A NEW HIGH: The Running Renaissance
Remember when everyone was upset about Fyre Fest? Doesn’t that seem like a different life? You know it’s been a tough stretch when you’re nostalgic for the simpler days of fake music festivals. The past year wasn’t all bad, though: we briefly shared in a bizarre global obsession with Tiger King; a recent study finally confirmed that owning a stupidly high number of birds does lead to happiness; and we came together as a species to end this pandemic quickly…just kidding! Of course we didn’t. It’s all the more amazing, then, that while the pandemic drags on, we’re still running—running to feel free and in control again; to engage in something simple and concrete when the world right now is neither; we’re running through all the grief and emerging on the other side even stronger. Besides, we have to show off the gazillion sweatpants we bought since the start of the pandemic.
All joking aside, the pandemic has served as a fresh reminder that you don’t need much of anything to run: not much space, or equipment, or experience. With so many people falling in love with the simplicity of running for the first time, and seasoned runners rediscovering its joys, running is having a bit of a renaissance. The practice isn’t necessarily changing, but the spirit around it has been invigorated by the struggles of the past year. The culture of running in particular is undergoing a transformation. People are finding new meaning in a classic sport, turning it into an expression of hope and positivity for the future through the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward. Hardship can be revitalizing sometimes and bring with it opportunities to refocus. And that’s been true for us too here at PRAISE. A New High was inspired by this transformation to the sport and in our mindset. We used the positive energy of the run to lift each other up and, as a small company, we feel more connected to the story of running than ever before.
This year, that story has been about facing adversity with creativity and resilience. Marathons might have been cancelled around the world but that hasn’t stopped folks from finding innovative ways to keep running. Runners from Dubai to France turned their apartments, balconies, and backyards into tracks, and continue to live stream their runs (apparently, yes, there is an audience for videos of people running in circles). On city streets, runners are as common a sight as masks, quarantine hair, and socks over pants. And in case you missed all the Facebook posts by someone’s aunt complaining about the darn runners out there, every major news outlets also came out with an article on the “running boom.” Those articles attribute running’s popularity to convenience and a desire to escape. It is that but also so much more. The exercise tracking app Strava, which is incredibly popular among runners, not only gained 2 million new members each month in 2020, but their annual report showed that users ran more miles than in the previous year. Strava’s report prompted Canadian Running to sum up 2020 as “a year in which we all ran extremely far.” That’s not what you’d expected anyone to say about a year in lockdown. All those runners out there didn’t just keep moving, they ran farther, with more determination and purpose. They pushed themselves and soared beyond physical and mental limits. Their presence is a testament to human endurance and it has galvanized us as a company.
After a year full of uncertainty, we’ve come out of the fog of the pandemic with more clarity, ready to trust our gut. You know that scene in Jurassic Park when Samuel L. Jackson has to shut down then reboot the security system because of Newman’s shenanigans? It’s a risky plan, involving breakers in a jungle shed obviously overrun with raptors, but it works (not for Samuel L. Jackson; he dies.) Rebooting a brand is nothing like that, but wasn’t that movie amazing? Clearly, our company isn’t going to save the world from dinosaurs. Although, would Samuel L. Jackson still have died if he were running from those raptors in PRAISE gear? Most definitely, but PRAISE is all about that positive thinking! The pandemic has motivated us to reflect on our identity as a brand and to fully embrace the optimistic philosophy of the running culture that got us through this challenging year.
A New High celebrates a brand transformation we credit to the power of running. As a team, we turned to a runner’s mindset to help each other weather the stress of the pandemic. We all know running is hard and we’ve all had our days when it feels just a little too hard—maybe you’re too distracted, too lazy, too moody, or too tired from staying up all night hate-reading the blogs of parents whose kids allegedly sleep through the night. On those days, you have to find the will to run outside yourself, in your running community, maybe in that one perpetually cheerful friend whose positivity radiates out to you like a helping hand. You’ve seen some beautiful sunrises or sunsets because of that friend. Encouragement and community are such vital parts of running. We run for good causes, cheering ourselves on and others, spreading good vibes and living in colour.
We’ve infused this sunny philosophy into the very fabric of our clothes for this collection, whose warm palette is drawn from the colours of the Arizona Desert. Because what’s sunnier than the desert? Just picture it: the sun is beating down on you with hot rays of happiness; the desert dust you’re kicking up towards your sweaty face with each step adds a little touch of fairy magic to your run; you’re probably delirious from the heat; and maybe there’s a friendly vulture flying overhead, just checking in to make sure you’re okay—how nice.
Okay, so the desert is a harsh, desolate environment where even the air wants to kill you. Which is why it’s more of an analogy for 2020, a year of brutal isolation that nonetheless changed us profoundly and changed the way we look at the spaces we inhabit, like our homes and our neighbourhoods. Because on second thought, the desert too is a space full of surprising rewards: it seems unhabitable and unwelcoming, yet it’s a place of immense growth. It transforms those who struggle across its terrain, pushing them to the very edge of human endurance. Desert conditions are equalizing, and humbling, and the barren land lets you get lost in your head. Out in the openness of the desert, you can reach a new personal high. And that’s what this year has been about, redefining what we think we know about ourselves and the world around us.
That makes this a good time to also redefine “the runner’s high,” which is long overdue for a conceptual makeover. Or rather, it’s high time to expand the concept. Can you believe the theory dates back to the 70’s and hasn’t changed much since? Snoop Dogg’s changed his name four times since then. The idea that people reach a pleasurable state through the physical intensity of running, and get addicted to that feeling, has come up more frequently in the last few months considering the current running craze. For years, science has been backing up the claim that running triggers a high, bolstering the addiction angle recently by asserting that the high is not caused by endorphins but neurotransmitters called endocannabinoids (seriously, that’s what they’re called.) Your body is basically a joint and running is the flame—science said so. But there’s more to it than the pleasure of physical activity.
The runner’s high is also a series of mindful moments: it’s that pre-run conversation with yourself, when you face the mental barriers within yourself and will your body out the door by visualizing how grateful to yourself you’ll be afterward; it’s the moment when you shut down the voice inside your head and achieve that running flow that makes you feel like you’re floating; and it’s the moment after, the post-run, when you’re reflecting on your accomplishment and maybe (safely) enjoying a beer with your running group. For many, running’s been a potent stimulant during the pandemic, along with wine, beer, and weed, but it’s also providing a much needed balance, a kind of wedge under a rocking table. Going out for a run is a chance to step away from the relentless diet of negative news, to feel better about all those beer runs, and to recover some sense of order and time.
Then again, what’s great about the running renaissance we’re witnessing right now is that people are defining running for themselves. Running is so basic and fluid, it’s easy to tailor it to your needs and establish your own relationship with it. However long or short your running path is, however big or small the milestones you’ve set for yourself are, every little step reshapes your mind and body, helps you regain control of your narrative, and makes you part of the story of running. If you laced up and showed up, you’re a runner. If you laced up but then thought, nah, I’d rather have pancakes today, congratulations, you’re still a runner AND you make great breakfast choices. Running isn’t just for hardcore, disciplined athletes. It’s embodied by different people and takes many different forms. Like any art, it’s for everyone; it makes us feel good, think better, and brings people together. Seeing you out there, running, reminded us we’re part of a community. It probably inspired someone to start running, and it started a movement. And that, transcends the run. That is A New High.
Written by: Jess Elkaim for PRAISE ENDURANCE