Featuring prehistoric men bounding across open terrain and a soundtrack reminiscent of Vangelis’ Chariots of Fire theme song, the first Nike Running commercial ever aired, which debuted in 1982, is a mini-homage to running and runners everywhere. It advtertised not a specific product, but rather the company’s committment to using research and innovative technology to make sneakers that help people run better. (True to their word, the company had just a few years earlier revolutionized running shoe cushioning when they created a prototype for a sneaker sole by pouring rubber into a kitchen waffle iron.)
In the 32 years since the commercial aired, running has changed a lot: We’re beyond waffle iron shoe tech and enjoying luxuries like moisture-wicking running skirts, glow-in-the-dark sneakers, running gear for dogs, knuckle lights, and gourmet energy gels.
The sport of running has become exponentially more popular and significantly more competitive. The field of the NYC Marathon more than tripled from about 14,000 runners in 1982 to more than 50,000 runners in 2013. And world records in events from the mile (current world record: 3:43.13) to the marathon (current world record: 2:03:23) have been broken over and over and over. (We’re not saying it’s the salted watermelon energy gel, but we’re not not saying it either.)
Although Nike’s first commercial feels a little dated (see the Tron-esque graphics), it’s also, in a funny way, strangely timeless, picking up on and pointing out the fact that in one way or another, running has always been something we humans have done and always want to do better. Check it out below and then hit the road (or dirt, sand, whatever).
p.s. Waffle iron technology is still around. (Ever heard of the Nike Air? It just got a major upgrade, thanks in part to speed demon and gold medalist Mo Farah.)