I bought a new pair of running shoes on Tuesday night.
They are some sweet pumped up new Brooks kicks, a little bit more of a neutral shoe than the stability ones I had been wearing all summer. More of a full, flatter foot runner and on long distances I was getting some nasty foot pain since I was over-correcting for the extra arch supp-
Who the fuck am I? I’m no runner, I haven’t earned talking like this about shoes and gait and pace. I spent most of my intramural athletic activity as an amateur softball player who specialized in being the third-best first baseman on a deep team that won games while downing many brews. Sure, I played a little bit of soccer, too. But becoming a runner as I creep too close to 30? I sure didn’t see that coming.
And it’s all Boston’s fault.
I have this analogy to describe how I think it happened, so stick with me. When I lived in Washington, you couldn’t make it through a happy hour or meeting at the coffee maker in the morning without a political discussion. We knew each other’s parties better than birthdays. And that’s how running is here in Boston. Whether you ask for it or not, you can’t miss the runners in crosswalks on the morning commute, and for some reason many a bar conversation somehow turns to sore legs, a late partner-in-crime from a lap around the Charles or discussion of the most recent running club night.
It doesn’t have to be Marathon Monday, people are always talking about running here, and there are days when you feel like you want to contribute. For me, the only way I could get into this one is to put some shoes on the pavement of Boston.
Maybe it’s not fair to say everyone’s always around running, but in my corner of town, it sure feels that way. You see, I live in the South End. There are days when it feels like there was a neighborhood ordinance that says you aren’t allowed to walk a block around here without a baby, puppy or gym shorts. The middle one isn’t an option in my building and the first one is getting ahead of myself, so I started to cave. I have a need to fit in, I guess, and for my age group and set of people here in town, I guess my way of fitting in was a few morning runs on the river.
And all of a sudden, my counter says I’ve run more than 100 miles since mid-May. If you would have told me I’d be writing that now, I’d tell you it was probably a typo.
Like I said, I blame Boston.
I have the fine people at South End Athletic Company to whom I should file partial guilt. It was enough days passing by SEAC down here as I went to hit the Tremont Starbucks, watching the weekly run club that contributed to my odd envy of not fitting into this culture. I also should blame RunKeeper – Boston-based itself – with which I started using as a professional to see what the fuss was all about but now use it to religiously track and train what I do every morning to the point that my social network made a fast transition from being supportive to getting sick of me.
Then there’s the people I see or talk to every day about this stuff, my habitual marathoning friends who were a big reason I kept lacing up. Some of them, including great DC friend Anna and fellow WLBT author Casey, were my running buddies from the beginning as I was faking it through just a mile or two. (I played it up, in case you’re wondering – you better believe I held onto those moderate accomplishments). Yes, I want to keep up with you. Yes, this is your fault whether you want to admit it or not. I just want to have something as awesome as you do to talk about.
I’m not the fastest guy in the mornings on the Mass Ave bridge, using the Smoot markers as little milestones every bit of the way – I don’t get in the way, I promise – but I do it with enough frequency now that I fell into habit and then love with ap. I mean that, and I can’t hide it at work or in bar conversations which I now happily get to join. My colleagues give me hell because they can tell which mornings I ran before work and which I didn’t (I’m usually giddier after a run).
Now signed up for a half marathon. That’s 13 miles. In the time between college and my softball career, I don’t think I ran more than a tenth of that.
And I have Boston to blame.