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Wednesday, January 9, 2013

If The Shoe Fits, Run In It



Imelda Marcos's legendary shoe collection included over 3,000 pairs of shoes, and while I am not quite an Imelda Marcos, I have acquired a plethora of shoes.  You might say I have a regular smorgasbord of trail running footwear. On any given run I have my choice of ten different shoe brands, several of which I own in multiple models.  I can head out for a jog in a pair of: Brooks, La Sportiva's, Montrail's, Solomon's, Vasque's, Patagonia's, Merrell's, Mizuno's, Nike's, or Scarpa's.  Yet, crazy as it sounds, I recently added six shinny new pairs to my cornucopia. Since I have a hard time getting rid of old pairs, I am pretty sure that my wife thinks I'm a bit of a horder.  We talked about enacting a, "new shoe in, old shoe out," program for each new pair I indulge in, but I have since chucked that idea.  There's something about a new pair of shoes that evokes giddy excitement in me, and for some reason I have the darndest time retiring old shoes.  What is it about new shoes that causes such excitement?  What is it about old shoes that makes me hang on to them well past their prime?  To answer these questions, look to the shoes.

New Shoes
The truth about my love affair with new shoes is that I believe they have superpowers.  What powers you ask?  The power to look hip.  The power to stay injury free. The power to give me confidence.  The power to intimidate my competitors.  The power to make my stride more efficient.  And most of all, the power to run fast! However, these are just beliefs; they are not reality.  The truth does not support these beliefs.  For starters, I never look hip.  I'm just not a hipster, and trail running shoes certainly won't transform me into one.  Secondly, I have had numerous injuries, regardless of what type of shoe I wore.  Over the course of my running career I have had: a stress fracture, IT Band Syndrome, my medial plica removed, a partially torn MCL, sciatica, shin splints, quadriceps tendonitis, and countless other phantom ailments that have caused me to take forced breaks.  When I stop and think about it, believing that confidence can be spawned from rubber, foam, and faux leather seems pretty silly.  The truth is, faith in my training gives me confidence.  If I toe the line with the belief that I am well prepared for the race, I do so with confidence.  As far as shoes' ability to increase the intimidation factor, well the truth is, I doubt if I intimidate any of my competitors, regardless of the footwear I am sporting.  In fact, one racer even poked playful fun at my shoe choice during this year's Leadville 100.  I was wearing a hearty shoe and he is a minimalist.  He could not believe that I was wearing a pair of 12oz clunkers during a race.  Clearly, he was not intimidated.  Similarly, the truth about my stride is, I have been a heel-striking shuffler since the first day of cross-country practice back in the fall of 1989.  No shoe I have ever worn has changed my stride.  Finally, and most significantly, shoes don't make me fast!  I have run slow races in fast shoes and fast races in slow shoes.  So why do I continually indulge in new shoes?  To answer this question, look to the old and dirty shoes.

Old Shoes
Old shoes revive found memories.  They represent old runs and races.  When I go to my shoe pile each morning to put on the day's shoes, as I consider my many options, I am reminded of the various adventures that I had in the different shoes.  Yes, this means that I wear running shoes nearly every day, both for running, and for life.  I told you, I am not a hipster.  At any rate, for me, shoes are memories. When I grab my blue Books Cascadias I remember the great camaraderie I shared with my pacers at Leadville this year.  When I put on my grey ones, I picture the stunning beauty of the epic 45 mile circumnavigation of Capitol Peak and Snowmass Mountain I completed this summer.  When I put on my Mizuno's, I chuckle, remembering how I showed up to run the LA Marathon without shoes, and was forced to make a hasty purchase and run in brand new shoes the next day.  When I wear my Solomon Speedcross, I recall my brother's gentle encouragement as I struggled to round Turquoise Lake during the 2010 LT100.  My grey Nike Triax conjure up images of sand and seaweed, as I used them on the beaches of the Riviera Maya last year.  Each pair has their own story, and that's what makes them so hard to part with.


As much I wish they did, shoes don't have any superpowers, they simply don't make me a faster runner.  However, shoes can take me on wonderful adventures, thereby bringing me happiness.  New shoes represent adventures on the horizon, while old kicks are relics of good times passed.  This year is my quest to take running back to its roots, by giving myself a reprieve from competitive obsession and just enjoying the trail.  I now have six new pairs of shoes to do that in.  I can run roads or trails, long or short, or I can even run on my new treadmill, always sporting the appropriate pair of shoes.  Imelda Marcos beware, I'm gunning for your record.  I hope to surpass your 3,000 pairs of shoes someday, only mine are all going to be running shoes!

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