For twenty one years I have run in Sauconys—thick and cushiony and with hard white orthotics to prevent the overpronation that was diagnosed way back when as the cause of a bad case of shinsplints.
The new shoes are the new Sauconys, pink nylon with white foam soles, lighter than a pair of wool socks. I wear the shoes sockless. Through them, I can feel the texture of the ground. The book—the breathless Outdoor magazine-style page turner of a sham of a pseudo-anthropological book—says your feet get stronger the longer you run without shoes, that you ultimately avoid injury. The videos online of runners who have run barefoot all their lives show the ball of the foot kissing down to the ground in slow motion, then the cushioning grip-down of the toe and heel.
I can’t tell if I’m doing it right. Are those my heels I’m landing on? Toes? Land on the ball of my foot? Like this? This? After a block, I’m aerobically wiped out and can hear my heels clicking down first (hear, not feel, yet) just as they’re not supposed to. This new way takes new muscles, and to do it right I have to be at a real run, not the heel-dragging shuffle I’d become used to, scuffing along through the brown leaves with my ipod on.
I find myself in the most false conversations. Even with A. He calls to ask how my run was. “Pretty good,” I answer, automatically. I am halfway into the unthinking next sentence (“I, uhh, it was…”) before I realize I am carrying out an empty routine. “Actually it wasn’t pretty good. My lungs felt like ass and I had no idea if I was doing it right, and I only went three blocks.” Much better.
But then there are the moms at the park and the moms at Spanish class pickup and the friends at the Halloween parade, and whoever’s in the kitchen at work when I wander in to microwave my leftover pizza. How are you? Pretty good. Good. What’s new? Not much. I rocket back out of the conversation’s orbit before (if) I ever realize I haven’t really been saying anything. What’s to say at day care pickup, in the checkout line, even over coffee with a friend?
If words are metal, this chatter hammers them into foil. Talk too much and you never know when you might accidentally throw an anvil at someone. And then keep on talking.