Saturday, February 26, 2011

Running is So Simple (Ha!)

"The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there." - unknown

How many articles have I read and how many times have I heard "Running is so simple. Just put on some shorts and shoes and go.". Now that I run a lot slower, I have much more time to think, and I was thinking about this the other day. Yeah, sure, when I began running, I'd throw on any old cotton t-shirt, a pair of gym shorts, some cotton socks, a pair of shoes and hit the UAB track. Those shoes were Puma something-or-other that I really did purchase at Walmart. I think they matched my shorts, so they were the right shoes for me. These shoes would practically last me the whole first year I ran. It was pretty simple.

So, back in 1978, there was only one Running Shoe store in Birmingham, and that was Versal Spaulding's Running South. OK, it really wasn't a store, but an old garage in which you walked into and there were stacks of shoe boxes going up all the walls. He had several folding metal chairs, the most personable smile, and a knowledge of running shoes that we didn't even know was necessary. Well, two things occurred at the same time - I happened to treat Versal's wife in my PT clinic (and she got well), and my beloved Walmart Puma's had given me a rip-roaring case of plantar fasciitis. So, Versal got me down to his store and gave me a pair of my first "real" pair of running shoes - Nike Elites. When I put them on, they fit like gloves that were made just for me. I couldn't believe how soft and comfortable these were compared to my concrete Pumas. Unfortunately, these Elites were on the opposite side of the Bell Curve of stability (as in none), so they didn't help the plantar fasciitis, but they did make me take that fork in the road that traveled towards the slippery slope of running technology.

Through the many years, I humorously weaved through the evolution of running gear that at the time was like "the future is now". I remember how excited my neighbor was when he "discovered" this miracle running suit that was supposedly water resistant. I remember two things - 1) it was called Gamex, and 2) it didn't matter if it was water sweated so much wearing it that it stuck to your skin like Saran Wrap. It definitely wasn't water resistant on the inside. Gamex didn't last long.

Then came the miracle running fabrics that "wicked" the sweat from your skin as you ran. Polypropylene was the first I remember about 1980. I recall there was a store called Athlete's Foot and they were the first to sell this. Well, one week, they had a Gambler's Sale where every day the price of items would drop another 10% or so. I went the first day, found a Polypro shirt in my size, and stuck it in the back of the women's shorts so it couldn't be found. I went back 5 days later and picked it out of my secret hiding place and got it for 70% off! Not a great story, but 30 years later, it's still fresh in my mind, so either I'm proud of my cunning, or still guilty from bending the rules. Anyway, I can't say Polypro really kept you dry, but I was convinced I was wearing a miracle, so ofcourse I was running faster. And running shirts would never be the same.

I can never forget the first digital Casio chronogragh I had. It had a metal silver band, could hold 10 splits, and a one-run memory. Yep, 1981 and I'm running the Marathon Marathon (named after the Oil Company) in Indiana. At about mile 18, I'm sweating up a pretty good storm, look down at my watch, and it's literally shorting out right before my eyes. Not sparks and smoke, but all the numbers looked like some alien dashboard. Then the whole thing went blank. I guess it was water resistant to a depth of skin sweat! Ever since, watches have been almost a fetish of mine. Do I really need a watch that tells me the difference of altitude from my first floor living room to my upstairs bedroom?

Once, I ordered a Gore-tex hat (!) from a running magazine. The hat cost $10 and the shipping was $12. To this day, I have no earthly idea why anyone would need a Gore-tex hat.

I've gone through a couple of Heart monitors. Never could get it quite right because I never could quite accurately figure out what my maximal heart rate was, which is a very integral part of the idea of a heart monitor. It just was a constant novelty on my wrist that told me my current heart rate that I never really had any idea if it was good or bad. I guess I got my greatest enjoyment out of it by seeing how low it would go before an early morning run...not to see if I was in shape, just to say "hey, 44, cool". By the way, I now have an app on my phone that gives me my pulse and I do the same exact thing in the morning!!

Yeah, running is real simple. Shoes, shorts, go! The whole idea for this post came about two weeks ago as I was laying out my clothes the night before the Mercedes Marathon:
Dri-release shorts (short or long?)
Coolmax socks (thick or thin?)
Thin long sleeve dri-release top (decision was set because I was a Pacer)
Hat (oh man, the statement decsions to be made here)
Ankle supports (one or two layers?)
ID bracelet (so if I get hit by a car in the middle of 6000 runners, the medics know who I am)
Garmin GPS watch (so I know how far 26.2 miles is)
The RIGHT pair of shoes ( I rotate two)
Gloves or no gloves. Favorites or throwaways? HotHands?
Compression socks (the newest addition to the Running Managerie)

And this doesn't touch on what to wear TO the race, or what to pack to wear AFTER the race. And this is a local marathon!!
I can't imagine how complicated life must be for triathletes!

OK, folks, that's it from RWA Central this week. I have to go lay out my clothes for tomorrow morning's run. Supposed to be cold and that means layers, so I need extra time to think about this. I'll see you on the roads - AL

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"

1 comment:

dkdk said...

Great article Al. Laughed right out loud. Man, I loved my yellow Nike's and first digital display watch. I feel a little like Andy Rooney for saying so...