Saturday, September 13, 2014

Souls of My Shoes

An open letter:

Dear Brooks-

See these shoes, the beat up ones off to the sides? They're my ninth pair of Racer ST5s. The box between them? My tenth. I've written about them before, albeit briefly, and this may not be the last time.

I only discovered these a couple of years ago, but man, have we had some good times together. I'd suffered through years of unhappiness with various models of shoe, and then I stumbled upon these magnificent gems. Much more than foot coverings, these lumps of foam and fabric have been a convenient vehicle for my soul. Normally, I'm not concerned about colors, but as long as we're on the path to enlightenment, it's worth mentioning. The orange ones? Epic. Both flavors of white ones? Not so much. These new blue ones? Hot damn.

I've seen night turn to day and day turn to night countless times atop these shoes. I've won races in them and had some spec-TAC-ular blowups in them. They've carried me through 100-mile weeks, and I wear them at Burning Man because they're so comfortable. I've run in these things on three continents, and there'll probably be more.

I've raced in these shoes at distances from Beer Mile to 55k, and in at least one triathlon where they've carried me to the day's fastest run split. Unbeknownst to me, I started Boston in them last year with a stress fracture in my foot. Very beknownst (yeah, that's not a real word) to me, I finished Boston last year with a Racer ST5 full of extra bones.

I've taken them on some steep trail runs (and races) where they probably weren't the best choice, and I've got the blisters to prove it. More than once, they've collected toenails for later removal from my socks. My Facebook friends get angry when I talk about the toenails or show photos of the blisters. I don't complain when they share stories and photos of their ugly babies, so they shouldn't complain when I show photos of mine.

I don't log my miles, and I don't run with a watch. Sometimes I forget how long I've been running in a pair, but they always let me know with subtle clues. That feel of a brand new pair is always justification that it was time. When one pair gets retired from running duty, I wear them around the house for a while, and then they get donated. I imagine them serving another lifetime in some capacity on someone else's feet, bringing that person happiness like they brought me, before they eventually go to the Great Shoe Pile in the Sky.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not my shoes. I'm also not my job or the car I drive (thanks Tyler). I readily acknowledge that I'm a transient soul, currently inhabiting a fragile sack of meat and bones. But every so often, that fragile sack floats a little more swiftly through this world because of your work.

So, thanks. Three years ago, I never thought I'd be waxing poetic about something as pedestrian as running shoes, but here we are. Now that I've exchanged roughly a thousand hard-earned dollars for ten pairs of these things, it's time that you know that this shoe has been around for some pretty amazing moments in my life, more so than your corporate accountants could possibly let you know with profit/loss statements. Oh yeah, and if you change them or stop making them, I'll burn your factory to the ground.

It's funny how an assembly of stitched fabric, molded foam, and industrial adhesive can be the one constant through thousands of miles. Fast, slow; healthy, sick; light, dark; these shoes have been quiet and faithful observers to my yin and yang. Running reflects life, and it's kind of cool when you think about how going with the flow and running against traffic aren't mutually exclusive.



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