ultimately I deleted this post because they were contacting my job and I needed that to stop.

I wonder if going out of your way to try to get someone fired is in line with the “spirit of the marathon”? Vindictiveness and rage are not qualities that I’ve understood to be part of the running community.

That said, I understand and accept my responsibilities as an employee. And I have to make some decisions as to where to draw the line between my own freedom to blog, your freedom to attack me at work, and my responsibilities at the office.

I’ve learned a lot today.

I’m also embarrassed that a lot of heavy hitters like Joe from The Marathon Show and Marathon Maniacs got a wrong impression of me. I’m a Maniac myself and worked hard to get there, and I’ve chatted with Joe and love him, although I’m sure he doesn’t remember me. Some of the runners I most admire are Maniacs, and I’m truly humbled by them.

But I’m also saddened by the spirit of hate and revenge that so many of us are still feeding online. It puzzles me as to how people can harbor so much resentment to do and say the things they have to another human being for ANY reason. I’m ashamed of us as runners or joggers or whatever we are.

I really struggled with how to react to this, and I have decided to paste below the raw text from my original post. I feel people still have the right to read it and reach their own conclusions. I’m sorry if you find this re-posting offensive, and I completely understand if I lose you as a reader.

I simply could not bring myself to censor this blog in any way. And I hope that those who do stay can trust me to always express my opinion, even if I’m imperfect in my presentation or being a downright asshat.

In the end, I AM young and inexperienced, as one person noted. I’m just a runner still trying to find herself, figure out her place, and set herself apart from the rest of the crowd. And that was really the spirit behind this original troublesome post:

***

“Last night I got home to find a box of Pearl Izumi gear on my doorstep. I’ve never tried this product before, but they emailed me last week to ask if they could send over some clothes and shoes. I agreed.

Afterwards I found out that this brand has been frowned upon and called out on The Marathon Show due to an ad campaign that seems to trivialize “joggers” and slower, non-competitive runners. I went online to see what the debate was about, and here are the ads I found:

[Ad photos here]

The Criticisms

  • This campaign offends and trivializes slower runners.
  • We should be encouraging all physical activity, even walking.
  • Running does not have to be competitive.
  • Finishing a marathon is a big accomplishment, regardless of time.

My Reaction

Are the critics justified? Should we be holding this brand accountable for marginalizing slower or non-competitive runners? God knows I can be pretty damn slow.

But when I see these ads, I don’t think about speed or ability. To me, they’re about an attitude toward running.

They describe a person who is committed to running. Running is a large part of their life. It takes up a great deal of their time. They make sacrifices to run. They plan their schedules around running. They are runners.

These products are marketed to athletes who crave the wilderness and remote trails. Runners who move like wildlife. Not joggers who huff around the block because they ate too much and feel guilty.

We crave running for RUNNING. Not for health. Not for weight loss. Not for recognition.

That doesn’t mean we’re not slow sometimes. It doesn’t mean we never walk. It doesn’t mean we don’t run for fun. But when we do all those things, we still feel like cheetahs.

Years ago, I was that huffing, overweight runner. But even in my worst shape, I never considered myself a jogger. I was always a runner growing into my own skin. Now physically capable of doing what I always knew I must. 

A Marketing Risk

If we analyze this from a marketing viewpoint, Pearl Izumi has been successful. They have gotten people to debate their product, and they have taken a risk to create a sense of elitism around their brand. Instead of trying to sell to anyone with a pulse, they have carved out a very specific target market and risked the disdain of everyone else.

How is this any different than Marathon Maniacs? Selling clothing as a status symbol only to those who qualify? Yet nobody gets offended when they see a Maniac run by.

Or back when INKnBURN was successfully marketed to only ultra runners, you couldn’t wear the brand unless you had completed an ultra. Aspiring ultra runners waited patiently and planned for the day when they could finally wear INKnBURN.

A very vivid and pleasant memory for me was when Shacky peeled off the INKnBURN shirt off his back and handed it to me, right after I ran my first ultra distance. It such a positive emotional experience that I’ve since driven sales to that company, recommended them, gotten to know the owners, toured the facilities, written reviews, and marketed for them.

Stepping out of the running world, we see car commercials associated with elitism and luxury. Brands that aren’t just for ANYONE: Wines. Gourmet food. Clothing.

The value of setting up your brand as a status symbol is immeasurable, and from a business perspective I applaud Pearl Izumi for setting themselves apart, for speaking to me and “my kind” directly, and for reaching out to me personally.

Yes, physical activity is important at all levels. I spend most of my day encouraging others to become more active, to eat healthier, and reap the benefits of running. But that doesn’t mean I have everything in common with anyone who runs.

At a marathon starting line, I never feel like the other runners. How many of them dream of running 100 miles? How many of them run 20 miles the day before a race? How many schedule back-to-back ultras? How many look for the hardest, most challenging race they can find—and immediately sign up?

The products marketed to ALL runners are not for me—the GUs, the supportive shoes, the foam rollers. I don’t carb load, I don’t taper, and I don’t stretch. I’m more of a slap- a-sandwich-together-at-the-crack-of-dawn-and-don’t-come-home-until-it’s-dark type of runner.

The truth is I’ve never been drawn to a running brand that targets the masses. In fact, anything targeting the masses is an immediate turn-off for me. I know I’m different enough that I will probably hate a product that works for everyone else.

But the Pearl Izumi ads talk about trails so remote you could dump a dead body. Mileage so high that you’re burning through gear. And movements so smooth that you feel like a wild animal. Not everybody runs like this. But I do. And I get it.

Thanks Pearl Izumi for noticing me, and picking me out from the crowd.”