Mark’s brother had his first fitting experience….because it seemed like a good idea at the time:

Let me just preface these remarks with “It sure seemed like a good idea at the time.” I would like to lose some weight and I would like to get into better shape.  Might as well run!

I used to work out 3-4 times a week.  And I ran in high school.  So, logic dictates I should have no problem running again – and as a daily practitioner of logic for over 25 years, I was sure this had to be the right thing to do.  And I still had a pair of my old running shoes, so I was good-to-go.  Did I mention that I thought this was going to be a good idea?

This is, of course, what has led me to my first near death experience.

It started with me walking a mile around the block. Ahh…that felt great, lots of energy, I’ll just pick up the pace and run a lap.  This is where the wheels started to fall off, and not quite in such a graceful manor as that may sound.

Of course, the first 1/4 mile is all up hill, which doesn’t seem steep when you’re just walking.  However as I approached the end of this severe, near vertical incline, I was sure I should be on all fours strapped in with a safety rope to ensure I could make it to the top without falling back into the abyss.  But, since I sounded like a wheezing freight train com’n round the mountain I noticed people were getting out of my way so nicely.

As near death experiences go, I’m sure mine was no exception. That calm, serene, peacefulness did not envelope my body – it was more of a death grip preventing me from breathing or seeing or thinking.

Somehow I determined I was not nearly dead yet, just unable to do any of that breathing stuff we always take for granted.  Maybe the altitude was making it hard to breath.  I assumed since the rest of the lap was all down hill, I’d just coast on home: Again, my brain fails me miserably.  Of course, it would be embarrassing to get lapped by the three-year-old kid on his bike, complete with training wheels.  So I press on, trying to look as natural as possible, not at all like a pale old white guy running from the wrath of the grim reaper, who was advancing on me quite readily.

While “miracles never cease” as the saying goes, I did finally make it home.  Completely soaked as buckets of sweat pouring from all parts of my body and unable to breath without gasping.  In-through-the-nose, out through the mouth, I kept hearing my coach tell us – I could see me passing out with that special piece of advice.  There is a place in hell for trainers who can say that with a straight face.

Fine motor control is highly overrated when running for your life. After dropping the keys twice, I was finally able to unlock the door and enter the house. All I could do was stick my head in the sink and pour water over my head, hoping I wouldn’t explode or start melting.  Turns out I was just steaming up the house.

The conclusion from all of this, was of course, that I obviously need to get a new pair of those fancy running shoes.

I’ve seen kids of all ages running effortlessly with those new shoes, so I should get some too. Logically, I knew I’d be able to keep up with them

….if I just had a good pair of shoes.

As it turns out, one does not simply stop at the local runners store to “see what they got.”  I entered the store, knowing immediately I was in the wrong place.  Dozens of happy, stick-figure, smiling kids greeted me.  I suppose they were all smiling knowing the torture I was heading for.

Finally, someone saw me looking blankly at a wall full of running shoes or more like 7 walls full of shoes. I was going to say “I’d like that pair in a size 9” and be ready to walk of of the store. Instead, when asked if this was my first time there (as if that wasn’t obvious enough) I said, “Why yes, how did you know?”  In reflection, I suspect he wasn’t actually being rude when he didn’t answer.

His recommendation was that I try one of their running analysis stations – “duhhh” was all I could manage as he routed me over to a big-screen TV and a treadmill.

After telling me to remove my socks and sandals (hey, its all the rage here in California!) I figured they’d just measure my feet and I’d be ready to go.  But no, first we have to have a little chat with the computer.  I’ve seen computers before, I knew I could handle this.  So, quick as a flash, I was able to enter my name and address without breaking a sweat.  Now I could get my shoes! Well, not quite.

After a few more pages of happy smiling people on-screen asking all sorts of questions.  Where are you planning on running ? Hmmm…I know, outside (alas, this was not one of the options.) The inquisition continued for what seemed like hours.  If I knew I was going to be tested, I would have studied!  Maybe three minutes later, that’s when I got the news – it was time to get on the treadmill.

One does not envision a treadmill as a modern torture device, but now I understand that medieval torture has evolved. And, this torture station was guarded by a highly trained torture specialist, in the form a tiny little girl about 16 years old.
These are of course the source of some of the most entertaining you-tube videos ever – people getting wasted by the ever so innocent looking but deadly tricky, treadmill torture devices. Well, I was sure I could keep my cool and stand up and run on this, all I have to do is act like I’m actually running on the street.  And she promised it would only last for 15 seconds.

Insert you-tube video.  I’m sure I wasn’t being captured by a video camera, but a gaggle of kids were in the corner, watching a monitor and laughing and they kept turning around looking at me.  But I suppose I’m just paranoid.  Anyhow, after I finally go the hang of it and increased the speed up to a screaming 2 miles per hour, I was done!

Now, onto the fitting –  they gave me a free pair of socks for trying on the shoes.  (Spoiler alert – they take these socks back like indian-givers!) Not satisfied to dazzle me with the technology, now my eyes glazed as they brought out about 10 pairs of shoes.  So, I tried on the first pair, they seemed to fit, felt great, I’m outta here!  Not so fast, try these, these have special features, and those have different special features.  Like a child with a toy, I stuck with the first pair (I wouldn’t let them take them off) and ensured them that these were just what I was looking for – “duhhh, can I go home now?”.

So, finally, I take my prize that I’d worked so hard for, up to the register.  Nothing in the store actually had any price tags on them, so imagine my surprise when I thought these shoes would be similar to the last pair I bought for $49. I think inflation has hit the shoe market worse than health care.  Maybe we need a government shoe-loan program – what is the going rate for your first born child these days anyhow ?

I expected to see one of the clerks running down the interstate to give me another special offer, but I made it home unmolested with my new shoes. And yes, they even have that new-shoe smell!  Maybe one day next year I’ll take them for a run, because, that sounds like a good idea.

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