It’s no secret track’s got a public perception issue. By participation numbers, it’s one of the most popular sport in the United States. But there’s not much of a pipeline from casual high school track athlete, to even moderate adult track fan.
Track People love to speculate as to why this is the case.
A lack of conventional team infrastructure. Often boring meets, with lots of lulls between events. Very few televised races. The pedestal the Olympics are placed on making it seem as though track only exists once every four years. A relative dearth of drinking and/or gambling at meets, on the basis that these activities factor heavily into the popularity of other racing-centric events (Kentucky Derby, Indy 500).
Well, the first one’s tricky to break down, given shoe companies’ sponsorships drive athlete allegiances. The second will only happen if the elderly are expelled from all official and martial positions, to make way for coked-out youngsters. The third requires having the ear of the programming directors at ESPN. The fourth hinges basically on capitalism’s collapse.
Only the drinking option seems realistic on a micro scale to implement, as federal law dictates where gambling is permitted. So drinking’s become the go-to add-on to make meets more interesting. Independent distance carnivals feature beer tents and beer miles have become increasingly popular as of late.
But despite booze having entered the equation, track’s not any more popular. And nobody should be surprised. The beer mile is polarizing. It’s an event that intrinsically ostracizes a sizeable chunk of the population: folks of various religions, non-ideological teetotalers, those who justifiably dislike frat house culture, law-abiding underage citizens, people who just dislike beer.
I don’t think the notion of a gimmicky race is a universally stupid one in terms of broadening track’s appeal. Beer’s just not the answer, as it automatically pushes away probably half of all potential fans.
But jeans? Who the hell hasn’t worn a pair?
Jeans are the great common denominator. They are fashionable and functional. Comfortable yet sturdy. Both classic and modern. And I challenge you to find a would-be track fan who is turned off by the inclusion of denim to the sport.
That’s right. I’m talking about a goddamn blue jean mile. A good old fashioned publicity stunt. One that doesn’t fundamentally change the nature of the sport, but that manages to introduce an element to make it more relatable to Joe Sixpack at the same time. We can work up toward an elite level mile wherein all competitors must race in jeans, but for now, here’s what I’m proposing:
In the interest of bringing positive attention to the sport we all love — I’m putting my money where my mouth is and coughing up $200 toward a prize purse I hope to grow, which will be awarded to the first man or woman who can provide video evidence they’ve broken 4:00 or 4:36 respectively for the mile while wearing blue jeans. (Equivalent time from IAAF conversion tables.)
As of Tuesday, March 28: The prize purse has surpassed $1,200.
To be eligible, you must provide video evidence of the feat being accomplished. The video must show the entire track, and be a continuous stream of the time trial. Pacers are allowed. And some sort of proof of the track’s accuracy as a 400 meter one is required.
The other option is to run under the requisite time in an actual, sanctioned race. A photo of you in said race wearing jeans, coupled with official results corroborating the time is all you need.
You can wear whatever you want on your torso, and spikes are obviously permitted. Jeans may be cuffed for safety (don’t want any denim milers tripping on their boot cut Levis), but may not be rolled more than two inches above the ankle. I know this sounds like a Victorian bathing suit law, but I’m not writing a check for $400+ to some chucklehead who runs in jorts, and it’s a slippery slope.
Jeans must be some shade of blue in color. Black jeans wouldn’t look quite as funny because they resemble running pants. Also the jeans must be 100% cotton/denim, to avoid any confusion over the eligibility of jeggings. Skinny jeans are permissible but can’t be commuters, and have to live up to the required material standards. The 100% denim content of the racing pants must be proven via photo of the tag on the jeans.
I think that about covers it. So slip on your Wranglers, spike up, and hit the track!