If the running shoe fits, buy it

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Like many people, I have an addiction.

I've tried to kick it. I've been trying for three decades now (though some say I'm not trying very hard). Gradual withdrawal. Cold turkey. Hypnosis. Prayer. Promising my wife. Nothing works.

Instead of weakening, it's growing stronger. I don't believe I can beat it now. I may just give up and live with this yearning. It's part of my soul. I've even passed on this addiction to my oldest son and youngest daughter.

In the end, I like it, the smell, the feel. And if I get a good deal from my supplier, I like the price. I'm beginning to wonder if I can get enough of what I covet. It's beyond want, need and desire. Like Gollum and the ring, I must have my precious.

On my birthday, my kids even fed my hunger. Lined up four boxes on the kitchen table. No, I thought. Can't be. Couldn't be. They wouldn't.

They did.

To celebrate turning another year older, my children presented me with what I crave most. I've got to admit, it was glorious. Nothing like getting your fix. I unwrapped each gift, one by one, savoring the magic of the moments.

First came the Saucony Grid Speed.

Then, the Nike Flex.

After that, the Saucony Kinvara.

And finally, the Nike LunarGlide2.

It was love at first sight.

I joyously held them high, smiling, posing for pictures. I swear, there were almost tears. I tried on each pair, bounding and bouncing around the living room. Right then, nothing else mattered. Life was good, the best.

I may have enough running shoes to last the rest of my life. Let's see, I think, with these latest four, I have 15 or so.

Foolish, you think. No one needs all those shoes just for running, you say?

Ha. Wrong. I do.

Think about it.

I've got to have shoes for long runs, for speedwork on the track, for tempo runs on the Centennial Trail, for trails at Glacier National Park, for the mud of Tubbs Hill, for marathons and for 5Ks and 10Ks. Depending on how my legs feel, I'll spend many minutes mulling which pair will serve me best on a particular day.

One who loves running, as I do, loves the tools for the job. In this case, running shoes. In my life, I've got through more than a hundred pair, I guess, maybe more.

I remember well the first running shoes I bought for track in high school, the green Nikes with the large gold swoosh. I still have the gold Tiger racing spikes I bought for $18.99 at Super Jock 'n Jill in Seattle, which is still there today.

The best shoe I ever ran in was the Nike Terra TC.

It was more than a shoe. It was art. It was close to perfection. Black and white with the red swoosh, they were light and cushy and stylish, with a phylon midsole. I felt like I could fly in those babies. They were the ultimate marathon shoe. There's a picture of me sprinting to the finish line of the Seattle Marathon, wearing those Terra TCs, both feet off the ground, soaring in for my fastest marathon, 2:41:19. I'm not convinced Nike ever made a better shoe. I dream of finding another pair some day.

There were my beloved Nike American Eagles, a pair of ultra light racing flats that carried me to some of my fastest races. Unfortunately, the Eagles met their demise when our old yellow lab, Sandy, came across them unguarded and ate them,

I owned other great shoes like the Saucony Flite, the Asics Alliance (pitched as "The only shoe that can turn a shock wave into a ripple."), the New Balance 440 or the 550 or the 660.

Eventually, after piling up too many miles, the midsoles no longer able to absorb shock, the black outsole worn through, I sadly surrendered them to a thrift store. Some became working-on-the-car shoes, or even worse, lawn-mowing shoes. Imagine the humiliation they felt.

I did save the Brooks Burn racing shoes I ran the 2006 Boston Marathon in. Funny. At the last minute, I retrieved them from the items headed for the Kootenai Humane Society Thrift store. Now and then, I slip them on my feet, and remember running the country's grandest marathon and vow to return.

I also saved the Nike Air Alaris I wore on Kauai, with the red dust still on them. Got to get back to that path that runs for nearly 5 miles along the breathtaking ocean and yes, the Alaris will be reunited with my feet.

But I don't just wear running shoes. I collect them, too.

Occasionally, I come across a vintage pair at a thrift store. Sauconys, Brooks, Nikes, New Balance and Asics from the 1970s or '80s, when the running boom began, thanks to Frank Shorter winning Olympic gold in the marathon in the '72 Munich games.

In case you were wondering, he wore a pair of yellow Adidas with black stripes. They were beautiful.

Bill Buley is the city editor of the Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, ext. 2016.

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