If I'm going to get hurt,
I thought, at least I'll look cool doing it.
I was dressed in a black body suit with flames running down the sides of the legs. My feet were encased in red-and-orange fireballs featuring the faces of demons on the outside. The outfit had a hundred times more attitude than my ability at what I was about to try.
The editor in his getup for testing adidas adizero 5-Star 40 cleats.
I was about to run a 40-Yard Dash—something I hadn't done since high school. I was doing it to test those fancy new cleats on my feet, adidas's "Uncaged Demon" adizero 5-Star 40.
The fingers of my right hand were pressed deep into the blue astroturf beneath me. My left hand was raised to my side—"in the hip pocket"—as STACK's performance director Andy Haley, had instructed. I felt like I was about to fall face-first onto the turf below.
I took in a deep breath and remembered the last thing my colleague said when I told him my plan for the day: Don't pull a hamstring.
At the time, I'd told him not to worry, I wasn't fast enough to hurt myself. His response: Yeah, but you're old enough to!
The prospect of my hamstring tearing in half, balling up beneath my glute and giving me a literal pain in the butt for the next six months was only one reason why this was probably a terrible idea. Here are others:
- I'm 36 years old.
- All the guys who test at the NFL Combine are in their early 20s.
- I haven't run a 40-Yard Dash since the football season of my senior year of high school.
- I was in high school during the 1990s.
- When I did run that last 40, I actually heard my high school football coach sigh with disgust.
- When I heard that sigh, I didn't blame him. I was equally annoyed. The 40-Yard Dash was my arch nemesis, the drill I always sucked at. My best time ever was in the low 5-second range—which is considered not good.
- The 40-Yard Dash measures the ability to accelerate, which is primarily driven by fast-twitch muscles. I didn't have a ton of those to begin with (see last point), and I've only gotten more slow-twitch over time. I spent five years working at a distance running magazine, forgawdsakes.
- See reasons 1-4
But adidas had sent the cleats to STACK, and they were my size, so fine. Let's give it a go, I'd thought to myself. If any shoe would give me a chance to run faster than I should, the 5-Star 40 is it. The thing weighs 4.9 ounces—about half to a third of the weight of a typical running shoe. Adidas is so pumped about the shoe, they're offering a million bucks to any athlete at the Combine who can break Chris Johnson's 40-Yard-Dash record while wearing them. Maybe, just maybe, they could help me exact revenge on the drill I'd so loathed back in high school.
The adidas adizero 5-Star 40 cleat
Now I was toeing the line at T3 Performance in Avon, Ohio, trying to beat a goal I couldn't reach when I was half the age I am now. Even with the help of cleats so light they felt like they might float off if I let go of them, it seemed like a long shot.
"Ready!" Andy said.
My left arm whirled, my right leg took a step and I burst forward out of my stance. OK, "burst" might be a generous description of what happened. I imagine that a person watching on tape might see something more akin to that line from Shakespeare: Sound and fury signifying nothing. But I gave it my best go, taking choppy steps for the first 15 yards or so, then opening up into long strides for the second half of the sprint. I felt like I was still accelerating when I reached the finish.
"5.32!" Andy shouted.
Dang! I thought. The time wasn't great. But it wasn't terrible. It was pretty much what I could do in high school.
I tried again, returning to my stance, lowering to the ground, coiling up, and firing out. This time I focused on staying low early and pushing forward as straight as I could. The cleats' rigid SPRINTFRAME dug securely into the turf beneath me, helping to propel me forward with every stride.
"5.22!" Andy shouted.
A tenth of a second improvement! That I'd take. People train for weeks to try and cut that much time off their 40, and if they succeed, it's a big deal.
At age 36, to be able to run the time I ran in high school seemed like a victory, although I'll be honest: I'd like to have beaten it. But if I couldn't beat my younger self, at least I could take solace knowing that I beat Tom Brady, who ran a 5.28 40 at his Combine.
Tom, you may have four Super Bowl rings, worldwide fame, and the tens of millions of dollars, but I got you by six hundredths of a second. So take that!
Anyway, STACK will be giving away the adizero 5-Star 40s I wore in the test, in the hopes that some athlete in our audience will run faster than I did in them. If you're a size 12 and are OK with a set of cleats that have been worn only once (I didn't wear the insoles, so those will be fresh), head over to STACK's Facebook group for football players and coaches only. We'll be posting more info on the giveaway there.
The adidas adizero 5-Star 40 is available at adidas.com, Eastbay and DICK'S Sporting Goods. Again, if you're a size 12, join STACK's Facebook group for a chance to get a pair of adidas adizero 5-Star 40's only slightly used.