Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Getting Ready For My First Marathon – The Shoe Episode

At some point in 2011 I decided to get back in shape. And not just any shape, but my best possible one. To accomplish this I picked up running. Having played soccer my whole life, this seemed like a good fit. You would think that having been an athlete growing up I would have a fairly good idea about how to train somewhat adequately, but this is not the case necessarily. I made lots of mistakes, and I continue to learn so many things as I prepare myself for my first full marathon: The 2015 San Diego Rock “n” RollMarathon.

To be honest, even as I completed a few races and half marathons over the last couple of years, the idea of running a full marathon was not appealing to me. At some point I even made it a point to vow not to do it. It just seemed like way too much work, and stress on my body for a marginal satisfaction. But in the summer of 2014 I saw the story of an 80-something triple cancer survivor lady that started running when she was in her sixties, AND had already completed something like 20 marathons. I will confess that I did feel a little ashamed of myself.

I have no excuse.

So, as I said earlier, I made a few mistakes in the past, and I am working on doing things better this time around. When I started running I kept the same pair of running shoes for something like TWO years. I kid you not. The sorry things were falling apart and gave me as much cushion and comfort as a pair of cardboard boxes would wrapped around my feet. When I bought the new pair leading up to the 2013 San Diego Rock “n” Roll Half Marathon they felt like my poor feet were being comforted by clouds. I’ve been rotating shoes every 6-8 months since.

BUT I would still usually buy whatever pair I could find that was on sale and had decent reviews.
Some friends had recommended me to visit Road Runner, a store that specializes on running gear, to get tested for my best running tennis shoe fit. Now, I don’t know if it was skepticism, or pride, or maybe I was just intimidated by I-don’t-know-what, but it wasn’t until last week when I decided to pay them a visit. I needed new shoes; I am training for the marathon, so the timing was just right.

Here are the 5 most significant points I learned from that visit:

  • The first shocker at the store was to learn that I was using one full size too small tennis shoes. They actually recommend you to buy slightly bigger shoes for running than what you normally wear. I was used to the tight soccer fit, so this was totally new for me.
  • The second finding wasn’t as big of a surprise, but it is an important one nonetheless. When they did the running test to analyze my stepping I learned that my once my foot is fully set on the ground it slides just a bit over outwards at the ankle. This seems to be pretty common, but it was an indicator that I need shoes that can give me some added stability.
  • I also learned that cotton socks are not ideal for running or even exercising in general. They retain moisture, and this creates additional friction which can lead to blisters. They recommend synthetic fabrics. You can get a 4 pairs of sport socks at a Target for $10. They are fresher for your feet, and give you a tighter fit.
  • Some tennis shoes don’t offer as much support with their insoles. I wouldn’t immediately buy a customized one, but an affordable alternative can give you all you need in terms of adequate cushioning. I still think it’s a good idea to run with your shoes for a bit to see how they feel, and then decide if you need them.
  • My last takeaway for the evening was to remember to pamper the soles of my feet. I have never done this! Rolling a ball with your feet apparently can have many benefits (reduce pain, loosen up muscles) since this is where many important nerve and tissue networks that go as far up as your head begin. I am doing this now.

After trying a few styles with similar features, I decided to go for the Nike’s LunarEclipse 4. I didn’t get the customized insoles they offered me at the store (they were almost as expensive as the shoes), but I might get a decent pair later depending on how the shoes feel.

So far, I already completed a couple of runs with them, a hearty 5 miler (8:40 mile pace) and a slower 4 miles (9:51 mile pace) and they felt great. I can feel a significant difference from my last pair in terms of shock absorption; the new shoes are a much smoother ride. And I also noticed that the distribution of work is more evenly spread throughout my legs with less effort on my part with these shoes. So, I learned my lesson. I will be more careful when picking my gear.

Countdown to the Marathon: 16 weeks.