Sometime last year, I wrote a sort of obituary for a pair of Asics Nimbus shoes that had served me well but whose time had come to retire from running and join the ranks of the lawnmowing shoes. Well, this week an even more memorable pair of shoes came to the end of their running life.
On April 19, 2008 (one year and one day before I would run Boston, although I certainly didn't know that at the time), I wore a pair of yellow, white and silver Asics Stratus for the very first time. Well, that's not entirely correct. I already had one pair that I had been training in, but had bought an identical pair (color and everything) to race in. Although they were twins, it is the second pair that I will remember the most. On that date, I laced them up for the first time to run the Kevin Whirlwind Horse 10K, a tune-up race for the Colorado Marathon. Someone at the race commented that I was crazy for running in a pair of shoes for the very first time at a race, but I wasn't worried. And I didn't need to be. Those brand-spankin new Stratus (Stratuses?, Stratusi?) carried me to a 39:17 that day, a huge PR, my first sub-40 10K and good enough for 3rd place overall and 1st in my age group.
These Stratus quickly proved they weren't a one hit wonder. A couple of weeks later on May 4th, I laced them up again for the Colorado Marathon. Although that race didn't go as I had hoped, I did get a PR. On July 4th I wore them for the annual Roundup 10K, my hometown race here in Belle Fourche. Although I didn't break my 10K PR thanks to Roundup's hilly course, I did crush my course record from the year before. This pair of Stratus was building quite a resume.
And then came the day I will never forget. On July 12, 2008, I laced up my now-trusty Stratus yet again for the Missoula Marathon. Even as I stepped up to the start line (okay, not really right up against it, but somewhere in the pack not far behind it), I wasn't sure how fast I was planning on running that day. The cannon sounded, I took off and when I hit the first mile marker in 7:08 (I needed to average 7:17 pace to qualify for Boston) and felt like I was floating more so than running, it was game on. A little over 3 hours later, those Stratus carried me across the Higgins Street Bridge in downtown Missoula and on to Boston.
That may have been a good time for them to retire from racing, at the height of their career (unlike a certain former Packers and Jets quarterback). But, I decided to give them one more go, one last victory lap. Just six days after Missoula, I fool-hardily ran the 10.4 mile Heart of the Hills race. I didn't run it as fast as I know I could because of my marathon-weary legs, but the Stratus did carry me to one last PR/CR as I handily beat my time from my first Heart of the Hills race in 2006. That was the last time I would race in that pair of Stratus. By that time, they had accumulated well over 100 miles of racing and training and it was time to introduce a fresh pair of racing shoes. So, the trusty Stratus were moved into my regular training rotation and have remained there ever since.
This past Tuesday, I laced them up to run in for the last time. It was a an easy 7 mile loop, much slower and shorter than some of the runs this shoe completed in their glory days. Upon returning to the house, this pair of Stratus had reached their 500 mile limit. Their running career is officially over. That doesn't mean, of course, that they'll be seeing the trash can any time soon. Hell, I've considered having the damn things bronzed. But, they have run their last mile.
The big question when a big time stud athlete retires is: who will replace him? Well, there are a few candidates. I ran Boston in the Stratus' successor, the Stratus 2.1. They ran a respectable race in Boston, but the magic of the old Stratus wasn't there and I'm not sure if I'll race in them again. Unfortunately, the Stratus line is being discontinued by Asics altogether and being replaced by the Pulse (which sounds suspiciously like the Stratus with a new name, or at least I can hope). I've also experimented with the Asics Speedstar, which is light and fast but not enough shoe to support my football player frame for a full marathon. Just this week, I introduced the Nike Lunar Trainer to the lineup. The verdict is still out on that one (I've only run 5 easy miles in them), but my first impression is that they are impossibly well cushioned for how light they are. Really, though, the entire question is moot because it is likely that no one pair of shoes will ever have a career like those Stratus.
Rest in peace, Stratus. It's been a good run (literally).