Thinking of Geoff Hollister, by Larry Eder

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At the press conference today for the 2012 New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, Galen Rupp, the American record for 10,000 meters, coached by Alberto Salazar,  made a comment that the Oregon Project athletes would be wearing a special uniform in honor of Geoff Hollister, one of the original men of Nike. Geoff, a former Oregon steeplechaser, coached by Bill Bowerman, was one of the original band of Nike promo guys. He was a close friend of the late Steve Prefontaine, and he was, if memory serves me, the man who signed Alberto Salazar to his Nike contract.

Geoff admitted on runnerspace.com several years ago that he was fighting cancer. He still is. We surmise from Galen's thoughtful comments tonight that Geoff is having a tough time. Galen said, " we will be wearing these uniforms tomorrow, and perhaps, for some time to come, to honor Geoff. Keep him in your thoughts."

Geoff Hollister was, with Nelson Ferris (and Jeff Johnson), the guys who really knew Nike's soul, and its birth. Those are precious things to know and pass on. Hollister fought long and hard for grass roots promotions, from sponsoring a road race, to helping at a cross country meet, to talking about running shoes taken from the back of one's old car. Early on, those shoes with the swoosh were mailed in embalming fluid boxes, as Jeff Johnson, one of Hollisters buddies in BRS Sports, lived above a mortuary and well, boxes are really boxes.


Goeff Hollisterw-uIx.jpg Geoff Hollister, photo courtesy of Runnerspace.com

For guys like Hollister, the running biz was never about money. It was about making a better running shoe, talking track to some sweaty, mud covered kid at a little cross country race in anytown, USA, and influencing another generation to stay with it. That was Geoff Hollister and his merry pranksters, driving beat up vans across the country, showing those running shoes with the swoosh on them.

The truth is this. Hollister influenced three generations of Nike employees. A few lucky ones possess his zeal and enthusiasm. Alberto Salazar, the former AR in the 10,000m and marathon, developed a program to make American distance runners more of a threat on the world athletics scene. He could never have done that without the road that Geoff Hollister built, or Geoff's support of Alberto during his formative years. More than giving away shoes and getting athletes to run, jump, throw, Geoff showed friends and all of those that he came in contact with, how to live. 

Geoff Hollister, a human, like all of us, would probably ask us to take a run or walk, and think of a simpler time in running, when we celebrated people who gave their hearts to run, jump, throw. Keep Geoff and his family in your thoughts and prayers. He is a very special man to many of us.

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