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Nike Coach Chris Bennett: Every Run Has A Purpose & The Sport’s Potential Post-Pandemic Boom

“We can see how many people are running and it’s astronomical how many people have started running. That’s across the board and not just through NRC or anything like that. We’re definitely seeing it. The one difference with this potential boom – again, we need to come out on the other side of this. A boom is not a moment in time. It is a period of time. We’ll see just what happens weeks from now, months from now and years from now. The difference between this one and others is how it’s global in nature. It’s not just the United States. It’s everywhere. It’s also the reason why people are running. The first one I heard about was in the late 60s with Bill Bowerman and the Men of Oregon, ‘Jogging’ coming out as a book and then you combine that with Frank Shorter winning the Olympic marathon in 1972 and then boom, you have this epic explosion of running, especially in the United States. We were pretty late to the game compared to some of the other parts of the world.

It’s one thing to be inspired by a moment like the Olympics. It’s another thing to be inspired to run because of stress, anxiety, tension and fear. I think that’s a lot of the reasons why people are starting to run. I think one of the reasons that has kept people from running or keeps people from running is fear. It’s fear of not being as good as they used to be or not be able to do a run the way they envision one needs to be done. When there are far scarier things in the world than starting a run, suddenly, you realize you have enough guts to press start on your watch. People aren’t running to go faster or go further right now. They’re running because they need something to hold onto. It’s something that at the end of the day they can say, ‘Look, I feel like the world is spinning out of control. My world is spinning out of control but I started this and I finished it.’ That’s an accomplishment and maybe that’s the only positive thing they’re going to bed with at night but that’s enough to get them up in the morning and say, ‘I can do this again.’ I think it’s forcing people to run the right way, which is to run for more reasons than just how fast or how far. I think that’s why there’s a really good opportunity for this to extend itself well beyond the current situation. 

I think one of the things that limits people in terms of their running is when they limit what running means. Right now, you need to expand it to mean a hell of a lot more than ‘I covered 5K in this amount of time.’ It’s got to mean more than that to you right now. As a result, I think that’s why we’re seeing more and more people not just starting to run but coming back and running again. That’s the hard part. It’s not the start. It’s can you come back and do the next run.”

Coach Chris Bennett joins the podcast. His voice might be familiar to you if you’ve ever used the Nike Run Club training app. He is the Swoosh’s global head coach. He’s been a longtime supporter of CITIUS MAG and I’ve always wanted to get him on the show. Now seems to be the perfect time because it feels like we’re on the cusp of a potential running boom once the pandemic subsides. People are getting out there whether it’s part of their regular routine and training or they’re discovering the sport for the very first time. I have a few friends who are getting started and they don’t have a GPS watch or Strava so they simply have downloaded the Nike app and started going on these guided runs with Bennett.

We spend much of the first half discussing what that’s been like to see and then we’ll take a dive into his own career from being a New Jersey star, running for UNC, learning from coaches like Jerry Schumacher, Vin Lananna and Frank Gagliano, returning to coach at Christian Brothers Academy (where they became a national powerhouse), what his mantra Every Run Has a Purpose means and ultimately watching his son now come after his own PRs.

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