New Balance 1500
The saleswoman commented ruefully as I went to pay for my shoes, “That race record was mine until that girl came along and burgled it!” She spat the word “girl” as though it tasted filthy. Her face was drawn and vengeful in an unabashed display of envy. “Maybe you’ll get the record back next year?” I ventured, hopefully. “Not a chance”, she said. “This body will never go as fast as I did back then. I’m a horse put out to pasture.”
She looked away, out of the shop window to the near empty streets and dwindling traffic. “Good for your husband, though. He must have had a good race”.
I was in the Runner’s Den running shoe shop in the small lakeside town of Owen Sound, Ontario, Canada and it was the last day of August, 2019. My family had flown five hours from Victoria, BC, to Toronto and then driven another three hours to just north of here to visit my in-laws during the last week of our summer vacation. School was starting again on Tuesday and we would fly back to our home on Vancouver Island tomorrow.
My husband James had flown out with my daughter a week earlier and they both had entered the Owen Sound Subaru Bayshore road race; James in the 5k and Naomi in the kids’ 1km race. James had won the 5k overall and his prize was a gift voucher to the Runner’s Den. But, in typical fashion, he had flown here with only one running shoe and had had to go into the shop the day before the race to purchase some racing flats, being the only shop carrying running shoes in town.
So he had passed his winning voucher on to me, and here I was, trying to buy the New Balance 1500 from a mournful aging runner who had lost her race record the week before to some flagrant female university-aged upstart (who had effectively smashed the race record of a small town 10km in 35:07).
To be fair, the woman was the co-owner of the shop and was helpful in finding me some shoes. I was specifically looking for something light and fast for my next race-the Lake to Lake off road marathon which follows the Cowichan Valley Trail, a converted railway line, from Shawnigan Lake to Lake Cowichan on Vancouver Island.
My goal for the Lake to Lake Marathon was simple: win the race and do it faster than I did last year (3:41). This was achieved (3:36) primarily due to not many people participating in the race in the first place and more than 60% of participants walking the course rather than running.
It is a beautiful trail and I have run parts of it many times in my training. It also helps that it was practically in my backyard. I highly recommend this trail if you ever visit this part of the world. Even if you don’t consider yourself a trail runner, I bet you a latte that you will enjoy running here. (I won’t mention that both bears and cougars are regularly spotted there).
Strava tells me that I have now run more than 900km in these shoes and that I should probably retire them. I have never felt sentimental about any other shoes, even ones that I achieved PB’s in, but something will not allow me to let these go.
The woman in the shop told me that they were her most popular and best-selling shoe, yet I have only once seen anyone else wearing the same shoes. I don’t know why this model is called “The 1500” – perhaps they were intended to be worn for a 1500m race? I will presume that they meant 1500km; that way I still have another 600km left to cherish.
I don’t wear them very often now, but I did use them for several of the Waterfront 5k races in the last few months.
I think, when you get right down to it, that I identified with the saleswoman in the shop; not that I have ever held a race record, but that I believe I am firmly and fully at the stage of racing where those PB’s of years past seem far from reach.
I don’t feel badly about this; I feel fortunate to be able to run in a body that has always served me well and continues to let me enjoy the hills and streets and boundless glory that is Wellington. Perhaps just slightly more slowly than years past.