Saturday saw me get up early. Again. With another crazy idea. Again.
“Let’s go to the marathon store at Liverpool street,” I said with far too much enthusiasm for someone who was not fully processing thoughts “I think it’s only a few miles away. We can get the bus there and run back.”
“OK. Great idea,” replied Kasia, much as before. I really don’t know if she thinks it’s a great idea, or if she’s just callng my bluff.
I check on Google maps; the store is EXACTLY four miles away, door to door, and before I know it, we’re dressed in our running gear and heading up to the bus stop, stopping only for a bottle of water and a few bananas.
The sights of Dalston on that Saturday morning were something to behold, but more on that later. It’s one thing going past a crime scene on a bus, and quite another having to run past it.
The marathon store is quite something. It’s the first time I’d ventured in and was a little overwhelmed as I realised what I had let myself in for.
Memorabilia adorns the walls; A rhino costumes stands in the doorway, guarding the entrance, a divers helmet languishes in a perspex box while street signs from the London route line the walls above each bay of brightly coloured running gear. Make no mistake, this just got serious.
Downstairs is where the Adidas “26ers” have a locker room. From what I understand, it’s a running group full of elite types who train to win. Feeling a little more intimidated than I was before, I sheepishly reply “just looking” when a sales assistant asks if we need any help.
We sidle over to the display of running shoes (there aren’t trainers here. These are all hardcore running shoes). and watch through the glass wall as someone goes through the gait analysis process.
I feel very self conscious at this point. I know I can run. I know I can run quite fast too, but all of a sudden, I feel like I’m on show and want to melt into the background.
Another sales assistant ask if we need any help. She’s six-feet tall, with an Eastern European accent, and I get the impression that she runs ten miles to work every morning, and runs them home again. There isn’t an ounce of fat on her. Any of them, in fact. All of the staff here look like the eat miles and poop personal bests.
“I want to do the thing,” I stammer, somehow forgetting how to speak.
“The gait analysis?”
“Yes, I guess so.”
She explains the process to me while Kasia, who has done this before just sits and laughs for the next twenty-five minutes.
some preliminary questions before we start (how often do I run, what distances are we covering), and I explain that we have a marathon coming in September. She’s not impressed, of course. This is an everyday occurrence for her. Somehow, this makes me feel worse as I remove my shoes and socks.
The first step is to mould an innersole to the foot. According to the scan, my arches are much higher than I thought them to be. I had always been under the impression that I was somewhat flat footed, but apparently not. Once the scans are complete, the innersoles are popped into what can only be described as a toaster to warm them, and make them pliable, and then they are moulded to my feet in a curious form of massage, which I am sure, this poor sales assistant does not get paid enough to do.
Impressed with the imprints my feet have left on the new innersoles, I start to feel a little better, but now comes the worst part; the gait analysis itself. This is where I’m going to be told what my running form is like.
The innersoles are placed into a pair of neutral shoes, and I slip them on and head towards the treadmill.
“What speed do you run at normally?” I’m asked as I stare at the treadmill in fear.
“About 7:30 per mile,” I reply, using my slower pace from the training sessions.
“That’s nearly thirteen km an hour,”she replies doing some very quick maths in her head. “That’s a little fast. I’ll set it to eleven for now.”
A little fast? That actually makes me feel better. and I step onto the treadmill with a new confidence.
As the machine picks up speed, I run for about thirty seconds, watching a video of Mo Farah running relentlessly through London’s Streets.
The machine is stopped, and I jump off, and walk over to the screen where a video loop of my ankles is playing over and over.
“Your right leg runs with no over or under pronunciation at all. Your left has the tiniest outward movement, but is only a degree or two. This is perfectly normal.”
I contemplate asking whether my back trouble maybe has caused it. But then think better of it. It’s normal, so don’t worry.
“Actually, I thought you were joking about the pace. But you run perfectly,” the assistant adds as Kasia comes in to look at the video.
We pick out about four pairs of trainers for me to try. I explain that Adidas seem to give me blisters, and we reject them instantly, leaving three pairs; Brooks, Asics and New Balance, all of which are over the £100 mark. I’ve never spent that kind of money on shoes in my life.
I try the Asics first. Kasia bought a pair the day before. I jump back onto the treadmill and run for the required 30 seconds, again staring at Mo Farah trying his hardest to inspire me.
I get down and go over to the video.
“Look at this,” the sales assistant says. “The consistency is amazing. You really do run perfectly.”
I’m looking at a side-by-side comparison of my two treadmill runs. Frame for frame, they are identical. Without the two different pairs of shoes on my feet, you wouldn’t have known you were watching a different take.
“Cool,” is the only response I have, my already huge ego getting another boost that it really didn’t need.
Next, the Brooks shoes.
Back on the treadmill, Mo Farah replaced by someone I probably should know but don’t. It doesn’t matter. I run perfectly.
Not much more to be said, it becomes about how I feel in the trainers, rather than how I run.
I opt for the Brooks Glycerine 12 shoes. They’re very expensive, but rather than seeing them as something to cover my feet, I see them as an investment, a tool to help me on my journey. But then I remember something.
I have to run four miles home.
We apologise to the sales assistant, but I make a promise to come back and pick them up later the same day (which I do), and head out the door on my long journey home.
Kasia is soon left behind (She cheated and took a bus in the end, still struggling with pain a little), and I battle Saturday afternoon crowds, dodging and weaving the best I can to avoid stopping.
I passed the crime scene I mentioned earlier, literally running alongside the police tape. There really was a lot of blood, covering the pavement, and the detritus of paramedic equipment still littering the area. I can only guess as to what happened at this point. It’s when I see the running shoes lying in the middle of the pool that something hits home.
I want to leave it there for today. Whatever happens, nobody ever deserves to die like that.