The first thing I did when I got home and walked through the front door with my new pair of running shoes yesterday was open the shoe box, lift it to my face, and inhale deeply. Deeply and repeatedly.
It may sound strange to some of you, but I would look any person in the eye and say that “new running shoe” ranks as one of the finest fragrances in the world. Sometimes I don’t even wait for the privacy of home, but give my shoes a good sniff in my car immediately after purchase. Go ahead, judge.
This particular new pair of shoes seemed to carry an especially appealing perfume for several reasons. I’ll start with the most superficial: they’re purple! I’m not 14 years old. I swear. This is another thing I’m not ashamed to admit: festively-hued running shoes delight me just as much as the fun of going out and getting them dirty. The hot pink cousins of my shoes were the ones perched on display in the running shop, so when my friend Randy, owner of the operation, returned from the back room unexpectedly carrying the size 9.5 treasures in my favorite color, my usual new shoe bliss got ratcheted up about 3 notches. I practically floated out of the store.
Timing, both seasonal and personal, also has a lot to do with my affection for these shoes. Spring is newly-arrived, and I won’t repeat the clichés that have more wear than my newly-retired shoes, but I will say this: it feels absolutely fabulous to forgo gloves; to no longer stand waveringly just outside the door trying to calculate how many layers to wear; to feel some sunshine on my legs; and perhaps best of all, to have that extra daylight to run after work. This is such an ideal time of year for outdoor activity of any kind, not just running. It’s not cold; it’s not yet oven-like. Here in the New Mexico high desert, we do have some ornery wind to contend with, but big whoop – I still feel compelled to be outdoors, as if Mother Nature is insisting, “Come on! I’m at my fresh, shiny best here!”
Coinciding with Nature’s renaissance, it feels as though I’m broaching my own running renaissance. This is my first new pair of running shoes since my last marathon, the California International, which took place back in early December. The race didn’t go the way I wanted it to, and ever since, I’ve been taking a break from racing. I realized that during my pre-marathon taper, I just felt burnt-out. The spark between running and I had fizzled into something soggier than a Northern California winter. I know this isn’t any rare occurrence among runners, but after the requisite post-race recovery time, I still wanted nothing to do with any race registration forms. I told myself, “Just run, and get your love for it back.”
So that’s what I’ve been doing for the last three months: just running however the heck I want to. And at this point I can finally say that I feel something – a tiny, springtime crocus bud, my love for the sport. Vulnerable, yes, but with deep, healthy roots and mighty good soil.
As I write this, I have within arm’s reach a race registration form for a 10k two weeks from now that I’m running with my sister. It’s – eek! – entirely uphill. In preparation for it, today I did hill repeats: outdoor, non-treadmill, soft-surface, long-gradual-climbing hill repeats, for the first time since high school. Okay, so I only did, ahem, two of them. But you know what? It felt great. And my feet? They were positively singing in my new shoes.