I can remember when…

Those blue Nikes! Note the low heel to toe ratio.

Running didn’t become a part of my life until my early 30s, but since it is such an important part of my life, I sometimes think back on my earliest memories of running. Most of these things were happening off in the periphery of my life, but they were there, maybe quietly embedding themselves for later on. Anyhow, in no particular order, here’s what I can remember about running over the many years:

Mary Decker going down
  • When blue Nikes with a white swoosh mark were the one and only running shoes around. 
  • When barefoot Zola Budd was crucified in the media for “tripping” America’s sweetheart, Mary (then) Decker
  • When I knew one marathoner, my high school boyfriend’s older brother. He was trying hard for Boston and kept just missing it. I realize now what a stud he must have been–this was the 80s and standards were brutal.
  • When PowerBar was the only game in town.
  • When Joan Benoit won the first women’s Olympic marathon
  • Hearing talk of this new carb gel called GU.
  • When heart rate monitors were a new, super high-tech invention.
  • When men’s running shorts were FAR too short (still see that occasionally)
  • When I owned a pair of hot pink tights (what was I thinking?)
  • When you would have been laughed off the track if you had shown up in a running skirt.
  • When running was just a means to an end in triathlon for me.
Joan Benoit was and still is the coolest

What are your earliest memories of running?

Related Posts:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge


  1. Jamoosh says

    "When I owned a pair of hot pink tights (what was I thinking?)"

    This requires a picture – even if it is a re-enactment!

  2. Jennifer says

    HA ha! Funny post. Since I only started running several years ago my earliest memories were more of surprise and an intense overwhelming feeling when I went to the running store for the first time and saw the awesome number of shoes to choose from. It actually terrified me.

  3. Laura says

    ….those Nikes are still the.bomb.
    I am old (I don't care..) so actually haven't been running very long at all. Still, it is funny to look back on my first 'race' pic from just a few years ago and the weird outfit I wore.

  4. Tri-Living...Together says

    Hmm I have not been running very long so I don't have cool memories like you! I really loved this!!

  5. Gracie (Complicated Day) says

    I have hot pink tights…they were on clearance at Old Navy and I bought them even though I hate pink.

  6. Running and living says

    I miss the shorter shorts in men. These baggie shorts are ridiculous. Isn't it interesting that women's clothes are getting tighter and shorter and men's baggier and longer?

  7. Runblondie26 says

    I remember being glued to the TV watching the 92 and 96 Olympics. Carl Lewis was the man.

    In terms of fashion, I can't think of much that's changed. Oh yeah, no way could I do bun-huggers anymore 😛

  8. Kovas says

    "Olympics" at summer camp – being beaten at the "long" race by my best friend and then in the sprints by his brother.

  9. Teamarcia says

    I had those Nikes in lemon yellow with turquoise swoosh. They were the total bomb. WIsh I still had them!

  10. Viper says

    It's funny how those memories running before you were a runner become important. I remember my dad using some king of shoe goo to keep his running shoes together. I come by my running frugality honestly. Cheers!

  11. Chris @ Heavy Steps says

    I just started running this year, so it is all pretty fresh to me now. I remember helping the track coach in middle school and thinking the cross country team was crazy!

  12. Raquelita says

    We need to see the hot pink tights!

    Every now and then I have an awkward conversation with a dude in too short running shorts.

  13. Jason says

    Watching the guys and gals on the track team running in circles from the football field and thinking WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?

    Now I can't see not doing it.

  14. Marlene says

    Oh the shoes! And the tights! And the shorts! I used to run some track in elementary school. We didn't train. We just raced once a year at our school's track meet and then sent a team to the "area" meet. We never placed…

  15. I RUN LIKE A GIRL says

    I LOVE this post!! What memories….

    I've been running for 19 years, since I was about 8 years old. I remember my 1st track & field uniform – orange and black. We were the "cyclones" and ran on a dirt track in (the country of) Panama.

  16. cheryl says

    Running in men's Nike LEATHER Cortez- Red, white and blue. Seeing the FIRST WOMEN's running shoes and thinking they were cheap and made for looks only (I was right, so still ran in Men's) Being offered a free pair of specially made trail shoes and turning the rep from the company down 'cause they were crap. Running in snow in grey sweats only to have balls of frozen ice stuck all over them when I arrived home.
    NO type of replacement drink/nutrition except de-fizzed coke and hard candy. (Who remembers what preceded Gatorade? 5 points if you do!)
    (To be continued…)

  17. Rene' says

    i remember my pink and purple saucony Jazz that i just didn't wear for running but, also for school with a skirt…i was really, really cool!

  18. lindsay says

    Bring back the hot pink tights!!! :)

    I guess I can be a little "smug" in my "youthfulness" and say I don't remember most of this 😉 but then again, it also makes you a more veteran runner than I!

  19. Caroline says

    for me The 1980 Boston Marathon when Jacqueline Gareau from Quebec won..people remember Ruiz..it is a shame and I the 84 Olympics for sure..Joan B but also the lady from Switzerland..Gabriella something..I could Google it but I am too lazy…she came in completly dehyadrated and barely wakling….she collapsed at the end..

  20. SupermomE12 says

    Running is still SUPER new to me, but I have been reading like crazy and have read all about Zola, Joannie, Bill Rodgers, etc. I love reading all the stories and learning about the history, culture, etc. of running. LOVE IT. feels like home to me. :)

    Ok… hot pink tights?? Need a pic!

  21. Johann says

    Love this! As a South African there were a few names that was everything. Bruce Fordyce, Zola Budd, Sydney Maree and my dad. My dad was my running hero! I've been following athletics and running actively since 1979. I can go on for ever. I might copy your idea with this post…:) Thanks!

  22. Lisa @ Eat.Pray.Run. says

    Running wasn't even on my radar growing up. I didn't even know anyone who ran. Then I moved to Howard County in high school and, suddenly, everyone was an athlete! Where the heck had I been?? So,I remember running my first mile ever with a high school friend at the local gym (it was called Supreme Court then–ha!). I thought I would die and I wondered why the heck anyone even wanted to do that! My running was spotty at best from that point until I hit my 30's. Must be something about turning 30 that makes you want to run…

  23. Elle says

    Fun post.

    My first runs were in Nike Air Pegaus – loved those shoes – and I would do walk/runs with our dog around the local school yard… and I still smoked in those days!

    I recall the Zola Budd scandal, and the controversy over Rosie Ruiz business with the Boston Marathon, in 1980… yup, that dates me!

  24. Nelly says

    Great post! Your post brought back a lot of memories from when I first started running. I first started running in junior high, and you are right, Powerbar was the only game in town! I remember for fuel I had a nutrigrain bar – because they only had like 2 flavors of powerbars and they tasted gross!

    The shorts on our junior high track team were indeed super short, and not attractive uniforms! haha

    I wasn't coherent to remember that Mary Decker race, but just reading about her she sounds like she was one of the best women's runners ever.

    My first pair of running shoes was Nike airmax, no way I should have been running in them, haha Then next year I bought the Asics 125 – which became the 1000 series, and then eventually went away.

  25. Coy Martinez says

    Can you imagine now what it would be like if there were only those Nike shoes to run in!! I had a pair of those too! I don't know that I ran in them though, probably just to get across the street! :)

  26. Caratunk Girl says

    My very first memory of running was watching Joanie win the gold medal. I was 10ish? Anyway, I remember thinking how cool it was that a woman from my state – from Maine!! – won the gold medal in the first woman Oly marathon. I was a soccer player then, but that really affected me for sure. She is so inspiring to me to this day.

  27. racing dawn says

    I can remember when…I used to run with a walkman!!! (tape player for all you youngin's out there) :)

    love the post…

  28. Kenley says

    Hmmmmm, I did high school track in the early 90's and I rememeber the one thing I never liked about doing track was those stupid shorty shorts. Yuck. I remember Carl Lewis. Yeah, Shoes were'nt that hard to choose from then. It was what brand, not Brand and Model. Thanks for sharing.

  29. The Happy Runner says

    Those early Nikes were THE BEST! Oh, man, I begged for a pair!

    Not only did I have hot pink tights, but I had a MATCHING hot pink pocketbook AND canvas shoes. It was hot pink overload!

  30. Silly Girl Running says

    'This new carb gel called GU'. Hilarious! :) I couldn't think of a world without GU now. :)

    As for the shoes: I guess this minimalist thing isn't that new after all, huh? 😉

  31. XLMIC says

    I remember when tights first came out. And I remember those Nike waffle trainers, too. I can't believe you are as old as I am 😛

  32. Jeff - DangleTheCarrot says

    I remember back to HS running with the cross country and track team just to stay in shape for my real sports!

  33. Dash says

    My dad taking us out for a "1 mile" run that later I realized was closer to 4. He still called every distance "just a mile" until I started beating him running… :)

    PS, I bought a pair of hot pink tights that I quickly returned after trying them on and consequently gaining a huge amount of admiration for Rod Stewart.

    Great jog, pun intended, down memory lane!

  34. Terzah says

    I was a non-racer (runner only to keep my weight down for years) and I remember being asked in jr. high to run either a 5K or a 10K and thinking why would I ever want to do that? Also remember thinking real running shorts were too short–I always ran in soccer shorts. And then when I did start running races in my 20s, I owned a super-short pair of shorts that were the flag of the State of Texas. Makes me shudder to think of myself wearing only those and a running bra….

  35. ajh says

    I remember the Mary Decker thing! And who was it on the Boston Subway – Rosie Ruiz That fascinated me even though I wasn't a runner.

  36. Candice @ I Have Run says

    This. Is. Awesome.

    I really don't have any memories. I hated running and completely ignored antyhing related to it. I didn't even know why the local running store was named 26.2 until a few years ago.

  37. Marissa says

    since I grew up NON-athletic throughout high school, not many running memories for me! But when I found my healthy way of life in college, I do remember some hilarious workout clothes and I used to attend jazzercise in the 80's with my mom…oh, those women and their outfits are forever carved in my memory!

  38. Aimee says

    One of my earliest memories is running in soccer shorts and a cotten t-shirt b/c that's really all there was for girls at the time!

  39. RoseRunner says

    Oh god. in 7th grade track and field, I had a pair of saucony's (bright blue) with that same heel ratio. Love the evolution of the sport of running…

  40. Richelle says

    Fun post!

    I remember wearing cotton tees and shorts with the whitest pair of athletic shoes that were available for my gym class in middle and high school. I always hated gym class, and now I can't imagine my life without running, strength training and yoga. Crazy!

    I remember watching the 1996 Olympics and watching Michael Johnson win gold wearing his gold spikes.

  41. Molly says

    my earliest running memory is of my Dad, coming home from a run.

    and I remember watching the whole Zola Bud/Decker debacle!

  42. ModernMom says

    What a great post! Ummmm I saw someon in bright pink tights out for a run yesterday? Maybe they are back in!

  43. That Pink Girl says

    I remember Flo Jo, her awesome outfits and her crazy nails! She had style!
    I had those Nikes but mine were navy. I was sooooo proud of them.

  44. Amanda - RunToTheFinish says

    man you make me feel like a young pup…but mostly because I didn't pay attention to running seriously until I started doing it 8 or so years ago.

    honestly I was surprised to find whole stores dedicated to finding the right shoe

  45. Pat says

    Okay, really dating myself here, but before tech materials there was lycra/spandex. Before lycra, there were nylon shorts and singlets. Before nylon, there was cotton. Winter runs meant donning cotton sweats and/or the bold fashion statement of regular tights or panty hose with shorts over top with a cotton turtleneck, flannel shirt, and sweatshirt on the coldest days. Water was it for nutrition on the run since I didn't like de-fizzed Coke or lemon-lime gatorade. Oddly enought, my current running shoes look very much like my first pair did in 1977.Verry funny!

  46. Black Knight says

    I also remember my first running shoes in 1985: the famous blue Nike named Nike Elite Classic…..
    Great shoes!!!!

  47. Regina says

    I was not a runner until my early 40s, but I remember all that stuff…ok, except your guy trying to qualify for Boston.

    I think I had those Nikes.