December 1 will mark 10 years since I became a runner instead of a smoker and changed my life. On the way to that 10th runnerversary, I am going to celebrate with an occasional top 10 post.
10. Li Nings (2008). I worked the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, representing Major League Baseball. At Opening Ceremonies, I marveled as Li Ning, a local legend who was China's first-ever gold medal winner, "ran" around the roof ring of the Bird's Nest tethered to ropes. Then on the morning of Closing Ceremonies, I went to a local mall and bought a pair of his shoes. Li Nings were the top running brand there, and I communicated (as best I could) with salespeople that I wanted a pair of them. Unfortunately they put me in a pair that ran a size too big, so it wasn't long before I donated these. I wish I had kept them, in hindsight, but they went to a good cause.
9. ASICS GEL-Cumulus 16 (Spring 2014). They were given to me by #TeamASICS and I ran my 100th race in them. For that alone, they will always be special. They introduced "FluidRide" and I pushed them hard to retirement.
8. ASICS LA Marathon Edition GEL-Lyte 33 3. ASICS flew me, Lisa and Rachel from New York to Santa Monica to run the 2014 ASICS LA Marathon as part of our ASICS LA Marathon Blogger Challenge team -- a first for the company -- and a box of these special editions were waiting for each of us at the front desk of the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows when we checked in. So I took this picture of them from our window view over the finish line (below), and the first time I ran in them was with Ryan Hall during a shakeout run toward Malibu.
7. Saucony Ride 2 Pro Grid. On June 24, 2010, I went to the annual Wall Street 3-Mile 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 heel. (Donated)
6. ASICS GEL-Kayano 16 (Spring 2011). My English Bulldog having munched on the Saucony above, I happened to be at the Palisades mall in the NYC area and in a Sports Authority. These were neutrals and on a clearance table for something like $60 (can you imagine today!) so I took a chance that they would at least rotate in as decent trainers. I ran the Brooklyn Half in them that year. They were OK, not ideal for me, but what made them special is that they were my first ASICS since my rookie year after a stint with Brooks.
5. Brooks Glycerines (April 2009). 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.
4. Brooks Glycerines (Oct. 14, 2008). I bought these at Super Runners Shop from a familiar salesperson who ran marathons. This was probably my high point in my first five years of running: KNOWING what I want, not needing to try on any other pairs, just buying what already was proven for me at the time, and then just getting the same thing in a new color. Indeed, less than one month later I ran the NYC Marathon in 5:13, which to this date remains my PR. 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, and afterwards matched my yellow shoe with the race crystal trophy.
3. ASICS GEL-Nimbus 17. About 100 miles into receiving this shoe as a gift from #TeamASICS, I decided it was the best performance shoe for me since I had begun running. I maxed out the mileage and until the very end it was so cushiony, I swore I would never run in any other shoe. I guess we all say that when we find the one that's just right, like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Currently the Nimbus 18, in black and blue, is in my training rotation and keeping me happy.
2. ASICS GT-2110 GEL. I had no idea what I was doing on December 1, 2006. I broke a box of KOOLS in half and decided to quit smoking. Instead, I took the subway from 72nd Street to 42nd Street, got out at Times Square and went to Foot Locker to get a box of running shoes. I asked where shoes were and a salesperson recommended these for me. I mostly stayed in ASICS the rest of the next decade, trying out some others along the way, and I lived and breathed the gradual evolution of the great running shoe of our times. For me not to make these my No. 1 all-time running shoes would take an almost magical box to open . . .
1. fuzeX (2016). I would have NEVER in my wildest dreams seen myself making this the No. 1 shoe on my list when they arrived. When #TeamASICS sent us these unique shoes earlier this year, I was happy to review them as part of my role as an ASICS Ambassador. We took part in a contest, asking fans where they would run in their fuzeX anywhere in the world. But train for marathons and run in marathons in them? They were really different, maybe gimmicky, so the jury was out. Well, I'm at least a couple hundred miles into them and they are my go-to on any surface and in any condition. They surpass traditional restrictions -- you can run any distance in them, any foot style, trail, gym, streets. They feature ASICS' new midsole tech called fuzeGEL, which the ASICS site describes as "a fusion of GEL property and foam for the ultimate rearfoot shock absorption that transfers to the forefoot during take off." I honestly can say I feel better in these than in any pair I have owned this past decade. And another unexpected development: They never seem to age or get dirty. To this date it looks like I just took them out of their box. ASICS hit a big home run with fuzeX, and now they also have a fuzeX Spirit collection with patriotic flair so I can rep the USA.
What's YOUR favorite running shoe?