I’m sitting outside a café on Cumbrae, a tiny island off Scotland’s west coast. The intention is to spend the afternoon running, exploring. But that’s later. It is 10am, sunny, warm almost.
My wife is at a conference until 4pm; the children with their grandmother all weekend. For now, I have a newspaper, a coffee and a Danish.
This is my moment.
That is, it was, until a scruffy little spaniel crept up and cocked its leg on the flowerpot next to me. It wanders off, relieved and oblivious, sniffing; and leaving its steaming urine to edge its way across the pavement and towards my feet. I get up and move chairs, keen to protect my feet – or more specifically, my footwear.
Indeed, the new trainers are one of the reasons I need this moment’s peace. The path to my Hoka Speedgoats has been long and painfully slow. I am partly to blame – decision-making is not one of my strong points, especially when running shoes seem to attract a £100+ price tag. Trail shoes plus everyday shoes plus race shoes – that’s £300 right there. And another set in 6 months’ time.
Historically I’m an Inov8 man: they have a decent enough lifespan and you can often find last year’s models discounted. Critically, though, they fit well. Or they did, until the sizes changed. Why would you do that? The size 9s now leave enough room at the front for a small rodent to hide away. And, of course, all last season’s 8.5s have sold out.
The search reached its climax last week (after much to-ing and fro-ing with internet parcels). Forced to go into an actual shop in order to buy something, I travel into Edinburgh with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. There are only two running shops in the city. The first is closed. In the second I happen upon a sale. Inov8, size 8.5s. A bigger heel to toe drop than I’m used to, but perhaps this means they will fit. They don’t. Too small.
“You could have the latest model,” the shop assistant suggests.
“How much are they?”
“Ummm, let me check… £115.”
They fit. Perfectly, as all the ones I’d had before (albeit in a size 9). I swallow hard and mull over my options: stump up an extra £50; buy the cheaper shoes online and learn to run like a clown; or … choose a different brand.
I begin to sweat, wondering if the problem is me (perhaps my feet swell under the stress of trainer shopping?). I text my wife for advice.
Meanwhile, the man beside me – a builder – has been trying on some New Balance. He’s with his kids. He tries the shoes on, stands up and wriggles his toes. “Ideal,” he says. ,” Have you got two pairs?” £240, cash – obviously. I feel sick.
As I’m weighing up whether he knows exactly what he’s doing, or has just been given a neighbour’s loft conversion to do off the books, my wife replies. “I’ll give you the extra £50.” There is no kiss at the end of the message. The missing ‘x’ a sure sign of the toll this search has taken on her too.
Still, I am not convinced. I pick up the shoes, trying to justify the outlay. I can get two pairs for that price, I think. Perhaps I should wait a little longer. My hunt has already lasted 10 weeks – six of which I’ve been running in trail shoes that, gripless, sweat-laced and fusty, resemble the footwear you have to borrow in order to go 1o-pin bowling.
“How about this one?” I look up to find my son holding a yellow trainer in my face. Even at the tender age of five he is aware that his father needs help in these kinds of situations. In Marks-and-Spencer recently the situation had been reversed, as he considered – agonisingly – the merits of a pair of machine washable shoes over ones that “definitely make me run faster”.
I look at the Speedgoats I’ve been handed. I’ve read and heard good things about Hokas, but as someone who has never got on with too much cushioning I’d ruled them out from the start. Still, like Cinderella, I take the shoe and place my foot gently inside. “It fits,” I say. The other one does too. The feel, when I jog about, is cushioned but not cumbersome.
“They’re on sale,” the assistant says. “And you’ll get double the miles out of those.”
“Do you have two pairs?” I ask.
The ‘My mate David’ blog is written by David Burrows, environmental journalist and friend of Yellow Jersey. You can read previous blogs by David HERE and you may like Why Turning 40 could improve your results and Exercise + [coffee + cake] = enjoyment.