Running shoe shopping

On and off, I’ve been a runner for over a decade.  It started with the bizarre idea that I would train to run a marathon, which I did (and hated, and swore I would never do again).  But though I was done with marathoning, for some reason running stuck with me.  I’ve never quite enjoyed the running — not in the way I enjoy many of the other things I do — but I came to love the feelings I have afterwards:  accomplishment, exertion, challenge, and the satisfaction of having put in real effort and finishing what I set out to do.

I don’t look like a runner.  I can neither run very fast not very great distances.  My accomplishments are accrued slowly, through persistence.  But I do get out there and put the miles in.  After a bit of a hiatus, I came back to running last year.  I started in March, and by the end of the year I’d put in over 600 miles (counting both runs and athletic, fast walks).  I was feeling pretty proud, and increasingly fit.

I also, though, was feeling the pain of incredibly overworn running shoes.  I’ve lost track exactly, but I know for certain that I had not replaced my running shoes more than once since running the marathon … in 2001.  I was in dire need of new shoes, and endlessly putting it off.  I did not want to try to buy running shoes here, where I would most likely have to complete the transaction in German.  I wanted to try and wait until my next visit home, where I know a good place, and where I could make my purchase in English.

But I couldn’t hold out long enough.  By late October, my feet and knees were starting to feel sore, and I regularly had to pause during my runs to try and tighten my shoes — and I never could quite get them tight enough.  I had to admit that I couldn’t wait any longer — I needed new shoes.  I debated getting online and trying to choose some, but my previous experiences of being fitted by knowledgable professionals left me all too aware that choosing the “right” shoes out of a catalog was pretty unlikely.  I was left with only one daunting option — to shop for running shoes in person here in Vienna … in German.

After doing a little research, I was happy to discover that I at least wouldn’t have to go far — there is a good running shop right around the corner, on my block (and technically in my building).  One Saturday afternoon, I went for it.  I went to the shop and looked around, disheartened by the expense (and not daring to mentally convert to dollars).  I chose a few that I liked the look of (though I know that’s not the way to choose running shoes — choosing running shoes can’t be done by look, color or brand, you try them, then you know), and found someone to help me (who, thankfully, spoke a little English).

I discovered a few things.

First, I still have an inclination to choose marathon shoes.  Of all the running shoes in the shop, the three pairs I had selected were all more appropriate for long-distance running than for the short distances I do now. I also discovered that shopping for running shoes here is very much like shopping for running shoes at home. And runners don’t judge other runners the way that non-runners do — just like at home.  When I tell a non-runner that I run, they (always) take a look at my physique before uttering a (sometimes surprised, sometimes impressed) “Really?” (often) followed by, “Just jogging, though, right?”  When I tell another runner that I run, they usually don’t react.  No surprise, no nothing.  Just on to the next thing.  When I explained to the young guy at the shop that I was looking for running shoes, he had not a flicker of surprise or doubt, just immediately jumped into questions about distance, schedule and running surfaces … which was pretty great.

From there, he chose several pairs of shoes for me to try (none of which were ones I had selected), and then I tried them on in turn and ran around the shop — which is exactly the process I was familiar with from home.  (I like it — it’s like when Harry Potter goes to Ollivander’s to choose his wand!)

I finally selected a pair — not at all like the ones I thought I would have wanted — and went home very happy (but also a good bit poorer — running shoes are EXPENSIVE here).  But now my feet and knees feel better.

Almost a marathon

A few weeks ago, I thought I would try to see if I could walk/run/hike a marathon’s worth of miles each week. Since then, I’ve been making an effort and keeping track, but I hadn’t yet come close until last week.  I still didn’t quite make it, but I did cover over 24 miles last week.

I did some walking, a very little bit of running, and even about 5 miles worth of ice skating.  I’ve found that most weeks, I walk about 6 miles without making any particular effort — taking B to school, going shopping, going to my German lesson — which leaves me just over 20 miles to accrue some other way.  That works out to nearly 3 additional miles that I need to get in each day.  I didn’t quite make it last week, but almost.  (I should have recorded the distance we covered on the dance floor at the ball!)

I’m working on it.  I’m getting there.  I’m going to keep at it, and see where it takes me.  I wonder how far we’ll walk in Italy?

A marathon each week

Back in “the day” (i.e., over 10 years ago, when I was young and relatively slender) I ran a marathon.  Seriously, I did — the Baltimore Marathon in 2001.  I even finished.  The whole thing.  It was the hardest thing I have ever done.  The training and preparation felt good.  There was a lot of camaraderie amongst myself and the friends I made while training.  I (usually) looked forward to my long weekly training runs and got through the shorter ones without a problem.  I got myself all in shape and was ready for the big day.

And, then, the race came . . . and I hated it.  I hated running the marathon.  I hated everything except for the first few miles.  It did not make me feel good.  It took me 7 hours to finish, and there was a stretch in there where I didn’t think I was going to finish, and I wasn’t sure I was going to survive (that sounds overly dramatic, but unless you’ve actually gone out and run 26.2 miles on a 80 degree day in what is, secretly, the hilliest city in America, don’t judge).

I fell asleep in the car on the way home (Dan was driving), woke up later, ate most of a pizza and slept again for about 12 hours.  When I woke up the next day, I swore to myself that I would NEVER do it again.  And I never have.

But, although I hated it, it was certainly an accomplishment, and it’s kind of a cool thing to have done.  And I know that I DID do it, and that conceivably, I COULD do it again (given proper motivation, which truly does not exist in the known universe).  But, I know that I can go that far, and I know that it didn’t kill me (I wasn’t even injured).  I will keep the promise to myself to never do that again — at least, not all in one day.  But, I was thinking about my exercise routine (which I’ve been out of since before Christmas) and the number of miles I do every week, and something occurred to me.  I could walk, jog, run . . . whatever . . . a marathon’s worth of miles every week without really adding THAT much to what I’m doing right now.

And that seems like it’d be kind of cool.  So, I’m going to try it.

I don’t think it counts as a New Year’s resolution, because it’s January 13th.  But I’m going to start, this week, and I’m going t o see how long I can keep it up.  26.2 miles, every week.

This week will be a challenge, because we’re going out of town later this week, and I have no idea if there will be reasonable walking/jogging areas in the town where we’re going.  But, I started today (just 2 miles) and I’ll see what happens this week.  (I’ll call this week a trial run.)

I’m going to let myself accomplish it in pieces (obviously) and I can do it by any means I choose.  I can walk, chase the kids around the park, jog, walk to the store, walk instead of taking the bus, hike.  Whatever.  I’m not going to be picky, but I’m going to see if I can do it.

Hot chocolate at Michaelerplatz

The last few nights at our house have been rough.  Liam is teething again, and Benjamin was having strange (and apparently unpleasant) dreams about Elmo and Grover being at our house, which had something to do with us having to move.  So, we were ALL up a lot the last few nights.  I managed to sleep in a little bit this morning (thank you Dan) but it was still one of those weird days where I can’t quite seem to get anything to happen the way that I want it to and I somehow make it to 4:30 in the afternoon without having done any of the things I intended to get done.

005It being Friday, this concerned me less than it might have on another day (because having one of “those days” at the end of the week doesn’t tend to spiral into the following days, thus leading to one of “those weeks”).  But still, I wanted to at LEAST get my walk in for the day, so around 4:30 this afternoon I started to get the kids changed, dressed and out the door for a walk.  We made it out by 5:00, Dan was due home by 5:45 and I was wondering if it wasn’t just a silly thing to try to accomplish with my day.

I’m really glad we went.  I walked, Liam rode in the stroller and Benjamin rode his bike.  It was chilly, but really lovely — we made it out in time to still have a little sunlight to enjoy the beauty of Vienna.  I didn’t get a lot of exercise in — Benjamin was easily distracted today, and the dark was closing in quickly — but I really enjoyed a nice time out with my boys.


Heading back, we came through Michaelerplatz.  It was just getting to be dusk, and the chilly air was starting to creep in.  We went past Starbucks, and I couldn’t resist — I took the boys in for hot chocolate (really, just for me and B, Liam just got a little whipped cream).  We sat outside and watched evening come on.  It got darker in the square — the carriage drivers lit their lamps, the cars and bicycles turned on their headlights, and the streetlights came on, one after the other, in front of the Spanish Riding School.  Benjamin proudly carried, and drank, his hot chocolate all by himself.










We sat, and talked about our day.  I wrestled Liam (who desperately wanted to get down and walk around on the cobblestones).  Dan got home and walked down to meet us.  I love these moments with my kids — when we share something completely ordinary, yet very special.  Going “to a cafe” (as Benjamin explained it) and having hot chocolate, together, on a chilly fall day, is pretty special.  Doing it in the heart of Vienna makes it magic.

Breaking a sweat

I’ve recently started to make more of a point to get regular exercise.  I’d love to lose the rest of the “baby weight” (from being pregnant with Liam, but also still from being pregnant with Benjamin) but even more just because I feel better when I move around — it’s good for my body and my brain.  After years of being active regularly without having to think too much about it (riding, dancing) it’s amazing how crappy it can feel to basically stop moving except when you need to.  (Even that’s an exaggeration — we don’t own a car, so I walk a lot, and I chase two kids around all the time, so that’s a lot of activity, but it just isn’t the same as moving for the purpose of moving.)

Not wanting to end up injuring myself right away, I’ve started slowly — I’m walking and doing a little bit of yoga.  I felt better almost immediately, and now, after just a week, I’m really starting to notice a difference — I walk for time, not distance, and I go significantly further each time.  So, that feels good.  It just feels good to move.

I usually walk with Liam in the mornings (don’t worry — I don’t make Liam walk, he gets to ride in the stroller) when B is at school, but I don’t always make that work, so then I try to go in the afternoons.  Today, I went in the afternoon with both Liam and Benjamin.  Liam rode in the stroller and Benjamin rode his “pushing bike”.  We had a blast.  It was so fun to be outside, making my body move, and spending time with my kids — we all really, really enjoyed it (even Dan met up with us after he got home from work).  It was a beautiful day, and I got a pretty good workout in — Benjamin can get going pretty fast on his bike!

I’ve often wondered how the Viennese manage to walk everywhere and still look perfect.  They are beautifully done up (in general) and seem to maintain that throughout the day — even though use of public transportation, and walking, are so common.  On all my walks over the past week or so, I’ve been noticing something — in part, at least, it’s because they walk pretty slowly.  Even I, relatively out of shape (and with pretty short legs), manage to speed past even tall men walking to the train station.  If they’re out just strolling around, they go even slower.  I doubt they usually break a sweat.  It’s a novel concept for me — maybe I’m an impatient person, but I almost always walk quickly.  No wonder they manage to look the same at 6:00 in the evening as they do at 8:00 in the morning!  It also helps to explain why they’re always so bundled up (I am easily the most lightly dressed person I encounter when I go out for my brisk walks).

That isn’t to say they don’t exercise — they definitely do.  It’s a very active and relatively fit culture, as far as I can tell.  But when they’re about their daily tasks, they seem to take their time . . . although they ALSO manage to be on time to everything (a paradox I have yet to figure out).

There’s a measured pace, coupled with an efficiency and promptness, that I find really nice in the people here.  They manage to be on time without being rushed, fit without being obsessed.  I still haven’t figured out how they do it, but I like it, and I hope I learn a little.