Can a Pair of Sneakers Make You Faster? These Did

Photo: Stefania Curto/Nike

I know that running scares a lot of people. Running fast, well, that scares just about everyone—myself included. So when Nike approached me with the idea of a six-week training program ending with a 10K run, I had to pause. 6.22 miles isn't new territory for me, but setting a speed goal—that intimidated me. Even with the newest, fastest gear at my disposal, my lofty aspirations of running at a pace under eight-minute miles seemed mostly unachievable. But I laced up my react sneakers and started logging (ever-faster) miles despite my misgivings.

A little backstory: I'm not new to running. I started logging miles as early as middle school. I was a soccer player, then a volleyball player, and eventually a sub-par track athlete too. My fastest mile time was 6:43, which is not a record, but it's nothing to laugh at either. But sometime around my sophomore year of high school, a switch flipped.

Plagued by a few seasons of verbally abusive, belittling coaches critiquing my every move, I stopped being the same confident athlete. The minute I heard loud voices on the sidelines, my breath would lift from my lungs into my throat and suddenly I couldn't breathe. I would wheeze as I desperately tried to take a breath, and when I was pulled off the field, I finally had an excuse. It wasn't my fault that I had failed—I couldn't breathe. I know that's not a glamorous or inspiring introduction to running. In fact, it's an unusual route to getting where I am today. By the end of high school, I gave up everything. I stopped running, and I even stopped playing sports.