Sunday, 25 November 2012

And so it begins…

This morning I did my very first run as part of my London Marathon training plan. Which can only mean one thing…

I fixed my foot?
I didn’t have a hangover?
The kids were driving me nuts and I needed to get out of the house?
No it was far more simplistic than that... I bought my trainers AT LAST!  Easy you would think? I beg to differ…and ‘this’ is the story of me finally buying some trainers.

10 years ago I walked into a little shop that formed part of Cannons Sports Club in the city and asked them about trainers to run the Marathon.  They made me run up and down the shop, studied my gait (not the kind that hangs off its hinges outside your house) and then they recommended me some trainers.  I walked away with a nice little pair of trainers, some socks and a ‘good luck’. I downloaded myself a little running plan and VOILA…I ran the London Marathon (well …I ran a lot, walked a bit, ran some more, hopped a fair amount – and you get the picture).
So here we are 10 years later and a lot has changed. I mean you still put one foot in front of the other to ‘run’…nothing there has changed BUT the buying process is a poxy minefield! There are so many makes and models of trainers, sorry ‘running shoes’ and so many opinions to consider.

For weeks I have been having many conversations with my Boss that usually start thus: “Have you bought your trainers yet?” and then we discuss trainers (he himself is now quite a keen runner) and we discuss ‘times’ of his run clearly as I’ve done nothing yet…and gradually we inched towards the grand goal of me buying my own ones.  ‘Asics’ as a brand were thrown out there as that’s what he uses and they’re the ones I used before. In the ‘running world’ these are considered the ‘serious’ runners choice of shoe.  Not your Nike’s or Adidas’s.
So on Friday I went into a local shop in the City (of a well known sports chain) having discovered they did ‘gait analysis’ there. My boss was sceptical of the ‘chain’ but I went along anyway. The nice Assistant asked me some questions and then noticed my tights and boots. “Er, do you have your running socks with you?” Uhmn that will be no as I haven’t run in 10 years (as I told you) so don’t have any clearly. In a gentle and alluring voice he told me to take my clothes off (sorry…just checking you’re still reading…that’s a different book I reckon!)  What he actually told me was to go to the changing room and take my tights off and come back which I did. He then said “we don’t have any socks for you to use to try trainers on with, would you like to buy some?” at which point I should have known I was in the wrong place. Upon return he started telling me about these wonderful new foot inserts that they mould to the shape of your foot to help your running experience. He waved them around at me (they looked like insoles) and then he stuck them in a heating mechanism, stood me on some plastic play bricks (that’s what they looked like to me) and started bending them around my foot. At this point I totally wanted to kick myself for my lack of ‘foot prettiness’… my nail varnish was cracked and split and gone on most toes and to be honest…my legs could have done with a shave too. What?...I am a girl after all.

He then got some trainers out, put the insoles in and asked me to step onto the running machine and start it up to a speed I could cope with.  When I didn’t move after a few seconds…he said “have you been on a running machine before?” uhm..that’ll be a no no and NO! I don’t do ‘the Gym’ so no I have never been on a running machine. The man looked utterly perplexed by me and slightly worried. Not as worried as me though. So I got on, he started it up and I eventually got to a jog on the machine that he could record on his new-fangled machine and then tell me what trainers I needed.  He then told me I was a ‘neutral’ runner. Now this is important, very important and could totally affect how I run. I knew that 10 years previously I was’ over-pronate’ which means my heels roll-in as I run along etc. I mentioned this and he said “hmnn if you think you’re slightly pronate you could try some with some more stability?” – what do you mean if I THINK…you’re supposed to be TELLING ME grrr. So we tried 3 running shoes with me back and forth on the machine and eventually he tried to sell me between two pairs.
Sound like a nightmare? Not as much as the moment he told me the PRICE!

I wanted to be sick, Christmas was clearly going to be cancelled as the cheapest ones with the ‘insoles’ (oh yes…those nifty little things that he omitted to tell me the price of and come in at a whopping £45!) was going to set me back £175. What’s worse is you almost definitely need two pairs by the time you actually RUN the Marathon as you kill them in training. So £350 then….
I made some crappy excuse up about wanting a second opinion from my Husband who was a ‘Runner’ and would come back later as he worked up the road in the City and could meet me after work. Now Jamie will be killing himself laughing at THAT description of himself…but personally I would quite like to hook up with this fictitious Husband myself :D

Then I made like the wind out of there.
I bemoaned all of the above to my Boss when back at work, he helped me track down the same ones online at a massive saving and I started to cheer up a bit. I also decided though to try a different shop for a second opinion…and this is how I ended up at ‘Sweatshop’ at London’s Westfield Stratford City on a pre-Xmas Saturday when it was MOBBED! Sweatshop is a ‘real runners’ shop apparently and now I appreciate why.

The incredibly informative lady who helped me was from ‘start to finish’ not remotely pushy, told me prices upfront of everything, discussed benefits of all makes and models and also the benefits ‘or not’ of these crazy foot insoles. Oh and she told me the price of those upfront too! She too took me through a similar gait analysis (but by now I had the hang of the running machine!) and then she got out a few pairs for me to try on. I felt confident with her as straight away she knew I was over pronate, but she also explained why sometimes getting too much stability at the start in a shoe could be bad for me and in one big swoop had ruled out the two pairs of running shoes I’d been recommended the day before. I also ended up in a ‘bigger size’ shoe as the ‘rule of thumb’ measuring of my toes in the shoes had clearly not been done right. This is also crucial to me as ‘last time’ I lost my big toe-nail in the process and I would like to avoid that again if possible. We then had 3 pairs of trainers again (Asics, Nike and Brooks) at varying prices (all still expensive, but no added insoles as apparently I don’t actually ‘need’ these in her opinion) and I could have walked away and bought them online too possibly cheaper.
But I didn’t, she absolutely deserved my service and she had told me a really really decisive thing for me…I could bring them back! I could go out and run in them, get them muddy, do whatever I wanted and still BRING THEM BACK. I have 30 days to do so and if I ‘don’t get along with them’ I can simply return them to the store and try another pair and see how I get along with them instead. You cannot say fairer than that.

Oh, and I’m now running in a pair of Nike’s (my boss will be alarmed – but he needn’t be!) as they were quite simply the most comfortable things I have ever put on my feet to run in. Not much difference in the price between them and the Asics actually so it really did in the end boil down to how they were on my feet and how I ran in them in the shop.
So… I have now officially started my training plan folks…and I have one last thing to say at this point…

DON’T be expecting any Christmas present from me this year!

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