Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Shoes of Passion: My 5th Anniversary As A Runner

Today I celebrate! It was on December 1, 2006, that I moved to the Upper West Side and decided that a new, freshly painted apartment next to Central Park required a runner and not a smoker dwelling inside. I broke a full box of KOOLS in half at the intersection of 73
rd & Columbus and that day I bought a box of ASICS instead. I had smoked for 6 years. My goal was to run a marathon within a year. My mission was to live as long as possible for my 3 sons Matt, Ben & Josh, and enjoy every day of life. I joined NY Road Runners and entered races, trained at Central Park, drank a lot of water and it was easy.

Five years later, as I train for three more marathons in 2012 (Miami 1/29, Paris 4/15 & NYC 11/4) that will put me into double figures, I have a story to tell. I am going to let my shoes do the talking, because I kept every pair that I have retired along the way once they reached 350 to 400 miles. I am celebrating by donating most of these to Soles4Souls (website | Twitter) so they will go to people in need of shoes.

As you can see from that video, there are 11 pairs in my running history to date. They are shown there in order, and below in more detail. I am going to celebrate my fifth anniversary by making it a dozen, because my current Nikes are rubbing on the ball of my right foot when I get past 6 or 7 miles. I am taking no chances with the Miami Marathon coming up, a blister having already ruined my 2010 marathon there. So I will get back into my most reliable shoes: neutral Brooks Glycerines (fifth pair). The greatest advice I can give any aspiring runner out there is this: It is mostly about the shoes, ask the salesperson if s/he is a runner, and once you find the right pair don't change. Color and pizazz become meaningless after dirtying them 50 or 100 miles.

1ST SHOES: ASICS GT-2110 GEL (12/1/06)
I had no idea what I was doing on December 1, 2006. I took the subway from 72nd Street to 42nd Street, got out at Times Square and went to Foot Locker. I asked where running shoes were and a salesperson recommended these for me. I'm a 10 1/2 and he told me to get a half-size larger for running. I have ordered 11s ever since. Alas, the salesperson was clearly not a runner, and I would deal with a year of leg injuries related to being in the wrong kind of shoes.

During 2007, an ill-equipped salesperson at Jack Rabbit Sports on 14th Street in NYC correctly put me onto a treadmill for a video gait analysis, but he incorrectly told me I overpronate and need to buy a pair of inserts for those ASICS. In this picture, you can see one of the stiff, built-up instep inserts pulled out. I followed the person's advice and it led to great pain with plantar fasciitis and shinsplints among other problems during my novice first year.

These are the shoes I bought for my first marathon, NYC 2007. I ran the last 12 miles on different spots of my right foot to deal with the daggers caused by being in a wrong shoe. Still, I was a marathoner. The feeling of finishing was incomparable in life.

Finally, at Fleet Feet in West St. Louis County, a fleet female runner salesperson took charge and did the "finger test." She simply put her index finger under my heel as I stood and said, "Oh, you have high arches." She sold me these green Brooks Glycerines. After starting with three pair of the wrong ASICS, it was the turning point in my five years of running. I have been healthy ever since. Two months later I ran the St. Louis Marathon in 5:21 and was gradually a PR machine.

5TH SHOES: LI NING (8/24/08)
I was fortunate enough to work the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing for Major League Baseball's digital operation. Those two weeks were life-changing, as I went for a training run on the Great Wall of China, ran my own sub-2-hour half marathon on a real Olympic venue, watched the men's marathon, and bought my own pair of Li Nings. Li Ning was the most famous Olympic gold medalist in China's history, and he had his own line. Between the men's marathon and Closing Ceremonies, I went to a downtown mall and several workers eagerly tried so hard to help me find the right size. That was MY China, and they are world friends. Alas, the Li Nings were too large for me to use for more than an occasional short run, but they are beautiful.

6TH SHOES: BROOKS GLYCERINES (10/14/08) I bought these at Super Runners Shop from a familiar salesperson who ran marathons. This was probably my high point in five years of running: KNOWING what I want, not needing to try on any other pairs, just buying what already is proven for me. Indeed, less than one month later I ran the NYC Marathon in 5:13, which was lightning for ME. I was in such good shape, two weeks after that I finished my first ultramarathon, the Knickerbocker 60K. It rained solid for one of the laps around Central Park in that 37-miler, so I changed from my Brooks yellows to greens during the race. I wish I could find another pair exactly like these: MY FAVORITES!

What footwear should a man buy to pop the question? I went with my third consecutive pair of Brooks and I wore these at the July 2009 New Jersey Marathon. It was solid rain from start to finish, but it didn't matter because at Mile 25 I picked up the engagement ring box held by race officials and carried it to the finish line. Then I got down on a knee and asked Lisa if she would marry me. She said yes and I love her.

Lisa and I were married on Valentine's Day of 2010, two weeks after I ran the Miami Marathon with a 14-mile blister (bad sock). We honeymooned in Curacao. A month later, these were my fourth pair of Brooks and the only change was a little fern frond design work along the sole.

I went to the annual Wall Street 3M Run to support friends, and the finish was at the World Financial One center along the Hudson. They set up a makeshift shoe sale for runners who congregated at the finish, and I snapped up these cool pair of Sauconys. I wanted to take a chance on "neutral is neutral." Indeed, I absolutely loved these shoes. Very cushiony and a lot of life. The only downside is that my English Bulldog, King Bingley, liked to chew shoes as a puppy and took a chunk out of these -- look closely at the left shoe.

10TH SHOES: ASICS GEL-KAYANO 16 (Spring 2011) My English Bulldog having munched on the Saucony, I happened to be at the Palisades mall and in a Sports Authority. These were neutrals and on a clearance table for something like $60 so I took a chance that they would at least rotate in as decent trainers. I ran the Brooklyn Half in them. They're OK, not ideal for me. My first ASICS since my rookie year!

11TH SHOES: NIKE VOMERO 6 (8/17/11)
I wasn't even the one looking for shoes when I got these. Lisa bought a pair of Adidas at the Adidas Store in Soho, so while we were there I picked up my first pair of Nikes. They are the most cushiony shoe I have ever far. The cushion lasts forever. Unfortunately, once I get past around 6 miles the ball of my right foot starts to sear. I can't chance it for a marathon so these will be just for trainers going forward.

12th SHOES: Coming soon.

Monday, November 14, 2011


Leading up to Dec. 1 and my 5-year anniversary of trading Kools for Asics and becoming a runner, I am posting entries about things I have learned as a marathoner. I hope it might be helpful to others getting into running. Here is Part 3.

As I sit here typing this, I am two weeks away from the big anniversary. It is a big deal to me. My lease was up that Dec. 1, 2006, and I was about to stumble across destiny. I would move into Manhattan, into a fresh Upper West Side apt. on 73rd Street, a block from Central Park. I would meet the couple moving out of the unit, telling me about their New York Road Runners membership and how much they liked running and biking the park. An idea was beginning to form. On that Dec. 1, I would move in, and then at the intersection outside I would break a full box of KOOLS in half and buy a box of ASICS that day. I would join NYRR. I would make it my goal to run a marathon, then more. I would run an ultra. I would be a runner for life. . . .

This post is about Thanks as we approach Thanksgiving. I have a lot to be thankful for.

Thanks to my Dad. Kurt Newman meant everything to me. I lost him to multiple myeloma on March 3, 2006. When I started running, I knew that one reason I was running was because of Dad. I just felt like running, and not stopping. When I finished my first marathon, 2007 NYC, I re-entered Central Park at Columbus Circle for the final quarter-mile and I cried and looked up at the sky that entire final stretch. The photo on top of this blog is what I saw, that sign and sky. I had no idea what I was doing. Dad was pulling me home.

Thanks to my super wife Lismo. She actually ran the final loop around Central Park with me, in the dark, as I completed the 2008 Knickerbocker 60K ultra, nine loops, in 9:52. I proposed to her at the finish line of the 2009 NJ Marathon and she said Yes. She is always encouraging me. Now I have Lismo running some NYRR races as well.

Thanks to my awesome sons, Matt, Ben and Josh. I run to live a long life and be there for them to cheer and support them through anything. They have been there for me. I am so proud of my guys.

Thanks to the Big Cats. When I started running, Myspace still ruled. I found a running club of people like me, scattered everywhere, and we all came up with Big Cat nicknames and then got membership. I blogged, they commented. They blogged, I commented. I learned so much then, and mostly I learned that you need the support of other runners. We are still there, broken up a bit on Facebook but still pulling for and pushing each other.

Thanks to Steve Jobs. The iPod meant so much at the outset, I even created a Myspace group back then called Athletes & iPods, where we all exchanged playlists. I still run with music. It is so funny now to think how paranoid many race organizers were back then about iPods.

Thanks to Body Glide. I remember the 2007 Oklahoma City Half-Marathon and chafing that led to a bloody nipple as I wore a new white running shirt.

Thanks to my awesome stepdaughter Rachmo, who better be at the Miami finish line this time. Rach is my nutrition guru especially and keeps me on the right track mostly.

Thanks to Mary Wittenberg and the New York Road Runners. I have run some 60 races. For me, there is no better training than signing up for the ongoing events on their race calendar. It makes me run full-tilt and go anerobic, whereas when I run alone I can lapse into run-walk. I have run 9 NYRR races + 1 volunteer assignment in 2011, so I am guaranteed in the 2012 NYC Marathon field again.

Thanks to all of my Twitter followers and those I follow there. Thanks to all of my Facebook friends and family. It is wonderful to have around-the-clock conversation about running, and knowing how many others identify with my life.

Thanks to you guys who comment on this blog, and who blog so powerfully yourselves. I am sorry I am not better at keeping up with everyone else's words, especially in peak MLB times.

Thanks to oatmeal, especially 1-minute Quaker Oats. And berries.

Thanks to my Mom. Sometimes it means the world to know you are blowing her away with something she can't imagine you doing and supports so much. While in Brooklyn during my first marathon, I stopped at a pay phone booth just to call her collect and tell her what I was doing. How many times did I call her after a long race in freezing weather while I was soaking in a tub to tell her what I just did? Everyone, please call your Mom if you have her around. Bless Mom.

Thanks to Central Park. I know virtually every nook and cranny. I know virtually every tree and am saddened that out of 26,000 trees it just lost about a thousand. It is the most perfect running course in history and it has runners galore like me.

Thanks to Accelerade. I have used that for five straight years, always going to or to GNC for a new cannister. It helps me hydrate faster. Thanks to GU and to salt packets, the latter of which helped me eliminate any race cramping.

Thanks to the woman at Fleet Feet in St. Louis back in 2008, because she was the first one to simply do the finger test and see that I had high arches. Thus she put me into a pair of neutral Brooks, and after a first year of many nagging injuries including plantar fasciitis and shin splints, I never have had an issue. It is all about the right shoe. I have run in neutrals ever since. The biggest thing I have learned is substance over style, DO NOT MESS WITH SHOE SUCCESS.

Thanks to my brother Tim for encouraging me. My co-workers, too.

Thanks to Beijing. My running went to another level when I experienced the thrill of wanderlust running as I worked the 2008 Summer Olympics for MLB. Thanks to the two cheerful Chinese military guards who watched over me curiously as I ran about 50 laps around a warning track on one of two official Olympic baseball fields, totaling a half-marathon: In a scorching 2 hours. Thanks to Chinese citizens I met as I ran through downtown Beijing, proving everyone wrong who complained about the "black air" (it was great). Thanks to the peasants who built the Great Wall of China on their backs centuries ago, for making each step so deep that it made an amazing workout to try to run it like stairs.

Thanks to Breathe-Right for your strips. I always use them, and right away I found that they make me about 30 to 40 percent faster due to increased energy. I do wish they would abandon the new butterfly format and revert to the normal style, which stuck on better.

Thanks to Dean Karnazes for these words: "Run when you can, walk when you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up." That prevailing mindset was important.

Thanks to One of the most important things for any marathoner is to always have a big, horribly intimidating goal out there in front of you to scare your ass off so that you respect the distance and really train. So you have something to keep you going. Year-round, I am looking over that site's calendar for races and for the runner reviews.

Thanks to Brooks, Asics, Nike, Saucony, Sugoi, Reebok, Adidas, Mizuno, Zensah, Nathan, Lin Socks and anyone else I am leaving out. Thanks to Paragon Sports on Broadway and 17th near Union Square. One of the first things I did in December 2006 was go on a shopping spree there, stocking up on cold-weather gear. I have taken care of it and still wear it faithfully.

Thanks to hill repeats, speedwork, water and hand-held water bottles (thanks runlikeacoyote for giving me this one as a prize!).

Thanks to Matt's girlfriend Amanda - you were there at the finish line at the 2008 St. Louis Marathon, too! Thanks for anyone who has rang cowbells, shouted support and tracked me. Thanks for all the Likes.

Thanks to English Bulldogs. I got another one after always stopping to pet them at marathons. King Bingley is not helping my training because he always wants to go on walks and he wants attention, but thanks to him anyway.

Thanks to my lungs for not holding it against me. We are one.

Thanks to that couple who assured me I could be a runner as they prepared to move out of their apartment and hand it over to me. They knew something I didn't.