Wednesday, 28 December 2011


I'll admit it. I have had some second thoughts over the past few weeks since I crazily signed up for the inaugural Rock and Roll New Orleans marathon in March...until today.

I had been running in a mix of my VFFs and my Brooks Beasts...two extremes, to be sure. I love running in the barefoot shoes, and have wanted to be able to go the marathon distance in them one day. However, the only running injury I've ever had was sustained while trying to go 8 miles in the barefoot shoes, too quickly, too soon. Fractured my third metatarsyl in my right foot, and was out of commission for nearly three months...until saved by Chinese herbs. Really.

The Beasts are just that...and although they have served me well over the course of 30 marathons and all the training that went into them, I have hated running in them lately. I have been dreading the prospect of doing RNRNO in them. I have considered dropping out, but I have a group of amazing friends who are going, pulling out would not be cool.

Fast forward to yesterday. I realized what I needed was a mix of the two shoes...although leaning more in the direction of the minimalist option. I put the question out on Daily Mile, Facebook and Twitter...and within 20 minutes I got some really thoughtful suggestions. Long story short, two people recommended a shoe company I'd never heard of...Altra. I checked out their web site, found two styles I really wanted to try and discovered that one of a handful of running stores in the entire Bay Area to carry them is Transport, which is about 5 blocks from my house. Go figure! Half an hour later I arrived home with my new, zero-drop Altra Instincts, thrilled at the idea of hitting the pavement in them this morning. The new shoes are pretty much VFFs without the toe slots, replaced by a big toe box that allows the toes to spread naturally, with a tad more protection underfoot. I was hoping this was the perfect combo.

I rolled out the front door in the dark, with fully-charged Garmin 305, similarly-energized and podcast-loaded iPod, snuggly-warm beanie and gloves and Santa Barbara International Marathon hoodie, and hit the road for my scheduled 12 miler.

I thoroughly expected to experience new-shoe break-in wobblies...and figured I might make it 5-6 miles before worrying about hurting myself, and heading for home. Didn't happen.

The first three miles were pretty much all uphill...and the zero-drop design takes a little getting used to because it changes one's posture to a midfoot strike, and uses different muscles in the legs and back than regular running shoes. Downhills and flats were a blast. There were many moments that I ran through my scheduled walk breaks, because I was engrossed in my movie review podcasts...and didn't even notice that I'd forgotten about my strides, heartrate, and pace.

Again...long story, short. These shoes were a revelation. I did my scheduled 12...and may even have had another 2-3 in me, gladly. But I was home, and packed it in for the day. Upon entering my apartment I told my wife "I'm a runner again!" This is what it felt like during the best moments of the 12 in 12.

I am retiring my Beasts. They will now be gardening or casual shoes. They have served me well over the past ten years. But I am moving on. It's all minimal from now on.

Bring it on New Orleans. I'm now looking for a fall marathon, too.

Gotta run!


Harold Shaw said...

Congrats on finding shoes that will make a difference for you. I have been looking at them and was wondering what the real word would be. Thank you and good luck on RNRNO.

Karoline said...

I want some now too!! So glad you're a runner again. I plan on becoming one again soon too. As usual, you inspire me!

Melissa Cunningham said...

yay!!!! your back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
glad the new shoes work so well for you! keep at it!!!

Rachel said...

ahhh i loved reading this, especially the last part : ) glad you found your shoe - we might start carrying that brand soon, too.

RoadBunner said...

I've been tinkering with the idea of trying these shoes, too. Excited to hear they worked so well for you.