Recently, after another bike ride on the PoCo Trail, I looked at my Nike Air Max running shoes as I took them off and decided they had just taken their last ride. Not only were the “air bags” undoubtedly flat, but the layers of the shoes were peeling and coming apart in various places.
I had received the shoes from Nike when I was sponsored by the company—perhaps in 1987. They had lasted for 26 years!
To be fair, those shoes had seen few running miles. I wouldn’t advise anyone to run in 26-year-old shoes. But as I thought about all the miles, countries, and adventures those shoes had taken me through, both on foot (walking) and cycling, I reflected upon the value of old and treasured possessions as opposed to the value of new gear that is bought to satisfy a need (or is it greed?) for shiny new things and technological innovation.
In earlier eras, when few people were rich and fewer items were cheap enough to be disposable or nearly so, it was common for people to treasure and take good care of their few possessions.
Now, it’s increasingly rare for people to take meticulous care of possessions and keep them for more than a few years, let alone for decades or a lifetime. Is this only because of the rapid pace of technological change? Or is it because of our society’s increasing affluence? Or is it the result of powerful marketing and a belief that satisfaction and maybe even happiness can be found in constantly buying new things?
How can I possibly explain why I used my Air Max shoes for 26 years, despite getting free shoes constantly from Nike, my first shoe sponsor, and then New Balance (my sponsor when I was a masters runner)?
Well, what are the reasons to keep any possession for a long time?
• The old possession fulfills its function perfectly.
• It suits us perfectly.
• We become attached to it. Instead of desiring novelty, we cherish familiarity. We use it until it falls apart. The object becomes connected in our minds to many of our life stories.
I remember wearing my Nike Air Max shoes for both running and walking when I was living with Paul in Brussels in the winter of 1987–88. I had severe bursitis in both heels and needed my heels lifted and padded at all times. I liked my Air Maxes because they were a kids’ model, so they fit me perfectly. They were slim, and didn’t look ridiculously huge and bulky at the end of my toothpick-like legs like many women’s shoes did. I usually ran in women’s size 5 shoes though they were a little big for me, because I thought the adult shoes probably had better technology than the kids’ versions.
Yet I wore those navy blue-and-white youth Air Maxes consistently over the years, though not for running. When they were almost new, they travelled extensively in Europe; not only all over Brussels (Paul and I didn’t have a car there, so we walked and cycled everywhere), but on our trips to Rome, France and elsewhere. In the years after that, those shoes must have taken me through hundreds (if not thousands) of bike rides and workouts at the gym. They’ve also completed quite a few Grouse Grinds in recent years!
Another piece of running gear that has served me faithfully is a small fanny pack that I got at the Canadian 10K Road Race Championships in 1991. Timex, surely the most consistent corporate supporter of Canadian road running ever, provided every competitor in this event with this little bit of swag.
The Canadian 10K Road Race Championships were held in Ottawa for several years in a row, and my experiences there ranged from the best (winning in 1993 and 1994) to the worst (having to drop out because of a blocked femoral artery in 1992). The race in 1991 was notable because it was only my third “comeback” race after giving birth to my son Abebe in March of that year. Ulla Marquette, Lucy Smith and I battled it out over the multi-loop course, with Ulla taking the win in 34:09 while I barely outsprinted Lucy for second, 34:13 to 34:14. (Thank you, training log!)
I’ve seldom used my Timex souvenir while running–I prefer to run with nothing “extra”–but I still use this fanny pack on almost all my bike rides. In fact, it was with with me this morning as I rode along the PoCo Trail–still perfectly good after 22 years.
My fanny pack is a good example of something I’ve kept, and felt no need to replace, because it fills its function perfectly. It’s small, yet large enough for everything I need to take with me on a short ride. I can even stuff a rolled-up long-sleeved technical top into it when I need to wear an extra layer at the start of a ride on a cool morning, or when I’m doing the Grind and need an extra layer at the top of the mountain.
Does anyone else have some kind of running or cycling gear that they are still attached to after more than 20 years? Please share your stories!