As It Happens

U.S. pro-runner aims to smash world's fastest mile wearing blue jeans

Johnny Gregorek's Olympic dreams were postponed due to the pandemic, but he has now set his sights on a more restricting challenge — running the world's fastest mile in jeans — and he's doing it to raise mental health awareness.

Johnny Gregorek says he's going to wear 100 per cent denim with no spandex because he's 'a purist'

Johnny Gregorek, an American elite middle-distance runner, is aiming to beat the world record for running a mile while wearing 100 per cent denim blue jeans. (Jay Bendlin)

This story was originally published May 29, 2020.


Transcript

Johnny Gregorek's Olympic dreams were postponed due to the pandemic, but he has now set his sights on a more restricting challenge — running the world's fastest mile in jeans — and he's doing it to raise mental health awareness.  

"It is not too much harder" to run in blue jeans, said Gregorek, an elite middle-distance runner, adding that "it's not going to be as much of an obstruction" as he first thought. 

He is looking to beat the "blue jean mile" record held by Dillon Maggard of 4:11.80 at an undisclosed track in Westchester County, N.Y. Gregorek currently holds the second-fastest indoor mile run by an American at 3:49.98.  

"You know, you'd be surprised, if you've ever been running late for something and had to run fast in a pair of pants, then you've had the feeling," he told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

Here is part of their conversation. 

How did this blue jeans mile tradition get started?

A friend of mine in the professional running community had created the event a few years ago as a gag to spice things up and just for something to do. 

It has gained a little bit of traction among some pro-runners with people trying it out. Eventually, the current world record was run a couple of years ago. 

So I figured the race had kind of grown to a point where there was no awareness attached to it or anything like that. I figured I could raise some awareness and have some fun with it and make it my own. 

Gregorek says that running in jeans is 'not going to be as much of an obstruction' as he first thought. (Jay Bendlin)

What are you going to raise awareness for? 

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. 

I've been raising funds for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which is an organization that provides resources for those suffering from mental illnesses and their families and caretakers in the community at large. 

And so I think it's important right now with all the isolation, the staying at home that's happening. People have a lot harder time getting the resources they need. There's a lot more strain on whatever ailments they might be suffering from. 

So I just thought that this would be a great way to raise some awareness for that, and I think it has. 

Gregorek, centre, currently holds the second-fastest indoor mile run by an American at 3:49.98. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Is there a particular kind of jeans works best for this?

I've been wearing Levi's model 501. It's not too tight and not too loose. 

It's your basic fit and it provides, you know, not too much bagginess or weight, but it's also a little bit more form-fitting so I'm able to not feel like I'm being impeded in my stride or anything like that.

We did some research and looked into a few different [styles] and we wanted to do just that classic Levi's with 100 per cent cotton and all that. So it is looking good. 

But not exactly breathable. 

No, no, not breathable at all. So I'll try spend as little time in them as possible.

Of course, you could have cheated on this event because there's all kinds of blue jeans that have a bit of spandex in them. You could have got away with that, but you didn't?  

No, I'm a purist and I wanted to do this in 100 per cent denim. And, you know, if you break the record with some sort of advantage, you couldn't sleep at night.

So I was sure to get the real deal done now. And if I break the record, I'll be able to know that I did it fair and square. 

So are you going to attempt to break the record?

Oh definitely. You know, the primary goal is to get the record. I'll be running as fast as I can. And without the blue jeans on, I've broken four [minutes] many times. 

If all goes well and it doesn't impede me too much, then I don't see why it should stop me this time. 


Written by Adam Jacobson. Produced by Chloe Shantz-Hilkes. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

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