The Evolution of the Blue Jean Mile: From Record-Breaking Runs to Community Events

Runners participate in the Blue Jean Mile.

In May 2020, during the height of the pandemic, pro ASICS runner Johnny Gregorek took to the track in his spikes, his ASICS singlet and a pair of Levi’s blue jeans.

There weren’t any big races on the schedule due to COVID-19, so Gregorek was taking on a new, unconventional challenge. He wanted to break the record for the fastest mile run in blue jeans. But that wasn’t the only reason he was hitting the track. Gregorek was running the Blue Jean Mile in honor of his late brother, Patrick, who took his own life in 2019 after a battle with mental illness.

“Patrick was a really fun loving and lighthearted kind of guy, and he ran a little bit but it wasn’t something that he took too seriously. It seemed like a natural fit to do something to commemorate him that’s also my life and my livelihood. We partnered with NAMI [National Alliance on Mental Illness] and raised a bunch of money,” Gregorek says.

Gregorek ended up beating the previous world record of 4:11 with a blazing 4:06, despite not doing any training runs in his blue jeans. “I knew it was going to be uncomfortable and I didn’t want to try and convince myself otherwise. I just put them on and let it rip,” he says.

The experience, just one year after his brother’s death, ended up being cathartic for Gregorek.

“Patrick was very selfless and always thinking about others. I wanted to be able to do something that mirrored that and spread that element of his spirit. It was a great feeling to know that a difference was made and that his memory and spirit are still alive,” Gregorek says.

Johnny Gregorek runs the Blue Jean Mile in 2020.

Spreading Awareness with Community Events

Now, two years later, ASICS and NAMI are partnering again to bring the Blue Jean Mile to communities across the country. ASICS is hosting an in-person Blue Jean Mile event in both Los Angeles and New York City on May 22. You can participate virtually from anywhere by signing up here. All you need is a pair of blue jeans and, of course, running shoes. Be sure to check with your local Fleet Feet about whether they’re hosting an in person event. Registration is free with the option to donate to NAMI. NAMI provides education and resources to those struggling with mental illness.

“Hosting various Blue Jean Mile events during Mental Health Awareness Month makes a ton of sense from our perspective to help tell the story around the Blue Jean Mile, what it means to ASICS and the importance of having the discussion surrounding mental health,” says Frank Locascio, an Account Marketing Manager for ASICS.

Instead of chasing down podium spots and personal records, the Blue Jean Mile is about focusing on community and spreading awareness about mental health resources, like those offered at NAMI. It’s also about recognizing the healing power that running has.

“Running is more than just cardio, it helps the mind. The better you feel inside, the better you feel running. It’s a beautiful thing,” Gregorek says.

Using Movement for Mental Health

A group of runners participate in the Blue Jean Mile.

The name ASICS is derived from the Latin phrase “Anima Sana In Corpore Sano,” which means “A sound mind in a sound body.” Paul Lang, a Senior Merchandising Manager at ASICS, says this perfectly embodies the mission of the Blue Jean Mile.

“When ASICS was founded in 1949, it was built on the idea of bringing wellness through sport. Being able to use physical wellbeing to help balance the mental side of things is so important. The Blue Jean Mile is such a great gateway to someone who hasn’t even taken that first step yet. They can hear the story and understand the increased mental health benefits of running or walking,” Lang says.

While Gregorek won’t be running the Blue Jean Mile this year, he says he’s open to taking another shot at his record at some point in the future.

“I probably won’t try to beat my record again, unless maybe someday another pro runner, or two or three, wanted to do a real race in the jeans,” he says.

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