The San Diego Running Institute. Photo by Justin McLachlan.
I wasn't a runner until last July. As a kid, there were too many Krofft puppets on the television to allow for many outdoor activities. After I discovered how tasty beer was, though, there was a need to implement some sort of exercise program. I tried running and thought it was fine. Fine. Actually, what I liked about it was the little gummy “sport chews.” I'd given up candy but felt I had complete justification to eat the Gummi Bear facsimile. But even with the faux candy fueling me, I could never really run farther than three miles, and even that seemed more difficult than it should have been.
A friend suggested Luna chews (like Swedish fish!) and that I join a local running club. The clubs give you a steady incremental workout over time to follow, and camaraderie, if you're into that sort of thing. There are a host of them—one at the YMCA, one through Vavi; the San Diego Track Club is a pretty serious one. I settled on In Motion's because it started the following weekend. I initially feared five miles, let alone my goal of a half-marathon. But by the time we hit five, I realized my worry was for nothing. When we hit seven miles, I felt like a real runner. I bought a long-sleeve jersey with cute little holes for my thumbs. It was purple—I didn't feel the need to hide any longer. And I set out to get new shoes.
This was a daunting task and one that shouldn't be taken lightly. Ill-fitting shoes can cause pain or injury or halt your runs altogether. There are at least three running-shoe stores in town that take this experience seriously. They have actual runners working the sales floor who ask the right questions and take a look at your feet, up close. They'll recommend shoes they honestly believe are right for you. Of course, you've got to stand (and run) in those shoes to truly know.
The San Diego Running Institute (4760 Mission Gorge Place, www.sdri.net) is located a stone's throw north of Interstate 8, next to the weird prehistoric Grantville Trolley station. Owned by a marathon-running chiropractor with his practice perched next door, the operation is small, but that's not a bad thing. You get one-on-one service complete with a foot-fetish-like obsession with your pronation. They've got a few treadmills in the corner so you can test out the shoes you're trying on. If you've been having pain with your running (and who doesn't—unless you're 20?), this may be the best place to start.
Movin' Shoes (1892 Garnet Ave. in Pacific Beach, with locations in Encinitas and La Mesa, www.movinshoes.com) is a local chain that's been around since the 1970s. I loved the assistance I got at this store—the gal was my size and had lots of pragmatic advice for my aching toes. No treadmills, but they were gonna make me run in those shoes, no matter what, before I left in them. Like SDRI, the selection is small, but they know their lineup.
At Road Runner Sports (5553 Copley Drive, Clairemont Mesa, www.roadrunnersports.com), the running superstore—it looks a whole lot bigger from the outside because it's corporate HQ for their expansive online and catalog business—they “tested” me to see what type of shoes would be best—by video taping me on the treadmill. A young employee concluded that I run like a duck. Incidentally, they don't make shoes for that. Road Runner has the largest selection of the three, to be sure, carrying a few brands the others don't, and allows you to return shoes for up to 60 days after you've bought them—say, if they simply don't feel right when you're out on the pavement. And they don't give you much guff. I know. I've returned three pairs.
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