and his Famous Red Shoes
upon a time, before there were endless models of running shoes,
so many that the designers seem to run out of color combinations...Before
there were libraries filled with guides to running, mountains
of books with training schedules and tapering plans, there was
one book, with it's bright red cover designed to catch your eye,
and boy, did it attract attention.
1977 Jim Fixx wrote "The Complete Book of Running" and
the running boom was launched into a higher orbit. It became the
best-selling non-fiction hardcover book ever at the time of its
publishing. Thousands followed Jim's advice, laced up their running
shoes and took to the streets. Race fields swelled with the newly
converted and the marathon went from an oddity to the holy grail
of runners everywhere.
posed for the cover himself, sporting a pair of red nylon Onitsuka
Tiger racing flats. It's hard to even consider these running shoes,
they were more like slippers. They offered no support and even
less cushioning, but they were beautiful.
It may be hard to imagine today, but in the mid 1970s it was hard
to find racing flats. When you bought a pair of Tigers you were
serious about running, you were an athlete. Bill Rodgers wore
them, for God's sake! Their appearance on the book jacket let
seasoned runners know that this book was for real.
Tigers became an iconic symbol of the early days of the running
boom, a time when American runners were dominant on the roads
and it was all new and the theme from "Chariots of Fire"
was ringing in our ears. So what happened to the most famous pair
of running shoes to ever grace a bookcover? They've just come
out of an Arizona closet...
1981 Fixx donated the shoes to a "Books Behind Bars"
auction, a program to help build the inventory of prison libraries.
He submitted the shoes along with the following letter:
your Books Behind Bars auction here are the running
shoes I wore for the jacket of The Complete Book of
Running. I think I ran the 1978 Boston Marathon in
liked them so much I patched the heels myself.
of that 1981 auction was a writer from New York, currently living
in Arizona. In an email he wrote:
He put the
shoes in a box, along with Fixx's letter, threw them in a closet
and forgot about them. Recently he came across the box and decided
to put the items up for auction on eBay.
commercial asked, "What if nothing was ever lost?" We're
happy to say running's "ruby slippers" are no longer
lost, they've found a home here on Running Past.