Last month I went and bought a new pair of running shoes. My sneakers were causing plantar fasciitis in my right foot and had about 450 miles on them. It was time. Later that night I was putting the new shoes away and sorting through the old running shoes in my closet. I threw away a couple older pairs I knew I wouldn’t need. And then I found the pair from my very first marathon. I stopped and looked at them, they didn’t look beaten up or very dirty or like they had been to hell and back. They looked like normal running shoes with the addition of my 2009 New York City Marathon orange timing strip.
I’ve bought about 5 new pairs of running shoes since those but every time I throw away the old ones those remain comfortable in their spot on the shelf. I can’t get rid of them. Only they know what that training was like and how hard those 26.2 miles felt. I remember going to Marathon Sports to buy them. I was so excited to tell my sales clerk that I was running a marathon. I bought two pairs of the same shoe so I could swap them from day-to-day and not wear them out. They were with me for every early morning speed workout during that hot and steamy summer. I walked over to Longwood Medical Area every other day in them for PT and doctor’s appointments when I hurt my IT band. I ran 13 miles on the treadmill in them while watching a movie and switching to the elliptical for the last few miles of my long run because my hip and knee were killing me. I remember sliding my wool running socks into them and heading out in to the cold, slushy and snowy October Sunday afternoon to pound the pavement for my last long run while passing the homes of people curled up on their couches watching the Patriots play and enjoying that first winter like day. My shoes knew how many miles went in to getting ready for that first marathon.
I remember getting up at 5am that Saturday before the marathon, lacing my sneakers up and walking up the Back Bay Station to take the bus to NYC. I got to NYC and nearly ran across Manhattan out of sheer excitement with my parents, brother, aunt and uncle in tow to get to the Marathon Expo and get my bib number. And I remember walking to Soho to get my big pasta dinner before the big day. Marathon morning I woke up and got ready at 4am. As the clock ticked to 4:45am I sat on the edge of the bed and laced up my shoes before heading to the ferry to get to Staten Island with my Mom standing near me filled with excitement and nervousness for my impending journey. I’ll never forget standing at the base of the Staten Island Bridge with “New York, New York” blaring through the speakers and bending over to check my shoe laces one final time before the start. As the miles went on and the crowds continued to grow and the music kept playing, me and my sneakers kept on going. At mile 8 we passed my family cheering on the sidelines in Brooklyn. I was so excited and happy to see them. At mile 13, I felt relief. I was half way there. At mile 21 I crossed over the metal grates of the Madison Ave. Bridge. I was feeling mad and angry at myself for choosing such an ambitious goal. I was wishing at that moment that I wasn’t an athlete and told my self I needed to have more “fun” in my life and spend less time training. My feet started to hurt at mile 23, my shoes were getting tired. Every step was getting harder and harder, more painful as I went forward. I passed an older woman cheering on the sidelines and she grabbed my hand and squeezed as she looked me in the eye and told me I could do it. As I pushed on to Mile 26 the pain started to subside and pure joy and happiness overwhelmed me. I passed the finish line and got my heat sheet, medal, food and then weaved through the crowds and out into central park. I stopped and untied my running shoes and stretched my feet. We had gone so far together.
Every time I go to throw those sneakers away I’m reminded of that journey, the training, the tears, the dirt and pavement I covered to accomplish that goal. I still wear them from time to time, just for a quick walk to the store or to run an errand and I feel like I’ve spent some time with an old friend. I can’t help but think I keep them as a reminder of how far I’ve come as a runner. And a person.