Since I suck at running, I decided to do what any myopic idiot does – blame my equipment. I must need new shoes. New, expensive, high tech carbon fiber titanium shoes from the future with a name like Excelsior. But let’s examine how much I suck at running first – since I started all of this moving around and sweating stuff, I can now ride my bike for over two hours averaging .00731 Km/sec without stopping or falling off and only the smallest bit of crying due to what doctors refer to as acute swelling of the taint. Seriously, it swells up like a pool toy. A horrible, horrible pool toy that will put you in therapy. I can swim over a mile with only a short break every few laps to vomit copious amounts of chlorinated water, and I can lift more weight than I have been able to in years. In fact, just today I worked out my legs until they simply wouldn’t do anything anymore. I was staggering back to my hotel and it took me three tries to step up onto a curb, and I had to lay down on the floor to take off my shoes because squatting is simply out of the goddamn question.

When it comes to running, I’d like to think my body is telling me that I no longer have most of the muscle groups required to run like someone who doesn’t have a brain tumor…but it’s actually telling me to fuck off and go to hell. Screaming it with the voice of a thousand babies in my head, to be honest. Having had many back issues I know I’ll never be a runner and it’s probably not good for me to even try. I would, however like to be able to run say a mile or so. I try to run while I’m out of town on trips for work – I’ll map out a little course around some town I’ve never been to and walk/run my best until I’m all sweaty and pissed off. Some days I can only get about a block before some muscle (are lungs a muscle?) seizes up and tries to leave my body. Whatever. I just need new shoes.

Buying running shoes is not just buying running shoes. You don’t simply go to a store and pick out a left one and a right one and tie them and pay and go home. The degree of involvement is somewhere between adopting a child and building a supercollider. For a guy who buys almost everything on line, nothing could have prepared me for the ordeal. Don’t set aside an hour for this. Plan a vacation around it or something.

On entering the store, you are met with a sea of super fit people who are preparing for some kind of apocalypse where the only currency or food source will be dri-fit and chamois butter. They have awesome futuristic ear pieces and lanyards and weird haircuts and smell of personal achievement. It’s like going to the Apple store except the “geniuses” aren’t “condescending idiots”. All of their clothes have little reflective accents and cool patterns and you just know they are jonesing for some kale like a motherfucker. They have cool runner names on their name tags like Miles, Archie, and John, and I’m so jealous of them and I don’t know why.

A key difference between people who do things and people who are just waiting to die (and probably the reason I am drawn to this triathlon crowd) is illustrated very clearly by the difference in customer service at an elite running store and, say, Comcast. Not fair to Comcast employees, as they are not so much waiting to die as begging to be killed, but you get the point. They were so enthusiastic about my footwear needs that they were hurdling over the clearance racks to make sure I had everything I needed. I politely said “Iah…munna…just lookat. Thanks.”

Overwhelmed, I felt like this should have been approached in stages. For the first couple of days, just drive past the store in a tinted van and get used to the vibe of the strip mall. When you’re ready, get out of the van and walk up to the door. Maybe open it so you can hear the crowd cheering noise it makes in lieu of a bell (not sure about this, since lots of people usually cheer when I enter any room or place of business), and then run back to the safety of your vehicle. Maybe hire someone to get an air sample so you can breathe it a little before you go in. Practice looking at really bright things and talking to people who REALLY love exercise, and then go shopping.

The most insane thing I saw was this –

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I’m not a very flashy dresser. I like nice clothes, but I do not need shoes that are a color that actually creates its own weather system. I wanted something black or grey, or even black and grey. The only understated ones they had were the kind with the toes built in, and since I’m not planning on climbing a tree and silently assassinating anyone, those wouldn’t work. A nice lady named Splitzabeth asked me what I was looking for. I asked if they have any shoes specifically made for a trundle-limp combo that I’m specializing in. I said “I need some running…more walking, if I’m being honest…shoes, but – and I’m sure all of these are great shoes – I don’t want something that looks like Liberace got high on copier toner and built a spaceship. And it has to hold a decent amount of blood.”

I know, cool orange running shoes with bright green laces are in style. They would look ridiculous on me. I always feel bad for the 300 pound guy on the $6000.00 bike wearing a yellow jersey plastered with sponsor names. “Kind of let yourself go after winning the last tour, huh?” It just looks delusional to me. Plus when I’m out of town I tend to wear my “running” shoes everywhere. Sparkley shoes look even worse on a fat guy in blue jeans. She said “have you been fitted?” I said “I’m like an eleven and a half, I think. But I’ve heard lots of words like ‘Flat arch’ and ‘toe box’ that lead me to believe that you will need more information.” She smiled and said “Let’s get you on the treadmill.”

Dammit. Now I’m barefoot with my jeans rolled up around my pasty white asymmetrical calves, being filmed as I walk on a treadmill. Splitzabeth also put some insoles in an oven. I was curious.

We watched the video of my weird feet attempting to run, then we watched it in slow motion and she pointed and nodded and noticed things and said words. She eventually told me that I was a prone supination midfoot striketoe prance-stomper or something, which I believed because she probably runs to and from work every day or some crazy shit. Then came the part that felt sort of good – she took the insoles out of the toaster and put them under my feet and had me stand on these big squishy foam blocks. I said “This is great. Lace ‘em up. I’ll wear them home.”

Due to my nonstandard, inventive gait I was told I need stabilizer shoes. The kind that have hardware that goes up to my mid thigh, I assumed. I was close. Stabilizer shoes have a sole about nine inches thick that flares out at the bottom. the sides of the shoe go up a little higher and are stiffer and have all kinds of padding to absorb whatever it is that comes out of blisters. They reminded me of those moon boots we used to wear in the snow when I was a kid living in Colorado, except way more expensive. But really I was okay with them; tons of people wear them and you probably see them every day but don’t notice unless you try to pack them in a suitcase.

I travel very frequently to very exotic places. For example, I am typing this in West Peoria, Japan. The real estate in my suitcase is precious, and a pair of these shoes would cut down significantly on the amount of underwear I could bring. If you exercise when you travel, you need lots of underwear. I’m not explaining that. I asked if they have something that I could smash down to about a half inch, and she sighed. I’m sorry, I just know if they take up too much room they will have to stay home and that’s not the point of my being here standing on these smooshy foam blocks and getting athlete’s foot from a treadmill. Eventually she found the answer to all of my running problems. They are a bit too stupid looking for me, but they weigh less than a dead hamster and are far more comfortable.

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I think I have put about 20 miles on them, and I still suck at running. Only now I look worse doing it. Maybe I need new shorts.

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