Matt Taylor, Tracksmith CEO on why "running deserves better"Back to Blog
11 May 2015
Located at the halfway mark of the Boston Marathon is something new and exciting: Tracksmith Apparel, a premium performance running brand that reveres the sport and is on a quest to restore it to its former glory.
Matt Taylor, Tracksmith's CEO and co-founder shares with us the Tracksmith story, New England's unique running culture and running while running a world-class company.
Good Fuel Co: You went to Yale and were a competitive Ivy League runner. What was that experience like?
Matt Taylor: I ran four years of cross country and track at Yale. Like most runners, I always felt that I could run faster, but I ran well in the mile (4:10) and steeplechase (8:57), my preferred vents. Running is the most pure sport in the world, and the pursuit of getting fitter and faster is simultaneously grueling and massively rewarding. I love the delayed gratification that running provides; you don't get that in most sports.
Good Fuel Co: For many people today, running is seen as a pretty ‘solo’ sport. How has running in a team shaped you as a runner and as a person?
Matt Taylor: I think running is extremely powerful. For your health, happiness, focus, even intelligence. And for most adults running is a solo endeavour. But there is something really unique about running with a group. The banter, the post-run coffee or beer - it creates little memories that you remember for a long time. You don't get that running by yourself.
We've also built "team" running it into our culture at Tracksmith, to the point that we do a few meetings a week over runs. Rather than sitting in a conference room, we go for a run with a clear topic that we want to discuss.
Good Fuel Co: Luke (your co-founder) has said there’s a lot of interesting running culture and exciting history that hasn’t really been celebrated. Also, New England is often described as “the birthplace of American Running”. How has NE contributed culturally to the history of running as a sport?
Matt Taylor: New England, and Boston in particular, is the heart and soul of the running community. There was a golden era that existed here in the '60s, '70s and '80s and so we wanted anchor Tracksmith in New England and shine light on the rich stories that exist but haven't really been told. It's about the celebration of the sport, but through the lens of New England. There's no better place in the world to be a running brand.
Good Fuel Co: You’ve observed that running has gone in the direction of ‘general health and wellness’. How has this been a hindrance and/or a help to what you’re trying to achieve?
Matt Taylor: As a whole, the product offering in the running category is very homogeneous; remove the logos and everything looks and feels the same, which is why we created Tracksmith - to create something different that stood out while being understated. We're a performance running brand first, not a fashion brand inspired by sport, and as such we aim to uphold the best our sport has to offer. We love everything about it: its athletic grace, competitive spirit, passionate communities, and timeless style. We are a running lifestyle brand in the sense that we want to provide everything a runner needs in his or her life - gear, motivation, community, content.
Good Fuel Co: After witnessing the glory and glamour (or lack thereof) athletes experience, what advice would you give to a young guy or girl pursuing elite achievement? What are the sacrifices? What are the rewards?
Matt Taylor: I think the best advice is to dream big but be realistic. To become an elite athlete in almost any sport requires genetics, hard work and good luck. It's easy to will yourself to work hard, but the other two are out of your control. That's not to say you shouldn't try to reach your personal limits - the gratification of setting a PR is unlike almost anything else.
Good Fuel Co: You’ve been in the industry for 15+ years (and spent 3 years as Puma’s “Head of Marketing in Training, Running & Fitness”) so we guess it’s safe to assume you know a thing or two about training! What’s your top training tip?
Matt Taylor: I've always found success following two principles - build slowly and embrace variety. People jump too quickly into higher mileage and higher intensity running. Give your body the proper amount of time to adapt to the new stimulus. Our sport is about delayed - not instant - gratification. And once you have a strong base introducing a variety of training that stimulates your different physiological systems will yield good results. So tempo running, intervals, long runs, etc.
Good Fuel Co: Who is the most inspiring runner you’ve met and what was their story?
Matt Taylor: George Dole is a fascinating person. We wrote a story about him for our first issue of METER Magazine and getting to know his story through that process was so inspiring. He ran in the race when Roger Bannister broke four minutes in the mile. He finished 5th in the race, and well behind the 4:00 barrier. I've only heard about the race through the lens of Bannister, so hearing about it from George Dole - sitting in his living room in Maine, looking through old scrapbooks - was something I'll never forget. He was educated at Harvard, Yale, Oxford and Cambridge, and now is a minister and iconic figure in his community.
Good Fuel Co: As co-founder of Tracksmith, we imagine you have far more on your plate than the average runner complaining about how little time there is to train! What does a typical training week look like for you?
Matt Taylor: It doesn't look like it used to, I can tell you that. On top of starting Tracksmith, I have a 5 and 3 year old running around at home, so it's not as easy to train as it used to be. But we introduced our No Days Off calendar at the beginning of the year, and I've stuck to that thus far - I haven't missed a day of running yet this year. I'm not as running as many miles as I'd like, but I've been more consistent than I have in the past.
Good Fuel Co: You clearly have a vision for the sport that extends beyond the aesthetic. Imagine it’s 20 years from now. When people look back on all this, how do you want Tracksmith to have changed the face of running history?
Matt Taylor: We want to reignite people's passion for the sport. It's the oldest and most accessible sport in the world. It's had it moments over the years - but right now we're in a particularly low point. I hope that we can change that.
Good Fuel Co: How can people find out more about the fabled heritage and traditions of the sport (particularly track and field)?
Matt Taylor: One way is to pick up a copy of our own METER Magazine. We created METER to share great stories and celebrate the competitive spirit of the sport. Those things have been lost over the years and we didn't think we were the only ones craving that type of content. The photography captures the intensity and beauty of running at its finest, and the stories pay respect to its fabled heritage.
The other way is to immerse yourself in the community. Go to races, join a running club, read Running with the Buffaloes and Once a Runner. The great thing about running is that a sub-culture does exists, but unlike some other sports, it's very welcoming and humble. All you have to do is make the effort.