Darn It: How One Wrong Turn Made Things Right

Kate's feet wearing her running shoes and the original Darn Tough running socks

Hello — This is Kate Crocker, the Product Development Manager at Darn Tough Vermont. I have been working for this amazing brand for 5 years and counting, as of writing this.

The story I’m about to tell you is not about how I started working for the company though, but about how I was first introduced to Darn Tough socks.

The Setting

It was 2005, and for some reason a group of friends and I decided that it would be a “fun” idea to run the Vermont 100 on 100 relay. This running relay race starts at Trapp Family lodge in Stowe, VT, travels down Route 100, and ends at Okemo Mountain Resort in Okemo, VT.

Each member of the 6-person team runs 3 segments of the total 100 miles in relay race fashion. Maybe you get to run a beautiful flat section of 7 miles through farmland, perhaps you are forced to run 5 miles with 1000 feet of elevation gain up Killington Mountain, or worse…. 1200 feet of elevation loss down the backside of Killington.

Now that you understand the setting, I’ll take you to the story.

A Strong Start

It was my turn to start my first leg of the race. I was mentally and physically prepared to run my 5-mile section. I knew that I had hills, but my legs were strong, and I was feeling competitive (side note… I always feel a little competitive).

As I ran, my teammates packed into a 1985 Chevy suburban (that would never recover from the smell of sweaty humans) to follow along and cheer me on. The race is full of comradery, enjoyment of the great state of Vermont, and is an amazing way to build everlasting friendships.

I started my leg off strong and saw a runner in front of me. I passed her swiftly as told her she was doing an awesome job, and kept running. A few minutes later I saw the next person I needed to pick off. Once I passed them, my ego was growing, and I couldn’t be stopped.

Off Course

Next thing I knew, a minivan packed full of the competition passed me going the opposite direction and yelled, “You’re going the wrong way!” How could I be going the wrong way when I was clearly the fastest person on the course that day?

Ten mins later, I noticed that my team’s suburban was driving slowly next to me, and they promptly told me to jump in the rig, because I was off course.

How far off course? Three miles.

Apparently, a strong wind had come through and blew a direction sign over. Because of this, I continued to run straight instead of taking a key right turn. Our team made a call to backtrack in the Suburban and drop me off about a mile before the handoff.

A Silver Lining

Kate smiles as she holds up the original Darn Tough sock, decades later!

After passing the baton to my next teammate, I was greeted by one of the race directors. With a grimace on his face, he asked if I had missed my turn. I confirmed his fear, and he promptly handed me a pair of 1201 Darn Tough socks along with a heartfelt apology.

My thought was, “Sweet! Free socks!” I mean, who doesn’t love free socks?!

Little did I know that these cushioned socks for running were some of the first pairs ever knit by Darn Tough, and that I would still be wearing these same socks in 2024.

Through Years and Miles

Kate and three friends smiling as they pose in Moab

This free pair of socks quickly became one of my “go-to” pieces of clothing whenever I went out for a run or a bike ride. The socks have traveled with me to run in Moab Utah and Yosemite National Park, through the Pacific Northwest, to Scotland, and on countless training runs and rides here in Vermont.

A selfie of Kate riding her mountain bike

The best part about these socks is that they look loved, but are still as awesome as the day I received them back in 2005. The socks made an impression and when a job posting popped up 5 years ago, I knew that I wanted to be part of the team that created such an amazing product.

There is something special about going to sleep at night knowing that you help make a product that gets countless individuals out on whatever adventure they choose. I help to produce an almost indestructible product… and if these socks ever fail, they will send me a new pair to try and wear out.

Kate holding up her favorite sock, the run quarter

About the Author

In addition to being Darn Tough's Product Development Manager, Kate Crocker is a trail runner, biker, and competitive speed puzzler. She, her husband, and 2 children live in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont and share their home with 14 chickens and 1 spoiled cat.