Something magical happens when runners transmit energy through their feet to the ground, and some of that magic rubs off onto their shoes. Over time, as the runner becomes fitter, faster and more confident, the shoes are associated with this transformation, and the simple rubber, foam and fabric take on a mystical glow.
That’s how a pair of 1994 Reebok Racer X’s sit on a shelf in the back of my closet, even though I haven’t worn them in over 20 years. Uppers are stained with Gatorade spills, finish line vomit and bloody toes. The outsoles are caked with dust from Central Park trails and European streets, and the forefoot tread is almost completely worn away. But these shoes are, for me, objects of reverence.
I found the svelte road runners on the closing rack of Paragon Sports on Union Square in New York the year I turned 30. I was living in Manhattan at the time and working at NYU, but mostly running. I walked Central Park every morning before work, did speed training with Bob Glover and the New York Road Runners club, and spent the weekends running long runs or hiking. competition.
I had been running since high school, but always believed that my strength was in endurance, not speed. However, regular training with talented running partners revealed that I could go relatively fast and long. The Reeboks, pure runners adapted to distances not exceeding ten kilometers, were an indicator of this new prowess.
Shortly after I got them, I ran a 4:54 mile in a Fifth Avenue Mile citizen qualifying event. It was the first time in my life that I broke five minutes. The shoes, now associated with my success, acquired their first hint of magic. Over the next five years, I wore them sparingly, saving them for races when I was ready for peak performance, days that would redefine the rhythms I thought were possible and alter my self-image.
When I first ran 17 minutes in the 5K, I wrote in my journal: “Running faster than ever before made me feel bigger, stronger, less eager to please – it erased little more the weak, nerdy little teenager who always tried too hard. A few weeks later, I ran a personal best 35:02 in a New York 10K and placed an unprecedented sixth overall, including the first in my age group. Reeboks carried me through those transformative moments and retained those parts of my soul that I had invested in the endeavors that created them.
The last race I remember running with the Reeboks was a 10k in Carvin, France, not far from Brussels, where I lived in 1999. I had set myself a goal of “under-35 by 35”, and the race, two weeks before my 35th birthday, was the last chance I would have. My magic shoes delivered: I burned a 34:36 on a flat course through narrow, cobbled streets.
A year later, I accepted the position of editor-in-chief at Execution times, which took up a lot of my training time, and then I became a father, which cut it even further. Before I knew it, I was too old to threaten any of my public relations, and Reeboks were languishing deeper and deeper in the back of the closet.
When I pull them out now they look ridiculously retro. The upper has thick suede overlays; the midsole is a surprisingly firm and thin layer of EVA. I try them on and feel the familiar pop in my stride, though I’m aware that no amount of residual chemistry could give me the paces I used to run. Their power has always been to reveal speed, not to create it.
Still, I’ll keep my retro Reeboks to remind me of a time when I was young and fast. When I step into the line today, I happily wear a pair of modern running shoes with a smooth mesh upper, lively super foam underfoot and an integrated plate. As always, training creates the magic, but technological magic never hurts.