In 2014, American runner Tyler Pennel debuted at the Twin Cities Marathon and made his mark in the running world by winning in 2:13:23. Two years later, the athlete placed 5th in the Olympic Marathon Trials (the USA Marathon Championships) in Los Angeles and planned to compete in the trials for the 2016 Olympics but an injury derailed his chances to do so.
Fast forward to 2018, and with a few more marathons under his belt, the Olympic hopeful made his way to Hopkinton on April 16 to get his first taste of the iconic Boston Marathon route. “I knew at some point I wanted to run Boston after seeing Meb win in 2014,” shared Pennel. “It was so inspiring and motivating. It wasn’t until 2018 that the timing fit well into my schedule, especially with being injured last year and the trials the year before.”
Of course, we all know the story from there. Strong winds, freezing temps and heavy rain added to an already-challenging race, causing many athletes, elites included, to drop out early. But for Pennel, there was no looking back.
Laced with his Reebok Floatride Run Fast sneakers, he trudged on, determined to cross the finish line on Boylston street, even if it meant mild hypothermia. “The toughest part was around mile 14. The group I was running with had started to break up and it was only me and Tim Ritchie working together,” said Pennel. “I started to get cold and my teeth were chattering. I thought about dropping out mostly because I could feel my teeth chattering, but up ahead I could see a group of guys that we were catching. That was motivation to keep going and I was able to focus on something other than the cold.”
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Missing out on third place by just 22 second, Pennel placed 4th overall in the men’s division with an official time of 2:18:57. In the months leading up to the race, Pennel trained at the ZAP Fitness Running Camp in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. A five-year veteran of the camp, the non-profit training center works with post-collegiate Olympic hopefuls in partnership with Reebok.
As the 30-year-old eyed a win in Boston, Reebok approached him and the ZAP running team to help design their next wave of the Floatride Run Fast & Floatride Run Fast Pro racers. The brand’s initial inspiration began with a desire push the boundaries with the original Floatrides and create a 100g performance shoe that provided a cushioned and responsive ride. Based on feedback from the ZAP athletes, the shoes had good support but needed more work to be considered premium racing sneakers.
In January of last year, the Reebok product team made their way to ZAP’s Florida training camp with their first prototypes of the Floatride Run Fast Pros. While the fit and feel were great, Pennel and the other athletes noted that the shoe would only work for a small number of runners at the marathon level. Many distance runners need more cushion to get through the extra distance and pounding.
Come April, the team brought the revised Floatride Run Fast Pro (a racing shoe) and Floatride Run Fast (a speed day shoe) to California, showcasing full-height versions that were a combination of the upper Floatride Run midsole and the racer outsole. Close, but not quite right, the elites knew that Reebok was getting nearer to the ideal product but still needed another round of improvements before signing off on the shoe. Finally, the last configuration made the cut and Pennel donned the Floatride Run Fast shoes for Boston.
“The Floatride Run Fast [is] such a great shoe because it is so light, but has tons of cushioning,” shared Pennel. “Reebok uses PEBAX foam for the midsole, which is very light and highly cushioned, and also gives great support and return of energy. Also the upper is very form fitting and there isn’t unnecessary material for water to be collected (which helped immensely at Boston).”
Although we haven’t had a chance to test them out ourselves, Pennel’s 4th place victory and Reebok’s dedication to listening to what runners want/need, makes a pretty good argument for getting our hands on a pair. Nicole Dimercurio, another ZAP Fitness/Reebok runner, also placed 6th overall in the women’s division wearing the Floatride Run Fast Pros which feature less cushioning. For those who prefer a less narrow shoe, Pennel shares that the new sneakers are a bit wider, and allow for a “more stable platform for your foot to push off and land on.” The Reebok Floatride Run Fast and Floatride Run Fast Pros will be available for purchase this July.