Runner Reads: Jim Weber’s “Running with Purpose”

Vanessa Junkin, wearing a Brooks hat and Run Happy Team shirt, holds a copy of "Running with Purpose" by Jim Weber.
Here I am holding Jim Weber’s “Running with Purpose.”

Brooks Running CEO Jim Weber released “Running with Purpose: How Brooks Outpaced Goliath Competitors to Lead the Pack” earlier this year, and as a big fan of Brooks and a member of the Run Happy Team, I was excited to learn more about the story behind my favorite running brand.

I was sent a free copy as a member of the Run Happy Team. Then, my mom and stepdad got me a personalized, signed copy when they attended the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders’ meeting (awesome!!), so I passed my original copy on to another member of the Run Happy Team. Run Happy Team members also got to participate in a virtual session with Weber, which was cool.

I really enjoyed the book. Weber started out by discussing his own life and the positions that led him to his current role as Brooks’ CEO. The book went into a lot of business topics, but it was written in a conversational and not technical tone.

Although we have very different careers, I found similarities between Weber and me. For example, he got into running through another sport — hockey. He said he had to run a mile on the track in under 6:00 (page 9). I got into running through trying out for soccer, and I had to run a mile in under 8:00.

This one’s more of a random note, but I also thought it was interesting that he mentioned a lesson he learned from “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” (page 109-110) as my family and I used to watch “Joseph” all the time (and sing the songs!).

Weber knew the relationships with running stores were important, and on page 48, he writes, “Fleet Feet is another important curator of the best running gear.”

A signed copy of "Running with Purpose" by Jim Weber. This shows the title page and it says "To Vanessa" and has Jim Weber's signature.
A signed copy of “Running with Purpose” by Jim Weber.

The running store — and this running store in particular — was definitely important in finding my first pair of Brooks. I was first fitted for shoes, choosing a pair of Brooks from the options the salesperson had me try on, at a Fleet Feet in 2007. At the time, I was 16, I knew way less about running than I do now, and I had not heard of the brand. However, I still became a loyal follower starting with that first pair of Adrenalines.

And others clearly found success with the Adrenaline GTS, too.

“The Adrenaline GTS became the franchise product that would save the company and fund investment in growth for the next decade,” Weber wrote on page 54.

A big part of Brooks’ changes under Weber was going from offering various types of shoes to solely focusing on performance running.

I also really like Brooks’ relatable slogan, “Run Happy.” Just recently, Brooks launched a new “It’s Your Run” campaign to celebrate everyone’s runs. You don’t have to be speedy, run five days a week or run marathons to be a runner.

Weber wrote about the process of determining Brooks’ purpose, and how it wasn’t all about winning.

“I think everyone at Brooks instinctively knew we were different,” Weber wrote on page 62. “Brooks was about you and your run. Our point of view was runner to runner, human to human. Every runner, every human. Whether it was your tenth marathon or your first 5K, whether you finished on the podium or at the back of the pack, we were building product for you and cheering you on your run.”

On the next page, Weber shares the purpose: “to inspire everyone to run and be active.”

Brooks is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, Warren Buffett’s company. I appreciated this point that Weber shared on page 122: “Warren tells executives to look for three qualities in the people they hire: intelligence, energy, and integrity. He adds if you don’t have the last one, don’t even bother with the first two.”

Integrity is something that’s really important to me, so that resonated with me.

Throughout my time on the Run Happy Team, which has allowed me to learn more in-depth about the brand, I have been impressed with Brooks as a company and I am proud to represent the brand as an ambassador. Something that’s always been important to me is making all runners feel welcome, something that Weber sees as important, too.

“From the start of my tenure as CEO, Brooks has committed to a purpose, values, and initiatives to welcome and include everyone into the sport of running and be responsible for our impact on the planet,” Weber wrote on page 182.

Weber also discusses his leadership principles in the book. If you are interested in business, running, the Brooks brand or all of the above, this is a good read. Brooks has been around since 1914, but when Weber came on as CEO in 2001, Brooks got on its path to reaching new heights.

“Running with Purpose” is available for sale on the Brooks website here.