Running on Tilt

Marathon Eve

Choose the shoe

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In “Again to Carthage,” the sequel to John L. Parker Jr.s “Once a Runner,” heroic miler Quentin Cassidy takes on a marathon. In the latter stages of the dramatic race, he recalls words spoken by his coach “Frank [Shorter] says, ‘the marathon is a race of attrition.’ You’ve got to understand that … No one really wins a marathon. You just survive it better.”

During this week of tapering I have been reminded of the feeling I had as a boy climbing the ladder to a high dive at a swimming pool in Louisville, Kentucky. Halfway up the ladder I looked down and there was a line of kids waiting. There was no turning back.

I spoke with two fellow marathoners today, both of whom were finalizing the details of their uniforms. One was choosing between a hat and a headband. Another was deciding between a LiveStrong bracelet and a Team Continuum bracelet. I’ve been trying to figure out whether to wear a nose strip. They are in the goodie bag, and Meb, Paula, and Marilson Gomes dos Santos wore them in winning the marathon over the past two years. It seems like cheating, though certainly nose strips aren’t as effective as, say, blood doping.

The larger decision I had to make this week was which shoes to wear. Swayed by the minimalist arguments by author Christopher McDougall in his book “Born to Run,” I’ve been training in light shoes and bought a pair of 4.7 ounce Asics Piranha SP3s that I’ve been considering racing in. I also bought the 7.2 ounce Asics Hyper Speed 4. The Piranhas, with very little cushioning, feel faster. The Hyper Speeds offer more shock absorption. I watched the press conferences on Wednesday and Thursday with the American and international runners, but nobody was talking about shoes. Given the importance of shoes to the runner and the debates about shoes in running circles, it surprises me that what shoes the elites wear and why doesn’t get more attention. McDougall will be running the race barefoot.

Ryan Hall was at the Nissan booth of the marathon expo yesterday. The devout runner was supporting the sale of the electric plug-in Nissan Leaf. I waited in line and got him to sign Nissan’s marathon brochure. He asked me what I was hoping to run. I told him, 2:55. I asked him what shoes he had worn at Boston. Hyper Speeds, he said.

Good enough for him, good enough for me.