Tuesday, May 24, 2011

My New Kicks

It became abundantly clear to me some time ago that I needed new running sneakers. How do you know you need new shoes? Responsible runners will tell you every 300-500 miles. This translates to 6-9 months depending on the amount you have been training. Admittedly, I was way beyond that. Way.

More importantly though, they weren't looking pretty. These were some pretty ugly pieces of sportswear I was rocking every day, and I was frankly embarassed by them and by myself.

I wandered into Jack Rabbit because I figured I would ask for some advice on appropriate marathon-training footwear from the experts. Jack Rabbit is basically the messiah of running-wear. When the rapture comes again -- someday -- all runners will probably end up in a Jack Rabbit outlet somewhere. The store is staffed by in-shape, beautiful people that get to wear running clothes all day. They all run to work everyday and are just happy to be young and running and alive. I hate them.

After mentioning my quest for appropriate shoes, I was whisked away to a private area to have a discussion about my shoes. It went something like this:

Skinny Sales Woman: So what are your running needs?
Me: I am training for my first marathon, and I think I need new shoes.
SSW: [looking at my sneakers] Wow. Yeah. These are really bad.
Me: Oh. Yeah. I guess so...um...so I will get new ones.
SSW: Any issues with pronating?
Me: Say what now?
SSW: Pronation? Have you ever been analyzed before?
Me: Uhhhh...
SSW: [glares very judgementally at my nasty sneakers and then looks at me with an (evil?) glimmer in her eye. She is near salivating at the prospect of a near certain commission]. Okay then, let's get you running!

And she wasn't kidding about the literal running. She put me on the treadmill to videotape my natural gait. I don't know if you've ever "gaited" while being videotaped, but it felt as though someone was videotaping me taking a shower. How are you supposed to be natural in this situation!? I was instructed to run for a minute or so seconds at a "comfortable" pace.

Here is where things got tricky due to the fact that I am an idiot. I wanted to impress the crazy runner chick, who likely runs more in her morning jog than I do in a week. I went up to 6.5 (about a 9 minute mile) to "jog". This would come back to bite me square in the ass.

The next half hour was a series of incremental bursts of alleged "light jogging" followed by the replay of the video, analysis of everything I'm doing wrong in life, and presentation of a shoe which would fix me. Wow. WOW. I mean, the way she presented the situation, it is a miracle I don't have to crawl to work from the damage I am doing to myself day-to-day. But here was the fundamental problem: I was running my fake inflated jogging pace a lot. A real lot. Why did I feel the need to lie to her!? She doesn't know me!? She wasn't judging me (or was she....)

So, winded and sweating, I finally got to my last sneakers to try. A lovely pair of Brooks runners. And they were glorious. This woman was the grand master of sales. She had me defeated, tired, insecure and completely reliant on her expertise. She had me try on a half dozen pairs of the weirdest sized and shaped shoes. And she knews that this last pair she would have me try, after running miles on a treadmill in front of a store full of people and a videographer, would be magical.

I bought them without even looking at the price tag.

...I also bought a hat. She said it would keep me cool in the summer.

...and some new type of gels. She said it would help keep my energy level up during long runs.

...If she had been selling yard rakes, I guarantee you that I would have bought one of those as well and stored it in my lawn-less 4th floor one-bedroom apartment.

Well played, Jack Rabbit retail stores. Well played, indeed.

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