A man runs through a forested area.
“I am addicted to the road…any road,” says the runner.
The scene cuts to his feet. Something is different about this runner. He has no shoes!
To us barefoot runners, this is nothing unusual. We’re used to it. This is what we do. However, this is not a TV show about barefoot running, it’s a commercial for the Mercedes-Benz SLK. What does a barefoot runner and the SLK have to do with each other? I contacted the producer of the Mercedes-Benz commercial to discover the inspiration for this unusual commercial.
Gernot Schaffler is a producer with Sabotage Films. In addition to film production, he is a triathlete. About 15 years ago he moved to Los Angeles from Austria and began running barefoot on the beach as part of his training. “Running in deep sand was the best way for me to strengthen my ankles and it enhanced stability in the lower body,” Schaffler states. “It helped a lot with muscle tone in the feet – preventing injuries.”
Schaffler enjoys the triathlon combination of swim, bike and run. He especially likes the longer races because “you always have to expect the unexpected.”
The idea for the commercial came to Schaffler while running on the beach at low tide. He explained to the director what happens to one’s mind on a long run along the beach comparing it to a “long lasting yoga lesson.” From there, they took the idea to the screen to give Mercedes the comparison to being in touch with the road. The actor, Chris Whelan, is shown running across a variety of surfaces – streets in the city, leaves, and a meadow when he happens upon a Mercedes parked alongside the road. Whelan is an actor, not a barefoot runner. I was unable to get in contact with the actor before publishing this article.
While I don’t drive a Mercedes, I know how a luxury car drives. I suppose some parallels can be made to barefoot runner’s connection with the ground and that of a Mercedes. Though I imagine most of us would argue that barefoot running is obviously more basic and primal than driving any car.
I enjoyed the commercial. Most people probably wouldn’t even notice or make the connection between the Mercedes and our way of running. Does it mean barefoot running has gone mainstream? I don’t think so. However, the commercial was a cool way to put barefoot running in the public eye.
The commercial ends with a shot of Whelan’s feet, toes gripping the asphalt – “I am reborn. I’m an addict to the road.”