I did it. Reluctantly, I did it.
I finally retired my most recent pair of running shoes - the ones that brought me across the Finish Line of my first marathon and the ones that helped me break the two-hour half-marathon barrier last month.
Truthfully, I held on to them longer than I probably should have, way past the standard recommendation of 300 miles or every three months. Although I keep mileage stats for my running, I don't often match these up with the number of miles I've put on my shoes.
I don't need to. I can feel when they're ready to be replaced.
My most recent pair - snazzy Asics 2140's in "Lightning and Quick Silver" (they just sound fast, don't they?) - had served me well.
I actually remember my excitement when I purchased them way back in September - yep, that's six months and several hundred miles for anyone who's counting - thinking that these would be my special shoes, the ones that I'd run in during my final weeks of marathon training and the ones that I'd have on during the Big Day.
I was so excited, in fact, that I even wrote a post about them here.
They'd worn out in all the right places and became part of me - until recently, when I noticed they'd started to wear a little too much. The treads were almost gone in some places. The mesh covering each of the areas above the big toes on each foot had torn. They looked, well, ratty - well-loved and used in all sorts of weather, but certainly ratty.
I couldn't deny it. I had to replace them. I swore the Hyannis Half-Marathon would be their last outing. I'd get a new pair right after that race, I told myself. But I hung on just a little longer - perhaps a little too long.
I started to feel some nagging pains during recent runs, nothing particular or even describable. I just didn't feel right. I knew it was the shoes. A runner knows her "normal" aches and pains. And she knows when it just comes down to the shoes.
I was ready to take the plunge (really, did I have a choice now?), so I jumped online to check out the latest model. The latest version of this Asics line was out - the 2150's - and with each release, a new color scheme is released.
The 2150's were described as combination of "Lightning, Paradise Pink and Lemon."
Hmmm, I thought, doesn't exactly sound like me - especially the "Paradise Pink" part. (I'm constantly claiming not to be a "pink person," despite what my many articles of pink clothing may say about me.)
But Paradise Pink it would be.
Unlike when I was growing up, I no longer pick my running shoes on style or color. That's not what runners do, I've been told (although I suppose runners could have color preferences and try some new models out, if they really wanted a certain color).
I was pleasantly surprised when the guy at Runner's Alley opened the box and revealed an attractive pair of shoes - predominantly silver with highlights that were certainly more reddish-orange than pink.
The inside sole and the inner part of the tongue had a funky design with slightly truer pink and some yellow. The stylish detail, like the paisley pattern inside my old Asics, was one of my favorite things of them - a little sassy secret tucked inside the shoes while I toughed it out on the outside.
Even though I knew those were the shoes that worked for me, I always take the opportunity while in Runner's Alley to test out a few other brands. This particular trip gave me even more reason to do so because they were out of my regular size.
I tried on some Mizunos and Sauconys and even some Brooks, trotting up and down the store to see what they felt like. Each time, I came back to the Asics, even though the ones I was trying on were a half-size smaller than the ones I had at home. (Coach Jack's words of wisdom were ringing in my head: Stick with what you know. Don't change anything.)
I'm what I like to think of as a Goldilocks of shoes - one size is too small, the next half-size up is too big. I need one just right. (Can they make quarter-sizes, please?)
Sure, I could wait until they got the bigger size back in stock or brought it in from another location, but c'mon, I'm not a patient person. I'd waited this long to get shoes. I wanted them now. I needed new shoes.
Sensing my not-so-hidden hesitation, the sales guy told me test them out on a treadmill and, if I wasn't completely happy and comfortable, to bring them back for my usual size. (That's right, I could go run a few miles in them and bring them back. A test drive for my shoes.)
That reminds me, I need to mention that I love Runner's Alley. Aside from their accommodating and practical return policy, they know runners. And they know how we can be about our shoes.
The sales guy (I feel funny even calling him that since he's really more like a shoe consultant) didn't flinch when I hum'd and hah'd after each pair and sent him into the back again and again in search of the runner's equivalent of the Glass Slipper.
I ran up and down the store in each pair, sometimes with one of each kind on each foot, to find the "just right" fit.
In the end, haste and impatience got the best of me. I walked out with my brand new - but half-size smaller - 2150s, ready to take them for a few miles. The springlike weather we've had didn't make me overly excited about hitting the treadmill - so I was actually pleased when a raw, rainy day drenched us on Monday. A perfect time to try out my shoes.
In a nutshell, they felt okay. Just okay.
That's not how I want my new shoes to feel. I've often described the first runs with a new pair of shoes as feeling as if I'm running with pillows on my feet - a perfect-fitting, cushioned, barely-there feeling.
I didn't get that feeling in the Test Drive. They weren't exactly too small. But they weren't just right.
I banged out five miles in them and called it quits. I debated internally whether it was worth a trip to return them. Or could I just deal with them the way they were?
When you put the kind of miles in that I do, you don't want to "just deal" with anything - especially anything involving your shoes. There are enough other things to worry about and deal with. So I packed them up and called the store. They had a new shipment in and would have the proper size waiting for me.
And they did, and as soon as I stepped in the door holding a shoebox, the friendly woman behind the counter said, "Are you here to exchange those for 9 1/2s?"
(As a side note, I seriously cannot believe I wear that size in running shoes. I know to buy running shoes bigger than your day-to-day shoes, but as my running and miles have increased, so have my shoe size. My first pair was an 8 1/2, a full size smaller than the ones I need now. A topic to explore at another time perhaps?)
I traded the shoes without incident - except for the near-catastrophe I avoided when I remembered on the drive to the store that I'd put my iPod in one of the shoes after I'd run. They happily handed me the new pair - which I'm happy to report passed the treadmill test last night.
Four feeling-good miles. Ready to go. I can't wait to find out what milestones these ones will help me reach...