Tuesday

Good running shoes take on lives of their own.



The right running shoes can become fast friends. (OK, the left ones can too. Sorry, had to go there.)

I guess it’s time for me to say goodbye to some special pals. But it’s hard. It’s really hard.

It’s easy to grow rather attached to a super pair of sneakers.

Hey, we’ve all picked some real losers over the years – shoes that pinched, rubbed, scraped, or even tripped us up on the road or trail. These downer duds, which felt fine in the shoe stores, likely cost us king’s ransoms.

Breaking up with bad sneakers is pretty easy. We may grieve over the wasted coin, but we don’t miss the painful shoes. It’s a whole different story with running shoes we have grown to love.

When we find the right matches, it’s like starting wonderful partnerships.

First, we parade around in our new kicks, showing them off and breaking them in to ready them for running. We know we’ve overspent for these flashy sneakers, so we’re sort of proud of their shiny colors. We tie the laces neatly when we put them on, and we untie them gently when we take them off. We try not to scuff them up, if we can help it.

At this point, we treat our new running shoes sort of like we treat new cars. We cringe to consider the first scrapes or scratches. But this is a passing phase.

Pretty soon, we grow more comfortable with our new footwear friends. We put them to active use, probably alternating runs with older pairs. We wear them on clean runs, but we pull out weather-worn shoes for trail runs or muddy jaunts. We still lace these new sneakers up carefully, but we may sort of slip out of them after returning from runs.

As time goes on and this trusty footwear sees more mileage, we may even slip them on and scuff out to our cars, pressing down the heels. That’s the early drill on race mornings, when we grab bagels and juice and leap into the driver seats of our cars before slipping our feet all the way into our sneakers and lacing them up.

At this point, we’ve forged a fast friendship with our footwear. We have grown comfortable together.

How many pairs of sneakers should one runner own?


Eventually, we realize that our older pairs have passed their prime.

They’ve carried us faithfully for 400, 500, 600, or 1,000 miles (or whatever distances we have decided merit taking them out of our running rotations). So we retire these prized pairs, sending them into new careers as street shoes.

We cannot bring ourselves to toss these faithful old comrades into the Goodwill bag or onto the donation heap at the end of a running race. That day will surely come, but we have to sort of warm up to the idea.

We know what that day will look like. It will probably arrive when one of us tries to add one more pair of new running kicks to the overflowing shoe bin in the garage or the no-vacancy shoe rack in the closet. Or perhaps a spouse, roommate, or other loved one will simply sigh and ask:

“Gee, how many pairs of sneakers do you actually need?”

Seriously, folks. It’s a progression. Maybe it’s more like a life cycle. Running shoes go from brand-new to light use to go-to racing to everyday wear to total destruction. Is that so difficult to understand?

The middle pair has soul, but not much sole. Time to go.


Still, point taken.

OK, I will donate my oldest pair – the favorite mushy-soft Nikes with the worn-thin soles. I’m about ready for some new primo running shoes anyway. Both pairs of Brooks have passed the 750-mile mark. In fact, the older ones have probably seen 1,500-plus. It’s time for a new pair. But can I still keep the flexy old Filas? (They’re still pretty great for knocking around town.)

Images:
Photo/s by LAN/Runderdog
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Monday

The best fellow runners inspire the rest of us




We’ve just come off a running weekend that proved to be huge for many of us, but not necessarily in the ways one might expect.

Several friends completed milestone races.

None of us sprinted from the first starting corral or took home any top titles. But the weekend was still significant for a host of reasons.

  • Lana racked up a personal PR in her second full marathon, beating her personal best by nearly 20 minutes, despite starting in an all-out downpour.
  • Kelly did a rugged full marathon with a 30-pound steel plate strapped to his back.
  • Jennifer returned to her favorite half marathon to put up a PR.
  • Sprinter Joe ran his first half marathon, achieving his goal of coming in under two hours.
  • Cathy cracked her three-hour goal in a half marathon.
  • Another Jennifer slugged through a tough and hilly course to finish a half marathon.
  • Lottie completed her first ever half marathon, pushing through pain in the final miles.
  • Cheryl stomped out a half marathon, urging other participants along on the way.
  • Melissa, a 22-year Army veteran, cranked out 13.1 to the finish line.

These folks inspired me – right when I needed it most.



I hate to admit it, but I came awfully close to canceling my participation in a half marathon yesterday.

A tendon injury has nagged me for several weeks. Last week, just as it seemed to be improving, I took a funny step in a muddy horse pasture, and winced with the pain. That afternoon, I set out to jog a three-mile loop with my dog, only to turn around after one mile and limp home.

Ugh. How would I do a half marathon within the week? I groaned to myself.

I wrapped the sore ankle back up in the dreaded brace for a few days. It seemed to help.

Three days before the race, my annual spring allergy nightmare hit, bringing me a stuffy and pounding head and a wheezy chest cough.

Would this cost me the race day? I wondered.

Sunday arrived, and I decided to go for it anyway. I stumbled out of bed at an ungodly hour and joined a couple of friends for the half marathon. Before we’d reached the second mile marker, I was already hobbling a bit, although the brace added support.

I was grateful to pass the miles with two friends. We stuck with each other for the entire 13.1 miles. As back-of-pack volunteers, we weren't even clocked. But that didn't matter.

Together, we did it.

Meeting a slow, but spirited, jogger along the way fueled my own resolve. As we passed this resolute runner, she said she aimed to finish in four and a half hours.

“You go, girl,” my friend said.

It gave me pause. What determination. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

Just when we thought we’d never reach the end of the race course, we ducked into a pedestrian tunnel, clomped on through, and emerged into the daylight – just in time to see the finish line arch.

Is there any more beautiful sight for a tired runner at that point?

We picked up the pace, grinned at the race finish photographer, and completed the course. We bowed our heads, so the finish line volunteers could hang the hard-earned race finisher medals around our necks.

Later, as we munched on post-race snacks and licked our proverbial wounds, we couldn’t help but talk about what races we might do next.

Friends help friends go on, even when the race is hard.

This was not my fastest half marathon. But that's beside the point. I think I will look back on this finish as one of my most memorable. I'm proud of my awesome running friends, who pushed through personal challenges to get the job done. And I celebrate completing the course, even though it hurt like crazy at times.

Images:
Adapted from public domain artwork.


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Wednesday

Second winds wind runners up for many more




Phew. That first mile can be a killer, can’t it?

Countless runners groan through the initial stretch of any run. But somehow, if we push on through, we find our pace and pound out our intended distances with power and consistency.

And when we come around the final curve in the road (or on the trail), we’re positively panting with pride. We’re gasping with glee. And we’re dripping with delight, just because we did what we set out to do that day.

Find this image on tons of great gift and apparel items - only at CafePress.


“Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out if they’ve got a second.”
William James, American philosopher (1842-1910)


Ignore the grammar goofs in that quote for a moment.

That second wind is a blast!

Oh, how I needed this inspirational quote today. I’m stomping my way back from a soft tissue injury, trying to encourage mending, while ramping my miles back up. You see, there’s this half marathon this weekend. I’m already registered and committed.

But it still hurts, especially in the early stages of any run. If I keep going, it sort of abates for a bit. Sure, it reminds me later, as I wrap and ice that limb. But my will to run is strong lately. It’s gotta be. I have mileage goals to meet and races on the calendar.

Call us stubborn, if you must. But sometimes runners just gotta run.

Images:
Adapted from public domain artwork.


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