I have been trying to deny this for a while now but I think the day has finally come when I need to admit it – my trail shoes may have reached the end of their life. Before you start to attempt to placate me with ‘they’re just shoes’, I need to tell you about what this particular object means to me.
My first running adventures were definitely road running. Well, actually, they were treadmill in my garage running as I was too embarrassed to run outdoors but, eventually, I took up road running. I remember seeing trail runners and thinking how much fun it looked but didn’t think I could do it. I’m not really sure why, just that trail runners were somehow cooler and more serious and absolutely fearless (or that’s what it looked like from the outside).
After a considerable amount of time, I signed up for and attended my first trail event. I wore road running shoes which was ok as it wasn’t too technical but I jealously looked at those who had trail shoes as they threw themselves down muddy hills without fear. And knew I had to get some.
And that is how my trail shoes came into my life. It was love from first wear. They contained some strange sort of magic. In them, I suddenly felt more confident to leap (kind of) over fallen trees, run through muddy puddles and weave along rocky trails. Realistically I know it’s not the shoes themselves but what they represented – with them on, I felt like the trail runner I wanted to be. Bit by bit, I became that trail runner.
Just putting these shoes on makes me smile because I know that I only run in amazing places when wearing them. These shoes have seen me through over 700km of trail adventures. Some of them have been small, local and pretty gentle. Others have been large, distant and hard. But there has rarely been a moment on the trail that I haven’t been grateful that I get to be there, experiencing this country’s beauty and either enjoying peaceful solitude or hanging out with fabulous trail running friends. Even when throwing up at various points of the Surf Coast half marathon last year, I was still (strangely) grateful and determined to see it through. It appears that I’ve become one of those ‘absolutely fearless’ trail runners (or rather full of fear but doing it anyway).
I do get that they’re ‘just shoes’ and that I can get new ones which I’m sure I’ll love. Just not quite as much. There is something about that first pair of trail shoes that I don’t think I’ll feel again – a membership card to a world I wasn’t expecting to be invited to and am so happy to be in.
I have decided that buying new running shoes is actually kind of traumatic. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love being the proud new owner of shiny, clean running shoes (and love even more the first chance to get them dirty!) – I just don’t like the act of buying them. This has been made blatantly obvious to me this week as I went in search of my first pair of trail shoes.
My first mistake was letting my enthusiasm take over from my common sense. I’d headed over to Melbourne to pick up my bib for ‘Run Melbourne’ and browsed the running shoes at the time. I’d been curious about Hokas for a while and tried some on then listened to the sales assistant go on about how amazing they were. They felt a bit odd – cushioned, definitely but odd. I asked to try on another pair of a different brand but he assured me there were none in my size so I made my second mistake – I made a rash, on the spot decision and just bought them.
I got them home and, unfortunately, gave in to the cold that had been brewing for a few days so ended up in bed and unable to test them out until later in the week. When I finally took them for a spin on the treadmill, I knew they just weren’t right. I’m all for cushioned shoes, believe me. I absolutely adore my Brooks Transcend which feel like I’m running on clouds. But these felt like I was running with mattresses strapped to my feet and my calves, which have to work hard enough anyway, were not happy. They also felt weird at the back, as if my feet were slipping out of them. Maybe I would have got used to them. Maybe running on the treadmill didn’t give me the best experience. Maybe I’d already talked myself into not liking them. But they had to go back.
The impact of my first mistake became more obvious when I went to return them. Obviously, the shop were unwilling to refund me for changing my mind (fair enough) but gave me a store credit. Great. Except they really didn’t have many trail shoes to choose from and, finally having done my homework, they didn’t have the ones I actually wanted. The store credit was also only valid in their actual store, not their online one which further limited my selection (and meant I couldn’t browse and spend online, instead having to drive an hour again to spend it). And, having already got my money, it felt like they weren’t really interested in helping me find more suitable shoes. I probably should have just walked away with my store credit, spent it later and got my shoes elsewhere but I was conscious that I have a trail event in 2 weeks and need time to try out the shoes so I made another snap decision – buy the Brooks.
I’ve now got some sturdy but pretty looking Brooks Cascadias waiting for me to take them out and get them dirty. I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve actually run in them and am a little nervous as they weren’t the ones I wanted but I’m a lot happier with them than I was with the previous pair.
- Stick to running shops where I actually feel comfortable and valued. I’m not saying that to bag the shop I went to – they did nothing ‘wrong’, it’s just there are varying degrees of ‘right’ when it comes to customer service and I’ve definitely experienced better elsewhere.
- Don’t make rash decisions, buoyed by pre-race enthusiasm.
- Listen to my instinct – if it doesn’t feel right, walk away and give it time.
- Just buy the Brooks. Have adored every pair of shoes of theirs I’ve ever worn and I have my fingers crossed that the Cascadias will follow that pattern. Stay tuned…
I’ve been inspired to join the Tuesdays on the run link up, hosted by Patty from My No-Guilt Life, Erika from MCM Mama Runs and April from Run the Great Wide Somewhere. The topic this week is ‘Runner’s gift list’. And what a marvellous chance to put out there in the universe what I’d really like for Christmas. I hope Santa is reading….
A subscription to Runner’s World magazine
I’ve had the trial issues sent to me recently and absolutely loved them, devouring every printed centimetre and re-reading frequently. Definitely at the top of my list.
A sub-30 minute 5km time
I had to put this down as it’s definitely in the top things I’d like, although I’m fairly sure even Santa would be struggling to get me there. I’ve definitely seen improvement this year but this one is still tantalisingly out of reach. For now.
A Garmin vivo-fit
This is clearly an excessive thing to add to the list but it wouldn’t be much of a ‘wishlist’ without big wishes. I already have a Garmin watch which I love and think this would be a hugely fun and motivating way to work towards my fitness goals.
A water bottle
Ok, this one is a little ‘out there’ as well. This isn’t something I intend to take running with me – I have a tendency to not drink enough during the day and need something inviting to drink from to give me an incentive. I currently have a dodgy bright orange plastic bottle on my desk at school which I don’t love and tend to fill and ignore. This one looks much more appealing.
Additions to my running book library
I think this deserves a blog post of it’s own. I’ve bought a few fabulous running books to inspire me through my injury woes but there are so many more on my list:
I’m an absolute sucker for Brooks shoes. Maybe it’s because they were my first pair of ‘serious’ shoes. And they felt sooooo good every time I put them on. Either way, I always try on others but end up with Brooks again. I’m running in Trance 12s at the moment and would really love to try the Transcend. Shall definitely be saving up my pennies in the New Year 🙂
A massage stick
Yep, I get that this one’s a bit weird but I keep hearing how good they are. And I do love my foam roller, especially on my pesky calves that are always tight. This one looks good 🙂
So there’s my wishlist (the short version!). Perhaps there is something on there to inspire other runners in your life this Christmas?
I know lots of people say that running is so good because it requires very little special equipment. But that’s not how I run. I do love a good gadget and my husband steers me away from running shops for fear of losing me for hours amidst the colourful shoe collections. Here are 3 things I absolutely, positively can’t run without…
my shoes – currently Brooks Trance 12: Love them. I leave them near the front door because just looking at them makes me want to go running, just so I can wear them.
That would be my shoes….underneath my cat 🙂 He’s quite fond of them too
my watch – Garmin forerunner 405: This was an expensive piece of kit when I bought it but has been such a good motivational tool to get me out the door. And I love lining up at the start line to a race and joining in with the synchronised ‘beep’ of gps watches. Its battery life isn’t great and time seems to go in slow motion while I wait for it to acquire satellites but it’s worth it for the quick and easy data on the run (literally!) that I get. And I have been known to run past my house several times in quick succession, just to get the extra metres required to hit a round km figure.
my tunes – iPod shuffle: It’s little and I barely know I’m wearing it but is invaluable. The eclectic mix of music I have on there means that, just when I need it, I can guarantee I’ll be rewarded with a quirky tune to keep me smiling. And my latest find, my beloved yurbuds, are the perfect headphones for running. They do just what it says on the box – never falling out, regardless of how much I sweat and wriggle or how far I run.
What are your running essentials?