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Why People Are Running A Mile In Their Blue Jeans

How a joke on a running website turned into a viral sensation.

The blue jean mile started as a joke. When Citius Mag contributor Paul Snyder posted a tongue-in-cheek editorial about how to drum up interest in track and field, he really didn’t think anyone would take it seriously.

“Honestly, it wasn’t given a ton of thought,” laughs Snyder. “I was riffing on the age-old question: How can we get people to care about track?”

The typical suggestions pundits give—incorporating drinking or gambling to meets, for example—are copied from other racing events such as NASCAR or the horse track, says Synder, and don’t quite work for a human sport. Absurdity begets absurdity, so Snyder proposed a different solution to track’s popularity woes: make people run in blue jeans.

“I didn’t think anyone would actually want to do a blue jean mile, because I sure as hell don’t. I just thought the image of people running really hard in just blue jeans was really funny—like some perverse Bruce Springsteen video outtake.”

The rules of the blue jean mile, as outlined by Snyder, were simple: provide video evidence of breaking 4:00 (for men) or 4:36 (women) for the mile while wearing blue jeans (real, true, denim blue jeans—no lycra-blend jeggings).

“In the interest of bringing positive attention to the sport we all love,” Snyder wrote in the post, “I’m putting my money where my mouth is and coughing up $200 toward a prize purse.”

As soon as the article went live, complete strangers came out of the woodwork, accepting the challenge or offering to contribute money to an even bigger prize purse. Snyder was surprised that so many were willing to invest their money and/or lap splits toward the joke. Even more surprising was that the blue jean mile was already a thing:

“I didn’t know this when I wrote the article, but there was already a group of Kansans who for years have held a semi-annual blue jean mile, but with less fanfare. There was a race in New York City in July that attracted some tri-state people; probably a ton of other low-key ones. It’s incredibly odd.”

But odd is refreshing for track and field, a sport that has been burdened with criticism for years: meets are boring, TV coverage is even more boring, and few people actually watch track and field outside of the Olympics. But the blue jean mile? It’s gone viral. People love it. More than 100 videos have been submitted, and even more are talking about the stunt on social media.

As of press time, no one has broken the time barriers to claim the prize purse, which has grown to $1,200. There have been a few close calls, however. Utah’s Rory Linkletter, runner-up at last year’s NCAA 10,000-meter championship, ran a blue jean mile in 4:16:00. Heather Wilson, a professional runner for the New Jersey/New York Track Club, recently ran the first ratified women’s sub-5 blue jean mile, going 4:58 in North Caroliina.

As for Snyder’s time? “I have not, nor will I ever take the challenge.”

He does have some advice for those willing to take it, though, “We’re still learning a lot about this event and how the human body performs under pressure while wearing denim, but based on what we’ve seen so far, I’d recommend the following: Go with something a little more billowy—maybe not straight up JNCOs, but you want some room to operate so leave the skinny jeans at home. Definitely wear something comfortable yet protective like running shorts under said jeans. And if you know your body is prone to inner thigh chaffing, it can’t hurt to slather on a little Vaseline down there.”

If you’ve got what it takes to win in your Wranglers, better get cracking. “We hope to shut the socially acceptable blue jean mile window on Labor Day. You know, make it like wearing white… you can do it between Memorial and Labor Day, but outside of that stretch of time, give it a rest.

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