"Our running shoes have magic in them. The power to transform a bad day into a good day; frustration into speed; self-doubt into confidence; chocolate cake into muscle." Mina Samuels
Not to be a Debbie Downer, but the last few months my running shoes don't feel like they have magic in them. The last few months my running shoes have felt like...shoes. I understand the sentiment in the quote, and my running shoes have done all of those things for me. But what happens when they don't transform anything? What happens when your running shoes just take you on long, painful journeys? What happens when they get you out there and then start asking you hard questions?
Lately my running shoes have felt more like truth-telling little therapists than cheering crowds in the last epic moments of a race. Some shoes are more intimidating than others, to be sure. My shoes for easy runs are friendly, not intimidating at all. They are colorful and fat and cushy. Their expectations are low and they are happy with whatever we do and wherever we go. My treadmill shoes are not quite as easy going, but still not intimidating. They are all business, not a lot of humor--practical, boring, with a lets-just-get-this-done attitude. My trail shoes? A little more complex. They are like insurance agents. They ask more questions and test my confidence: Where are we going? What time? How long will we be out there? Can you do this? What's the weather going to be? What's the terrain like? Am I the right shoe for this? If it's woodchips and rolling hills I'm fine, but if there's going to be a lot of tree roots and uneven ground...oh hold on, is it going to be slippery?
But the shoes that scare me the most are the shoes I wear on my big effort days--the shoes I wear for the workouts that make you question everything about your running life. Well, everything about your whole life. These are the shoes that are asking me the hard questions. I had these shoes on the other day, and they were talking up a storm: So, Diane...umm, I'm new. I can push. I can go fast. What do you want out of all of this? In fact, WHY are you doing this? Am I your shoe for big effort days? No offense, but this feels kind of moderate to me. If you want, we can do so much more than this. I mean, I'm up for it--are you? C'mon, take me out for spin! Those shoes that look like Easter eggs could do this workout.
Am I crazy to think my shoes have something to say? Maybe not. I just listened to a podcast all about shoes, and I kind of think my shoes are telling me something. They (The Running Public) reviewed three shoes in three different running workouts, and it boiled down to this:
- one pair "...shows you what you can do right now"
- one pair "...shows you what you can do if you were in a little better shape", and
- one shoe, well, it "..allows you to do things you are not capable of doing."
You might be thinking well, Diane, the last pair sound like magic shoes! But actually, they aren't. That last shoe is a super shoe. It has advanced foam + a carbon plate, and that's what makes it a super shoe (thank you, Running Public!). It enhances your running. But it's not a magic shoe. A magic shoe is a shoe you have a relationship with. A magic shoe is the shoe plus the runner. Together. The two of you.
A magic shoe gets you out of bed on a rainy morning. A magic shoe might be best at one thing, but can do other things in a pinch. A magic shoe is your partner in crime. It doesn't artificially make you better, it's your number one teammate while you make yourself better. Most importantly, they carry you through your running life: through PR's, angry runs, and through that fleeting flow run. They wait for you when you're injured, and carefully ease you back onto the road when you're ready. They take you over the mountains, across the snow, and down the parkway on Thanksgiving morning with the other Turkey Trotters. They can do short and spicy, or long and lazy. They are ready to go on those steamy, summer mornings, when the only other people on the street are other runners in their magic shoes. And, they stick with you during tough mental times--those times of long plateaus, or when life hits hard and you scramble to believe you'll ever have that fire again to give those shoes the opportunity to perform to their potential.
Come to think of it, my running shoes made me into a writer. Come to think of it, the challenging questions and long miles made me better. Huh--maybe it was never my shoes. Maybe I lost the magic for awhile.
Oops, I'm sorry, running shoes. Sorry I said you were just shoes. I guess you have magic in you after all.