It seems like only a few days ago that I completed my company’s wellness initiative, walking around with an unfashionable plastic disc attached to my belt for 3 months. I consistently upped my activity level over that time period, cracking 10,000 steps a day regularly the farther along it went.
And then it ended. Free from the burden of monitoring my activity, I became a lapsed tracker. Today, the plastic disc sits next to my bathroom sink, its blank face staring at me every morning, accusing.
My activity plummeted. Shockingly, from my perspective, my waistline expanded. I attempted to deny the undeniable, cursing at the mirror in my bedroom and refusing to step on the scale. I watched a photography video that showed me how to make my face look more angular when being photographed. (It works.)
But reality really hit when a shirt I bought online arrived and I tried it on. The phrase, “not even close,” fails to capture the gulf separating button from buttonhole. One would think that the horror of this event would motivate me to take immediate and decisive action. And it did. I made the decision to spend several weeks wallowing – easy to do at my then-current weight – in my own misery.
Memorial Day Weekend I hit bottom. After stuffing my face full of whatever happened to sit within my reach for 72 hours, I set three goals for the upcoming week. First, I pledged that meals would consist primarily of fruit, vegetables, and white meats; no fried foods, no ice cream, no candy, and no soda. (The recently-published study comparing the teeth of chronic diet soda drinkers to those of meth addicts helped with that last one.) Second, I set yesterday, June 3rd, as Day Zero, the day that I’d start running again. Third, I told myself I’d get new running shoes to appropriately kick off Day Zero. As any experienced runner knows, you can’t possibly start running again without new shoes.
Aside from the headaches that pounded through my skull for two days after abandoning diet soda, the food pledge proved relatively easy.
Acquiring the new running shoes was also simple, albeit entertaining. I entered the local running store with Cara. This particular shop has two separate entrances within 10 feet of each other, separated by a wall straight down the middle. I always walk into the door on the left, which deprives me of the opportunity to ever see what’s going on in the same store on the right.
The Staff on the Left, always helpful, welcomed us. For the first time in 7 years of shopping there, I asked, “What’s up with two doors, two stores, same name?” The answer, not exactly the exotica I had expected and hoped for, was that The Store on the Right was The Store on the Left’s “outlet store.”
Disappointed with this simple and obvious answer, I mentioned that I was looking for a minimalist running shoe. (For the uninitiated, this refers to a shoe that doesn’t have a 17-inch-thick foam sole designed to protect the user’s foot and body.) Cara, ever-supportive, immediately launched into a discussion with the 17-inch-thick-foam-sole-wearing salesman about how this struck her as moronic.
Her comments led to an animated discussion from Big Sole about the dynamics of running, the POSE method, and his personal experience using minimalist shoes. (Short version: not good, leading to broad statements of approval from my bride.)
But, ever the helpful salesman, he noted that he loved wearing minimalist shoes to walk around in, and if I dared acquaint myself with The Staff on the Right, a mere 10 feet down the street, I might find a pair at bargain basement prices. So, Cara and thanked him, walked out the door, and into The Store on the Right.
In no time, The Staff on the Right confirmed that they had not one but two boxes of minimalist running shoes in my size. After walking in the lime-green-soled shoes to the serenade of Cara questioning their lack of structural support – answer: “they’re minimalist shoes, luv” – I said I’d take them. The label on the outside of the box proudly proclaimed a price of $124.99, but I was in an outlet store. “How much?” I asked.
After quickly computing that current-year running shoes enjoy profit margins rivaled only by the drug trade, I told her I’d take both boxes in my size. Cara grudgingly admitted that minimalist shoes seemed a bit less stupid at $30 a pair.
Which brings us to Day Zero. Forbidding skies. Low 70’s. After waking up, driving Max to school, and working for 90 minutes, I followed Cara’s car down the street in my running leg, waiting for Caroline’s bus to pick her up. And upon its arrival and her departure, I cut in front of it to cross the street and began to run.
I felt like a million bucks for the first 200 meters or so. Sadly, my value dropped precipitously from there with every step.
The rain started coming down about 5 minutes into my journey. By the time I had gotten to the halfway point, I contemplated looking for a snorkel as I inhaled raindrops. The wind picked up, and I tried to lean into it – hard to do, it turns out, when you’re covering ground in time measures normally associated with land masses.
As I puffed my way up the last hill before my house, my increasingly-heavy shirt clung to my chest. My minimalist shoe, constructed to allow air to breathe in and out, took in water like a sinking ship. I could only hear my breath, asthmatic-sounding, as I inhaled.
And then it ended. (The run, not the rain.)
I staggered up my driveway and onto the porch, pulling my shirt over my head with a sucking sound. I leaned on the porch railing, sucking wind, watching the rain cascade down. I felt the water squishing inside my shoe.
And man, did it feel good.