Slowly but surely it has become clear to me that my beloved trail running shoes are not long for this life. I bought them just over a year ago, a pair of silver and purple Sauconys with lime green accents, pretty enough to wear proudly but with robust enough treads to protect my delicate feet from the sharp and pointy rocks I often meander over. I rarely run on pavement anymore, so my choices for shoes are limited. When I found these Saucony trail runners, I was a happy camper.
Today, my trail runners are no longer so pretty, but instead a mottled and muddy grey. There is a point on each shoe where my little toes are beginning to rub away at the mesh upper, as if to protest their confinement in these worn and smelly kicks. Although once somewhat water-resistant, now anytime my foot lands in a murky puddle, (which is more often than not) the cold water quickly seeps into my socks and onto my skin. Sporting a permanent crust of mud and grass around their soles, they never lay foot inside the house. Instead, they live happily in the garage, just outside the door, always at the ready for our next adventure.
I don’t track my mileage exactly, but I imagine these friends have carried me well over a hundred miles over the course of this year. They have kept me from slipping on frosty, icy trails and helped me leap over occasional downed branches and trees. Over the past summer, when rain was oddly rare and the trails turned to an unfamiliar dust, my Sauconys took on a unique sandy-beige appearance, much like the fatigues soldiers wear in the desert.
I imagine anyone who is a runner understands this sadness over retiring a beloved pair of shoes. There is a trust, a warm expectation that these pieces of rubber and nylon will get us through to where we need to go. They are there with us when we exceed our expectations and when we meet our goals. They are there with us when we just can’t go any further, and they are there for us the very next day when we realize we that we most certainly can. As a yogi, I feel similarly about my yoga mat. Even though I often pine for a new mat in a prettier color or a stickier surface, I look at my well-seasoned Manduka as a trusted confidant. The idea of having to go through the break-in process of a new one is just too much to bear.
These inanimate objects sometimes seem to carry a surprisingly heavy emotional load.
A woman in one of my yoga classes once remarked about the mat she was using. I was teaching in a church, and would bring a suitcase full of yoga mats for the students to use. Most of the mats were newly purchased, but the suitcase also included a couple of my own personal mats that I had added to the bunch. One day after class, this woman was rolling up her mat and mentioned to me that it had felt “different.” She told me how she usually always used the same mat from my collection, but this time had picked the blue one. She told me how it seemed to be full of spirit, almost like it had a story to tell. Looking at her skeptically, I cocked one eyebrow and said, “Did you know that that one was the very first yoga mat I ever owned?” She didn’t, of course, and we laughed about the mysterious way things can sometimes touch us.
I look at my shoes and I know their days are numbered. Like so many other wonderful things, the same model is no longer available. The new and improved item that Saucony offers seems too flashy, too fancy, too high-tech for such a gritty, muck-slogging workhorse of a trail runner. I suppose I will succumb and order a pair before too long, begrudgingly moving on, knowing that the health of my feet and my habit of running depends on good, supportive shoes.
And when that happens, I won’t immediately toss my old friends in the trash. No, they will likely relocate to the shelves in the garage where we keep our old sneakers, the ones in which we mow the lawn and rake the leaves. Like a retired racehorse, turned out to pasture to rest and remember it’s glory days, full of stories to tell and spirit to impart.
Just for awhile, you see, until it’s time to say a final goodbye.