I have a thousand and one reasons to stop and reflect on all of the great running I have done in recent months. On Saturday morning, as I wrapped up an 11 mile run through my neighborhood, I passed the 1001 mile mark on my running shoes. Not running shoes in general — no, I’ve pretty much just been wearing the one pair (with limited exception), and that’s 1001 miles on that pair.
They are dirty and nasty. They stink like you would likely not believe, even though I have been washing them semi-regularly to try and fight that. Any sense of spring in them left a few hundred miles ago. If I believed Nike, they would have been retired on OCT 7 when I passed the 300 mile mark. I’m sure glad I didn’t.
Because last week, these are the shoes I used to outrun an angry adult bull. These are some good shoes.
I had started in these shoes in August 2009, when I formally returned to marathon training. I was in Iraq, I was under a lot of stress with my job, I was ramping up to start IBOL, and I needed to get back to running to help balance out life. Training for a marathon, the Honolulu Marathon set for after I returned home from Iraq, seemed like a good way to do that. New phase, new shoes. The choice of shoes was uneventful — I had bought one pair of Nike Pegasus when I was on block leave, liked them, and bought another pair through the mail knowing that Nike would phase them out before I was ready to try something else. That second pair is what I have been using.
I ran on them in Iraq. I ran on them in Hawaii, and Arizona, and California. On land and in the sea, and through too many puddles and creeks and streams to try and count. In the desert, and in the snow, on paved roads and muddy trails. I don’t think I ran on them through fire, though — I just never happened on any when running. I’m not some elite athlete, some fancy Ferrari of a runner who needs a special diet or special gear, and these are just running shoes. They’ve taken me where I needed to go.
And along the way, I learned a few things.
I enjoy running. OK, not the actual running part, but I love getting out and running. Maybe when I slow down some later, I’ll transition to hiking. But during all these miles, I’ve seen some beautiful scenery, run some awesome trails, and enjoyed getting out to run. Along the way, I’ve taken a few thousand photos (ah, thank heavens for the age of the digital camera), with some decent results. But I’ve found a way to get out and run and explore and see things no matter where life and the Army has taken me.
Replacing shoes every 300 miles, just because you’ve run 300 miles, makes no sense. A while ago, I was researching running at the Army website for safety, and they had very little to say about running and shoes — except that there isn’t scientific or academic research to back up a prescribed need to replace shoes based on miles — it’s the feet and the shoes that determines that, it said. And I’d have to agree.
Running injuries can be terrible, but a lot of them aren’t so bad. With these shoes, I’ve sprained my ankle five times — as in, swollen up like a grapefruit, hurts to walk on it, and people see it and say, “Damn!” The first time, I was 1.89 miles into a 4 mile run — and I finished the 4 miles. The 2nd time, I was a quarter mile into a 7 mile run when I rolled my ankle off the side of the road and went sprawling onto the desert floor — and I still went ahead and ran the 7 miles. #3 and #4 really hurt — I only finished half the planned mileage because the ankle not only hurt, but also started to swell a lot right away. #5 was bad enough to get me to take 2 days off from running — something I did not do for the previous 4 sprains. And I’ve had other minor aches and pains — a knee that sometimes hurts and sometimes just makes a lot of noise, a rotor cuff that really doesn’t like me, and then there was the period when my Achilles tendon and I weren’t really talking but more ignoring each other. All the while, I’ve kept running. At worse, on the earliest sprains, I took anti-inflammatory meds to help with the swelling, but other than that, I’d kept on running. I didn’t think I’d be able to.
And I’ve learned that old farts like me can do a lot more than they think. I am averaging close to 40 miles per week this year, at a time when most of my soldiers are doing 10. In 2005, when my PTSD was at its worst, I was a good 30 lbs heavier than I am now, and all I am doing these days is running and eating ice cream. And my PTSD? As stressful as this job is, it’s under control — like an alcoholic, I suppose, I’ll have to live one day at a time with it, but the running helps tremendously when my stress levels go up.
So, on Monday, I will break out the new shoes. I already have some miles on them — I took them to Prescott with me, and wore them one week here. And I think they’ll be good for some miles; they’re the Nike Pegasus model from last year or the year before, one year newer then the pair being retired, and they look and feel about the same — just new and springy. Give me a few months — I’ll beat that springiness right out of them.