The Successful Innovative Company of the week is: Saucony!
What they do right: I first heard of Saucony in the summer of 2007. It was the only summer the last five years when I was not in the mountains with little or no outside world access. As such I followed the Tour de France, the European track season and learned a lot about running. Going across the internet I ran into the blog of Nate Jenkins. This was back in the day when he had only ran a few decent races and was so far off most people's radar that no one considered him a serious threat in US marathoning. Well, I was inspired by his 130 and 140 mile weeks week after week including lots of workouts. That fall he ran to a seventh place finish at the olympic marathon trials. That's kind of a big deal. What makes that so special is that When he decided to take the path of professional runner and again when Saucony decided to sponsor him he was pretty slow by professional runner standards. So I have to be thankful to the company that gave this hard working guy a chance.
Secondly, in 2009, or perhaps 2008, they came out with the best shoe I have ever owned: The Grid Fastwitch 3. I've had other Saucony shoes and they were nice too. I've had shoes fromm just about every running shoe company in time but this model takes the cake. My first pair has 560 miles on it and I'm going to keep using it to at least 1000km. The other two pair have less than 50 miles between the two of them I am just so scared that when the Fastwitch 4 comes out they will change it. I know at least five people that train mainly in this shoe and everyone likes it. You can see my two newish pairs and the old pair with salt stains.
What they could improve: Saucony is mostly a New England company. It seems that most of their athletes are in the New England area. While there are a lot of runners there they could probably expand to the rest of the country (and world). They have a good stable of products they are just not one of the biggest shoe companies so people don't know about them as much as say Nike or Asics.
Coming from a NCAA division three background it seems that shoe companies often cater only to the best runners and to joggers. What I'm saying is that I would like to see more sponsorship for guys like Nate Jenkins and shoe companies sponsoring more races. With the increase in race fees for marathons climbing every year it would be nice if that $130 entry fee would get you a pair of shoes instead of another technical microfiber shirt.
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