There was an episode of the HBO prison series "Oz" in which a trio of inmates forced another inmate to publicly give up his shoes. That shoeless inmate later complained to a higher up as to what happened, and in retaliation those thugs forced him to play the most brutal version round of one-on-one basketball which leaves him severely battered and bruised. During the game, the arrogantly victorious Kenny Wangler (played by J.D. Williams) says, "Must be the shoes!"
That phrase was playing in my head during my 8 mile recovery run with Team to End AIDS this weekend. I say that because I just bought a new pair of running shoes at my local "A Runer's Circle" store on La Brea Avenue, a pair of red Brooks Transcend shoes to be exact, and they made all the difference on this run.
Coach JC assured us that there would be no hills for us to run up this time, and that included the one everyone now refers to as "cardiac hill" which, if you have ever run up it, is a perfectly appropriate name.
Going on this run made me fully realize what kept me from running all the way to the finish line last week on the 20 mile run. Because my most current pair of running shoes were in my car when I got carjacked on New Year's Day, I was forced to wear a pair of running shoes that have long since padded their prime. As a result, my knees came out of it feeling like they had taken more punishment than legally necessary.
But with this new pair of shoes, I found myself feeling a level of cushioning I haven't felt in quite some time. The person who sold them to me this past week told me that the moral of the story is not to wait a year to replace your shoes a year later. That's true, but to his credit he didn't know what I had been carjacked on New Year's Day.
I had felt some aches and pains in my knees, but these new shoes kept me from falling apart on this run as a result. Nothing stopped me from running out of fuel, and I kept up with my fellow pace group runners for a change which honestly meant so much to me as I usually find myself trailing behind everyone else to where I wonder what brought me back for another season.
Whereas I was usually one of the last T2EA runners to cross the finish line, this time I succeeded in keeping up with everybody all the way to the end. That made this run especially fulfilling as I've hit "the wall" more often than not this training season. But this time I didn't fall behind to where I was running by my lonesome. Some may say it's the result of keeping up with those maintenance runs, but I have to say it must be the shoes.
It's so easy to forget what a comfortable pair of shoes can feel like. I don't just mean running shoes; I mean any kind of shoes. As adults we get used to feeling uncomfortable about a lot of things to where we accept a level of discomfort as being part of life. Life is hard and life is pain, and many of us put up with those facts far more than we should. The pain some of us feel in our legs and feet force us to develop a tolerance which feels necessary but soon blinds us to the fact that we don't have to feel that uncomfortable on a regular basis.
I keep getting reminded of this whenever I get new shoes, and I keep telling myself that I won't quickly forget the importance of having a pair with a lot of cushioning. Perhaps writing about it will keep me more alert in the future.
So the next time you feel like you are experiencing more pain than usual, keep in mind that it must be the shoes.
FUNDRAISING UPDATE: Thanks to my great friend Ed Mahoney, we have reached the fundraising goal of $1,100 for AIDS Project Los Angeles. But even though we raised the necessary amount, it doesn't mean our work is over. You can still donate if you would like, and a mere $5 or $10 dollar donation can still go a long way.