I’m reading John’s old running diaries. By 1984, the year the inaugural Women’s Olympic Marathon Trials came to his town, I’d been running for six years, with several marathons in my own running log and one ultra. I didn’t know John yet. I was still bumming around Europe on a solo backpacking jaunt. I’m meeting him earlier than I actually did through his words in these early diaries. Before he started running, John was slamming tennis balls at opponents, biking long distances, and playing volleyball. 1984 changed all that. Who wouldn’t be inspired by a hundred or so young women running like gazelles around the neighborhood?
Because John was so physically fit, he made every running mistake newbies make when first hitting the roads and trails. His logs are full of achy ankles, swollen knees, sore quads, strained calf muscles. He ran dehydrated, dressed too light for the cold and overdressed for the heat, ran too far on not enough food, wore the wrong pair of socks with the wrong pair of shoes, signed up for every race within a hundred miles. And even when he was so tired he could hardly get up in the morning, he still signed up for races.
In his running diaries, he wrote down the usual “stuff” we all write down: distance, time, pace, weather, where and when, alone or together, hurt or healthy. But John wrote down something else that I find interesting. Maybe because it is one of those things I’m finding most difficult in these days of my early widowhood. He wrote down the shoes he wore. He had a lot of shoes—Adidas, Brooks, Reeboks, Sakos, Trilogy, Pumas, Shadows, 670s, Americas, New Balance, Quasars.
In the closet, in the garage, in the mudroom, John’s shoes are still lined up. The road shoes, the trail shoes, the muddy shoes, shoes leaning inward, laces hanging awkwardly, colors faded. I can’t seem to put them in a box or give them to charity. I will, in time, but not yet. Instead, I go back to reading diaries. I like the entry in early January, 1986, when he first mentions my name.