The other day, as my wife and I were driving down the highway, we stopped at one of those outlet malls. They're packed with fancy name-brand stores that sell stuff that's not as good as the real stuff they sell at the regular malls, but it makes your friends think you can afford name-brand stuff. My wife was looking for a new dress, and I was looking for a bathroom. Wandering around the outlet mall, though, I realized I could use some new running shoes.
I'm the type of runner who never gets any faster or better. If you see me out running, it's kind of confusing: On the one hand, I'm going so slow it's technically a walk. On the other hand, I still look like I might need CPR at any moment.
Serious runners put a lot of time and energy into their shoes. My wife, a serious runner, keeps track of mileage, getting a new pair after she's reached some sort of expert-recommended limit. I've taken a slightly less strict approach -- I wear my running shoes until the soles start to peel off or they begin to smell like chicken that's been in the fridge too long.
I stopped in an outlet run by a big, aggressive athletic clothing company. There were signs on every available surface telling me to "just do it," something I would do, if I could figure out what "it" is.
I get nervous in serious athletic stores. When picking shoes, serious runners get their stride examined by an expert. This involves running on a treadmill while a shoe technician watches carefully to determine exactly how expensive a pair of shoes they can talk you into. They'll tell you your toes point in, or out, or you land on your heel too hard, then they'll screw up their faces and point to the priciest shoes on the wall.
This trend of getting expert advice has also led to the popularity of new running shoes with individual toe slots. If you own a pair of toe shoes like this, you should put them on, go stand in front of a full-length mirror and take a good look. Then you should hide them in your closet and apologize to your friends and family for being so goofy.
In the Just Do It outlet, I found a pair of high-tech-looking bright green (really bright, almost Day-Glo green) running shoes on super clearance sale. They were extra-light racing shoes, according to the salesman, and they could knock a few minutes off my "time." He said they probably hadn't sold because of the color, which was ... (here he mimed a fairly graphic imitation of someone vomiting in his own mouth).
Maybe, I thought, with serious-looking running shoes, people might take me a little more seriously as a runner. Besides, they were 80 percent off. I bought them.
When we got home I decided to go for a run. I ran upstairs, got changed and came downstairs wearing my new shoes. My wife stared for a moment before muttering "Nice kicks!" in a way that could have been a compliment and could have been sarcastic.
Out on the street, I started to notice my shoes were having an effect on my running but not in the way I'd hoped. After only one block, a car drove by and the driver slowed, raised his eyebrows and frowned. A few blocks later, a boy walking his dog stopped, dropped his jaw and stared as I passed. I couldn't have gotten a stronger reaction if I'd duct-taped live puppies to my feet. Another block farther, an elderly woman actually started to laugh. When I glared at her, she shrugged. "Those are soooome shoes!" she said.
That night, we got takeout pizza, and the pizza guy behind the counter took a step back, pretending that the color of my shoes was blinding him. He made the other pizza guys come and take a look. I was so angry, I didn't leave a tip. (Later, I realized he'd taken advantage of the shoe commotion and overcharged me six bucks.)
At first I was really aggravated, but I made a decision. I'm not going to stow my pumped-up kicks in the closet. I'm going to wear them until either they wear out or I do require CPR.
The good thing is that if I do keel over, the paramedics can find me pretty easily. They just have to drive around my neighborhood, looking for the Day-Glo haze on the horizon and a crowd of onlookers, all of them smirking and pretending to vomit in their mouths.
Homemaking is a column about the people, projects and pride that make a house a home. Peter McKay, a Ben Avon resident, is a nationally syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate. To see past columns, go to www.post-gazette.com. Contact him at www.peter-mckay.com.