Sunday, November 8, 2009

The hard goodbye to a favorite pair of running shoes

Call it a case of runner’s denial.

I know I need a new pair of running shoes. I’ve had the same pair of blue and gold Asics since the beginning of May, and have since ran more than 400 miles in them. The soles are worn, the bottoms of the shoes have the traction of a freshly-smoothed ice rink and the shoelaces are tattered to the point of almost being unusable. There’s a good chance there will be holes in the shoe bottoms the size of golf balls if I try to put too many more miles on them.

It’s only a matter of time before I bite the bullet and start making my way through the nearest Athletic Shoe section to pick out my next shoelaced companion. However, part of me isn’t ready to toss out my old, reliable running shoes, even though all conventional signs may point to the contrary. Part of me has a certain degree of sentimental attachment to those worn-out heaps of rubber and shoelaces.

But why is it so hard to say goodbye to an inanimate pair of running shoes that I could pick up for $50 at any average shoe store? Why do I feel like I'm pulling the plug on an old friend. It's not like the shoes have feelings or anything.

At the same time though, I think anybody who really loves a sport finds it hard to part with old equipment once it’s served its purpose. Whether you want to admit it or not, you form a bond with that equipment, whether it’s an old baseball glove you made a great catch with, or a tattered pair of gym shorts you played your best game in.

This may not be a bond on the par with that of a dog lover and their favorite canine friend, but it’s pretty darn close.

A lot of fond memories were made wearing those worn-out pair of Asics. I ran my first full marathon in them, competed in three triathlons with them, went on a 2-day bike trip with them and spent countless hours in the weight room with them.

Yet through it all, the Asics stayed strong, stayed tied and never complained about the abuse they were subjected to. They may not have been the most conversational companion to have on a long run, but they were at least reliable.

I'm sure my next pair of running shoes will serve their purpose on the running trail as well. I'm pretty diligent when it comes to shoe shopping and will scour countless shoe boxes in search of the right combination of comfort, durability and aesthetics. I don't really discriminate on brands either; I've gone from Adidas to New Balance to Nike to And 1 over the years.

But my heart will always have a soft spot for those blue and gold Asics.

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