Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Racing in the Nike Kingdom

I live within walking distance of the Nike World Headquarters.  It's a huge, impressive campus.  All the buildings, gleaming white with sparkling blue windows, look like castles.  The grounds are surrounded by a tall man-made berm that is impeccably landscaped.  We locals refer to it as the "Nike Kingdom."

Size matters!  Click on any photo to enjoy a larger version.

Just Do It

A couple of weeks ago, Nike sponsored a 5K race on their campus.  It was called the "Bowerman AC 5K" in honor of Bill Bowerman, the legendary U of O track coach, who along with Phil Knight, co-founded this shoe giant.  Not a speedy runner, I usually avoid short distance races.  But this race attracted my attention because  1. it was close to home,  2. the price was right, and  3. they had a good t-shirt (Nike dri-fit of course!).  But also $5 of every race entry went to a good cause - the Achon Uganda Children's Fund.

The Tiger Woods Center

Julius Achon grew up desperately poor in Uganda.  As a teenager, he began running.  He entered a race in a nearby town, but unable to find transportation, ran the entire 42 miles to the town, then competed in, and won all three races he entered.  His talents caught the eye of college recruiters in the US.  He attended college and ran in the states, but also represented his native country twice in the Olympics.  He now works for Nike, saving every extra penny to send home to Uganda.  His foundation is raising money to build a hospital in his home village.  The January 2012 issue of Runner's World ran an excellent article on Achon which you can read here.

Goofy starting line photo

This race was unusual as it was held in the evening.  The day of the race was a typical hot summer day, but by evening the sky clouded up and the air became super-humid.  My marathon training schedule that week had me down for a 13 mile long run.  In order to get my miles in, I ran 10 that morning on the trails in nearby Forest Park, but saved the final 3.1 for the race.  I hoped the combination of the morning's long run and the night's muggy weather wouldn't totally do me in.

Pre-race pep talk by Julius Achon (in red next to the start sign)

About an hour before race time, my hubby and I walked over to Nike HQ.  Although I regularly run on a 2-mile trail that circles the campus, this was the first time I'd ever set foot inside the berm.  The place was as beautiful and perfect as I'd expected.  We stopped by the Tiger Woods Center (all the buildings are named after famous sports heroes) just to go inside and check it out (oh - and also to use the restroom!)

I shoved my big DSLR camera in my poor hubby's hands and gave him quick directions on how to use it.  Then I ran a couple of warm-up laps around the parking lot, trying to coax my legs, stiff from this morning's run, into carrying me a couple more miles.  After that I ambled over to the starting line. Time to get this thing going! 

Annndddd.... they're off!

Julius Achon himself was there to give us runners a pre-race pep talk.  He had a great sense of humor.  Julius said "when I was young I had to run 42 miles to my first race.  All you have to run is 3.1"  He then fired the starting gun, and the runners were off!

Runners head down the campus road

Our race course followed the road circling the Nike campus.  We were to travel 1 3/4 times around this road, then turn off towards the finish line, located in a mid-campus plaza.  From the very start, the muggy weather enveloped me, sucking what little energy I had.  The first mile was a struggle.  I felt as if I was running through quicksand.  But as I sped by the mile marker, a man reading our splits called out 8:18.  Really?  That's pretty fast for little ol' me.

Halfway point

The second mile, I struggled to keep that fast (for me anyway) pace.  But judging by the number of times I got passed, I must've slowed down.  I amused myself by taking in the sights along the ring road.  Instead of the usual pedestrian crosswalk sign of a stick figure walking, Nike had signs showing stick men running.  The speed limit signs dictated a "14.5 mph" max speed.  Huh?  And, most interesting of all, on the guide signs pointing the way to the different campus buildings, one name was covered with black tape.  I later figured out it was the soon-to-be-renamed Joe Paterno Child Development Center.

A strong finish

I hit my second mile still averaging an 8:30 pace.  So in the final mile, I tried my best to hold on and finish under 30 minutes.  I put out a good kick, and crossed the line in 26:13.  I found out later this time was a PR for me (at least a post-age-40 PR).  Not too bad for a muggy July night!

Roger caught my finish and got one good photo of me motoring in.  After drinking tons of water and walking around a bit, we headed over to the large courtyard between the campus buildings to enjoy a live band and watch the awards.

At the time, I was too busy enjoying all the festivities, but later I realized I should've taken a bunch more photos of the Nike Campus.  It's not everyday we commoners are allowed into the Nike Kingdom.  Since I've no more photos to share with you here, I guess it just means I'll either have to sneak back onto the campus during one of my runs, or sign up to run this race again next year!



  1. Good for you girl! I use to love racing as a girl in school, but have not tried it as an adult. What great exercise and cardio. Loved the story of Julius. I can not even imagine him running all that way and winning.

  2. Wohooo good race. Sounds like a cool place

  3. You go, girl! Love the pics!

  4. It is amazing to me how my times on the short distances can vary from one race to another...we also have a close race that we walk to (2 blocks) - so we can't pass it up (and it is only $20!)...but this year, in the midst of 100+ heat, I didn't do well at all. But, everyone else did bad too so at least I was about in my same spot!

  5. I am so impressed with you and your running. Way to go!


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