November 11, 2011

my one-time stint as a professional nike runner

sunrise over the track

this morning, I arrived at portland meadows at 6:50 for the 7 AM nike video shoot call. as I mentioned the other day, I answered an ad, posted by one of the local running stores, calling for women who could pass as elite high school cross country runners. the video is a promo for the nike cross nationals; it will air on the internet only (because the nationals are also only viewable online). thirty women were picked from last week's photo shoot/audition.

this whole thing was so totally surreal. I have no aspirations to be a model or actor, but I am a sucker for anything that seems like an adventure or that will make a good story. it was a kick in the pants to tell people, "oh, I won't be in the office tomorrow, I'll be doing a nike video shoot all day." how fun to get to be the talent.

yup, that's me

the girls all arrived, checked in, filled out tax paperwork, and got our clothes for the shoot: a high school cross country uniform (from three local high schools), a pair of socks, and a new pair of nike xc victory race spikes.

race spikes!
the shoes

we hung out for awhile inside the clubhouse, everyone in sweats and jackets. the agency that cast us had stressed again and again the importance of bringing tons of warm clothes, so everyone was bundled up and many girls had blankets. (I brought a zebra print snuggie).

inside the clubhouse. so many monitors!
ladies in waiting

when we finally headed over to the track, it was about 7:45. it was still super cold, but thankfully sunny. THANK YOU PORTLAND, SERIOUSLY. the jog across the long expanse of infield was our first of SO MUCH RUNNING SWEET JESUS


of course, we'd all been prepped that there would be a lot of running. one of the fields on the audition form even asked what our weekly mileage was. for good reason, it turned out.

we filmed in four race "locations," each a different spot along the "course." (the real nike cross nationals are weeks away, so the course hasn't actually been set up yet). the gag in the video is this: a commentator is at a desk in the middle of the course, trying to talk about the race but continuously being interrupted by the pack of girls racing. so for about 60% of the time, our runs were focused on swerving around him at his desk (or variations on that theme). our first location was a curve on the course, maybe about 50 yards long. we began running at 8:15 or so and didn't move from that spot until about 10 AM; we probably did 25 takes just running the curve. and all the running, all day, was fast. after all -- this is nationals. five minute miles. essentially: sprinting.

since it wasn't rainy, the course wasn't nearly as muddy as it would ordinarily be, so in between takes members of the crew would go over to a corner of the infield with a shovel and some buckets, dig up a bunch of mud, wheel it over in a wheelbarrow, and ask us to slather it all over our shoes and legs. this proved surprisingly difficult, because the shoes essentially REFUSED to stay dirty, and our legs dried quickly, turning the mud to powder.

also, these were the shoes we were going to take home, so everybody was a little reluctant to get them dirty!

our second take was in the series of hills built into the infield, which I happened to encounter earlier this season in the first of the red lizard cross country races, held on the nike pre-nationals course. the hills are essentially a series of four or five moguls. quick up, quick down. funny the first time I encountered them in the course, but way harder the second time.

we spent almost three hours on them.

then: lunch.

then YOU GUYS. the shot we worked on after lunch was on a straightaway in the middle of the infield, and we were joined by andrew wheating, an olympic 800m runner who's currently a nike athlete. I did not know that "run with an olympian" was on my bucket list, but: CHECK. (I was trying to also check off "pass an Olympian in a run" but that dude is fast, y'all). here is my stealth shot of him (the very tall person in the red coat).

stealth shot of Andrew Wheating

he was a hoot. he was an "interviewer" running along with us, and he kept accidentally inserting lines like, "oh, cool," into his script. meanwhile, our pack of girls had been cut in half, since only a few runners would even show up in the shot. those of us who were running probably did 10 takes with andrew, running up and down a stretch of about 100 meters. we kept joking about alternative things we could do (he could talk in an accent, he could throw in a catch phrase like ron burgundy, etc) and so the crew let us do an 'outtake' clip, where andrew pushed a bunch of us out of the way and chased one runner the length of the course, eventually shoving her (not hard) into the course markers. we made it about 3/4 of the way through the take before we all burst out laughing.

(the ladies in a moment of down time prior to the shoot at location #3)

our last location of the day was "the mud pit." the crew had spent the morning running a hose in one corner of the infield, so that by the time we got there, the ensuing puddle was ankle deep. it was 3:15; the sun was going down and we were all getting cold again. we smeared ourselves again with mud, which turned out to be hilariously pointless, since the moment we ran our first take through the puddle, we were all saturated. meanwhile, the crew set up propane heaters so that we didn't freeze to death. everyone's feet were killing them from 8 hours spent running in spikes; most of us were stiff and cold and tired. we did another 15 or 20 takes in the mudpit before we finally called it a day. I took a shower when I got home and I STILL have mud in my hair. (which is super classy because I'm at the opera now).

the girls, all in matching shoes

overall, it was a super fun day, but we were all SO GLAD when it ended. a few hours later, I am walking with some difficulty; mainly my feet hurt, but I'm also just generally tweaky and incredibly, unbelievably tired. like, I was standing backstage waiting for my ratchet cues for figaro and I really thought, my legs might give out. eight hours is a long time to do sprints. I cannot wait to go to bed.

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