On running… and saying goodbye

I went for a run today.

I always hesitate to call myself a runner. To be honest, I don’t know anything about running. I don’t know anything about times, or paces, or strategy.

When I run six miles, I run close to a 9-minute mile pace. When I run two miles, I run around a 9-minute mile pace.

I don’t know anything about running, but I still run.

I run for the release, for the solitude, for the podcasts, for the pain — and for the peace.

I run for that moment… that moment after six miles of torture, when everything stops feeling so bad, when the Bruce Springsteen on my iPod blends in to the background, and I become lost in the moment.

For that moment, I can be anything. I can be Usain Bolt, running the 100 meters at the Olympics. I can be Lionel Messi, scoring a goal in the World Cup. I can be Blake Griffin, ready to explode to the rim.

For that moment, I can be transported. Or I can be myself, running toward the horizon, ready to liftoff.

*****

I’ve taught myself to run in the cold weather. I still don’t like it. In fact, I hate it. But when the temperature drops, and there’s snow on the ground, I still feel compelled to put on three or four layers — an old sweatshirt, a stocking cap, a dirty long-sleeve shirt — and venture out into the white.

Of course, it’s been at least 50 degrees the last few days in Kansas City, and there’s something rejuvenating about hitting the pavement when the weather turns warm.

It’s kind of like that feeling of rebirth.  Your muscles loosen, and you feel the warmth of the sun, and you know that summer is coming.

So, today, I put on a pair of dirty KU basketball shorts, and an old college T-shirt, and I went to find my running shoes.

I picked them off the ground, and I began to undo the weathered laces — and I was fixated by my shoes.

I guess I’d never really looked at them that closely. You know, it’s funny about running shoes. For more than three years, these shoes have been the most indispensable piece of clothing in my closet.

Of course, I only wear them for a few reasons: I’m going for a run, I’m going to play basketball, I’m going to the gym, or I’m doing something outside — like hiking or flag football.

And I hardly ever wear them in front of other people — at least, not intentionally.

Maybe that’s the life of running shoes. You wear them, and you wear them, and run in them, and they endure a pounding for you, and day after day after day, you offer up more punishment. And here’s the thing: They’ve never let me down.

So, the other day, I looked my running shoes. They’re blue and white Asics. Well, they used to be blue and white Asics. Now they are blue and some faded mix of grey and dirt and sweat. I don’t even know what you would call this color.

They have a frayed and gaping hole in the top of the toe. And they have huge slits on the side (quite remarkably, there’s one strand still connecting synthetic material to the sole on my left shoe).

But they still work.

*****

We’ve been through so much together. We’ve run through snow, and rain, and minus-5 degree wind chills. We’ve jogged on the beaches of Puerto Rico. And we’ve hurt together on the old river trails in Lawrence, Kan. We’ve weaved through the old neighborhoods of Alexandria, Va. And we’ve run through the historic streets of San Francisco.

We’ve run 5K’s in Overland Park and in downtown Kansas City.

And for the last year, as I’ve made a new home in the West Plaza neighborhood of Kansas City, my running shoes have been my best friend.

And we went for another run today.

We started in my neighborhood. And we jogged by shoppers on Brush Creek on the Plaza. And we ran past two hipsters on a date in Loose Park. And we ran past the bourgeois mansions on Ward Parkway.

And I realized: it might be time to say goodbye to these shoes.

We’ve been together for so long, and so many miles, and by now, they’re probably a health hazard for my heels and knees.

But I just don’t want to say goodbye.

When I put on the shoes, I can feel the memories.

The sweat, the snow, the scenery, and everything I’ve been through the last two years.

Maybe I’ll go shopping soon. Maybe I’ll look for another pair. But maybe not.

We went running today. And we plan on going running tomorrow.

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