Running is no fun

Running for me has been akin to swimming with a laundry bag on my feet.  I’ve always felt like all I could do was lumber along at a mediocre pace. I experienced absolutely no joy during a run. In addition, I never could get past 2.5 to 3 miles at a time. Usually, I’d have to run-walk once I hit 2 miles.

However, I’m stubborn as an ox and never lost the vision of feeling good about a 10K run. In my mind, I’m striding down the road like a human-gazelle hybrid. Big smile, colorful shorts with the cool-ass superstar sports sunglasses that all the championship runners seem to wear.

But, like anything in life, if you aren’t the rare bird born with extraordinary gifts, you have to “put in the work” to get to your goal.  I was a half-ass (or quarter-ass) runner. I didn’t really want to realize that mental ideal. I simply wanted to imagine it and tell myself that I wanted it.  I see it happening to others too. It’s all around us. We want the short cut, 3-step secret, 30-day foolproof plan, etc etc.

10 yrs later, I hadn’t found the secret or the key to instant success. The only thing left was to make a decision. Either stay the same and admit that I was being delusional. Or, put in the work and realize my vision. I am unaware of another method.

Why do need real running shoes now?

As I’ve written about in other posts, I had the overall goal of competing in an Olympic length triathlon at the end of the year (Octoberfest Triathlon, 2019). To prepare for the longer race, I registered for two sprint triathlons. The Lake Pflugerville Tri and Jacks Generic Tri, in June and August respectively.

A sprint triathlon consists of 500-600 m swim, 11-14 mile bike ride and 5k run.  An Olympic triathlon is a 1.3Km swim, 26.5-mile ride, 10k run

In addition, committing to the races, I decided that I needed professional training to prepare. So I hired Johnny Shelby at Third Coast Training. He specializes in training endurance racers.  I figured, to be serious, I needed to be fully committed. Typically, putting money on the line helps with commitment.  I went all in. $300/month.

During the first three months, I followed the training and was progressing fairly well. I’ll write a post with my run and bike zone assessments soon. I find those things very interesting.

I always purchased my “running” shoes on sale. I didn’t believe there was a difference in the $120-$200 shoes that are sold at running stores and the $40 pair that I was buying at Kohl’s.

My stubborn, slow-ass never made the connection between the post-run cramps, achy feet, and sore knees.  I thought it was simply a function of running on concrete or weighing more than 230 lbs.  Shrug.

During this time I was being told by other athletes that I needed to get proper shoes. They told me that they are important for several reasons. Adequate cushioning. Proper foot support relative to your type of step (supination or pronation), and adequate ventilation.  If I was planning to put hundreds of miles on my feet this year, inadequate shoes would increase the risk of injury to my feet and legs.

Ok, I’m going to get some running shoes

Being all-in, I decided to take a trip to my local running store, Wild Pear Running. Kortni and Debbye were very welcoming. Kortni had me walk barefoot (well, in my socks) back and forth so she could observe my gait, foot position etc.  Then, she disappeared into the back and came back with about 6 boxes of shoes. This was the first round of the selection process.

I tried on different brands and shoes with varying amounts of cushion. I was amazed, immediately, at how different each shoe felt. Some had a wonderful cushion, but the toe box was ill-fitting for my foot. Others fit very well along my whole foot but were too soft on the inside. The support was missing.

This was going to take some time and attention to details. I suddenly got intimidated and a bit apprehensive. This is a much bigger decision than I anticipated. If I chose the wrong shoe, I’d be running in $130 shoes and not feeling very good. But, the experience is necessary for many respects. So, I fought the urge to postpone the purchase.

After two more rounds of narrowing and walking outside, I selected the Brooks Ghost 11 shoe. The shoes featured on this post are them. In the store, they felt wonderful. Like walking on marshmallows… just wonderful.

While there, I was informed that there was a casual run every Wednesday at 7 pm. I was invited to join.  I agreed to come back and run with the group.

I might as well get over another insecurity. My horrible running and my difficulty getting past 2-3 miles.

I ran with a group and did my best run ever!

At about 6:50 pm on Wednesday and I am walking aimlessly around the shop. I see runners socializing outside. Actually, everyone seemed to know everyone else. I felt like an outsider. I was uncomfortable. I was also determined to somehow join the run.

I just lingered outside the store and waited for a friendly gaze… didn’t happen.  Several of the runners said a few words to each other, then they just took off running in a pack.

Opportunity missed…

It didn’t look like there were any more runners so I started to head out and run alone. I came across two women runners who asked me if I’d like to join them. We discussed the distance and the planned pace and then set off.

It was a 4-mile route with a planned 12 min pace. A 12 min mile is within my zone 1 and 48 min will be within my prescribed 60 min time. I’ll have time for a cool down.

We chatted the whole run. I felt good and never got winded to the point of being unable to talk. At the two-mile point, I had a moment of weakness. I wanted to stop. My mind was making up all kinds of excuses and rationalizing why it’s ok to just walk…

Nope! I am a proud and competitive man. If they didn’t stop, I didn’t want to stop. At that moment, I found one of the great values of a running group. Friendly competition and support.

After returning to the store, I was tired. I was also over the moon excited that I’d just done a personal best. 4 continuous miles at 11 min pace.

The shoes. The group. The determination. The goals. The plan.

They all came together on that evening and I loved the feeling.