shoe pile     Every new pair of running shoes smells faintly of hope. It’s part of the bargain, I guess. Put your money down, make your dreams come true. But after a while you stop noticing.  Hope simply becomes your partner, your mate, your significant other, part of what drives you.  Stop running, however, and those same shoes begin to give off a whiff of despair, staring back from cold desolation of the closet or jumbled together in that useless pile by the front door. It’s an odd transformation, but it holds. That’s about as much wisdom as I can offer after thirty-plus years in the game.

We live with that hope sewn into our hearts.  It’s always there, in the next run, the next race, the next text or phone call.  Do people even make phone calls anymore? These days the phone is too tedious, too involving.   Like letter writing, I can’t be bothered. Or when long distance was only for births, deaths, engagements, and holidays. Go figure.

They ask why we do it, and what’s to say? It’s the best I can do with what I’ve got?  How about that?  Because not doing it is a calcification of whatever spirit I have left?  That work for you?  I mean, what is losing after all, but the probable outcome of trying?  So we try, then try again. Because the more we try the less value we accord loss, and greater the satisfaction if it works out otherwise.  But don’t think too long that it will.  You’ll just be setting yourself up.

Ever take a shit on somebody’s yard when you’re out running, and rather than feel guilty come away feeling ennobled?  Who else  gets to do that but a runner or vagabond?  Name me another sport gives you that freedom? Makes you feel like you own the world.  And what difference does it make your sex?  (And man, haven’t we become lost in that thicket lately?) Ever seen piss running down the street at a late-starting marathon?  Can you tell the sex of that piss? It has no sex; it’s just runner piss. And no questions asked.

Call it a benediction if you want.  It’s there for the taking.  You’re different as a runner, simple as that.   When you’re settled into shorts and a singlet they can’t tell if you’re a democrat or republican, a believer or an atheist.  Not by your stride they can’t.  It’s what makes the sport what it is, the great leveler.  You are the time you hit or the distance done, nothing more.  Whether you bound like a Thompson’s Gazelle or thrash about like a Whooping Crane, makes no difference. What’s your time?  Tell me that and I’ll have all I need.

Runners don’t dine, they fill the void.  Know why?  Cause if you do doubles your whole life is ruled by the clock, and food is fuel, and when it’s time to eat, down it goes so out it’ll come before your forced to shit in someone’s yard, righteously or not. That’s just transit time math. You want convention?  Find another hobby.

Most people’s lives are consumed by looking ahead or reminiscing.  A runner’s life has little time for that.  There is no two kilometers ahead. It’s this stride, that breath, this arm swing.  Get ahead of yourself and you won’t get there as fast. Get lost in the past, and that’s where you’ll end up.  The moment, that’s the thing, right here, right now.  This is for victory.  Like good sex, to be honest, and not just the orgasm, but the whole sweet buildup and tender afterglow.

What am I trying to say?  For some people life is the middle seat.  For others it’s the comfort of exit aisles.  And who makes out that passenger manifest?  So forget losing, dismiss winning, and start doing. It’ll all come out in the wash, even that faint whiff of false hope in that next pair of new shoes.


5 thoughts on “NEW SHOES

  1. Toni, Toni…you nailed it with this one. All the excretory functions I’ve performed while on a run, or waiting to run. Shitting on someone’s lawn in tony Naples, FL on a 6:00AM run after a long night wining and dining with folks from ICI (back when I was working for Dean Reinke; check out the latest issue of “Outside” magazine for an investigative piece on him); peeing (twice) at the starting line of Grandma’s Marathon when it was the women’s national champs where I qualified for the 1988 Olympic Marathon Trials (the woman standing next to me peed, too; the guy standing behind us looked down and said: “Shit, last race I was at some women peed on my shoe.”) Running is the great equalizer, running makes us comfortable in our own skin (if we weren’t already), running makes us realize what’s really important and what’s not, in life. When we run, we know we’re human.

  2. I’m with Brian, Toni…I’ve been running for 39 years and have seen and experienced all that you write about…as I sit here with a new pair of Saucony’s I’m breaking in for the coming season 😉

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