The Clydesdale Division

I don’t run. At five-seven, I have the legs of a woman five foot two (I don’t know whose she has) and a flat-tending lumbar spine that doesn’t take well to the pounding. I do speedwalk like a stomping sonovabitch, but explaining to random people that I have been out for a speedwalk can often precipitate a discussion of what exactly this means and possibly a pantomime of the gait. After doing this about twenty times it got pretty old and I just tell people I am going running. It doesn’t help that speedwalkers can’t get any respect; this was one of the only videos I could find on the Net that wasn’t about making fun of it, and the ubiquitous YouTube chorus made sure their derision was heard.

It is not like running with a stick up your ass. It’s more like running without any help from inertia. I can hit six miles an hour on the flat when I am in top shape.

You need the same good shoes a runner uses and I usually go to stores that cater to high mileage runners because my feet were assembled from spare parts and if a shoe is much better than barefoot for me I am likely to drop a C-note.

I trucked into Metro Run Walk and said “Clydesdale Division.”

There is some dissension about what constitutes a Clydesdale in men’s running. The idea is that heavy runners should have their own division in racing because they will never beat the times of the whippy little folks but they are equally serious athletes. In women’s running the heavy division is called Athena and it starts at 140 or 150 depending on who you ask.

I am more of a Clydesdale, nudging (after breakfast, or when holding water) the 165-pound lower limit for heavy male runners in at least some races. (Some triathlon organizations insist on 198, but triathletes have to be beefier.) I would probably cut up for competition at about Athena weight these days, if I were still interested in shaving off my bodily hair and painting myself brown, but a couple shots at that were enough.

The salesman looked at me funny; they always do. He was a leathery sixtysomething with a build like a lamp post. But he emerged from the stockroom with some men’s motion control shoes, engineered for heelstrike recoil, that felt like a bear hug crossed with a propellor. Perfect.

These are made by Asics but when I don’t feel experimental I buy a Brooks product called the Ariel, which is a women’s version of what for men’s runners is called The Beast. When you turn them over to look at the soles it is like looking at two bricks. They used to use the same name for both men’s and women’s shoes, but someone got worried about the effect on the target market. I deplore this foofy Ariel business which suggests that women who are built like Ford pickups want (or should want) to pretend to themselves that they are ethereal.

For that thou wast a spirit too delicate
To act her earthy and abhorr’ed commands,

Refusing her grand hests, she did confine thee,
By help of her more potent ministers,
And in her most unmitigable rage.
Into a cloven pine.

Repeat after me. Beast. Get over it.

At least they didn’t call the men’s shoe the Caliban.


4 thoughts on “The Clydesdale Division

  1. I had to stop running around age 36 … compressed lumbar disk and wonky hip made it impossible to continue. Which was a bugger because running was the one thing I knew I would do on a daily basis.

    Speed walking just makes so much more sense. It’s just as aerobic but doesn’t beat the shit outta your joints and vertebrae. I also think it tones the butt better.

    My feet aren’t particularly big, but they are extremely wide (triple EEE) with a very high instep. Ethereal footwear has never been an option for me, which is why I always prefer wearing sandals … less bits to constrict and hurt me.

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