So here is my opinion on the Nike Vaporflys et al. For me and most of us, completion only exists within a very narrow range. Either against our historical self or against a few others of like aged and similarly geographical location. So when I wander about in my house putting on my running kit, always loved that the English called it a kit, and get ready to head out the door for a run I love the fact that I have no reference point for success or failure. I run alone and without a watch. I never ever want to be competing against historical Lawrence. I hate that guy. He is always younger and almost always faster. I train very very hard. Most runs are at around half marathon pace or faster. On perceived effort I mostly break even with the historical me and seeing as I have no other measure I come out feeling pretty satisfied. On most days after a run the only question that I ask myself is “ how was today’s run? “ I like that question, simple and easy to answer. I would hate the question, “ How did today’s run compare to every other run I have ever done?” Bad question. Ok, so what if it is race day and they have clocks there ya know and post results which invite nothing but comparisons to past days and other runners who I view as comparable. That dude is in my age group and so on. Ok so on race days I compare. I beat so and so by so much. I was worse than last years version of me by so much. On and on I go, happy with a good comparison and pulling out excuses when I compare poorly. This is the life of the runner. This is why I love racing and hate it so much. This is why on most race morning I am puking my guts out. Expectations ahhhhhhh noooooooo, barf.
Ok, so back to the Vaporflys et al. So the research goes that these puppies are 4 or 5 % faster. That’s about 100 seconds, give or take over a half marathon at the pace I run. That’s a lot. The difference between, yay I ran a 1:16:30 or crap I ran a 1:18:00. The drive home can be a lot less whiny if I run the former or so my wife says. I am not a Luddite who used a typewriter to do this post and have happily gone along with the marginal improvements in shoe technology over the years. My New Balance shoes are definitely better than my first Brooks running shoes and thank god they are. I do fondly remember, and have in the attic, my awesome Tiger/Assics from those early days. They were pretty awesome and would be cool but not awesome today. Ok so Vaporflys. What will this mean? Firstly it would means that I am no longer competing against historical Lawrence. My points of reference would be gone. My running career ends and starts anew. As much as I hate the performances of my past defining my present I still enjoy knowing what exactly they are. So no, I am not giving that up for a sizeable technology boost. Secondly and this is where the rubber hits the road a little bit harder, what about the other folks who are now wearing these shoes and being that chunk faster. We all have a top limit defined by our age and talent. Training is our experiment to get as close to that limit as successfully as possible. Do you the shoes help you get closer to that limit or actually change the limit itself? When I go to the start line of any race I look around to see who is there and sometimes I will see someone who I view as a competitor for my age group or as a master or even for a top spot overall (trail races only, which do not have the controversy) and how do I feel if I see them wearing Vaporflys? To be honest it might irk me some but that is my problem with advancing technology and it is not really logical nor reasonable. Sure the shoes can float all boats higher and the sea is still level but only if everyone wears then or something similar. The shoes are very expensive and that is not what running is about. You shouldn’t be able to buy an advantage but shoes are generally expensive and therefore money does buy some greater success. My greatest fear about these types of shoes is soon that’s all that will be available because the other shoes aren’t giving that advantage the choices will be limited but again technology moves forward. The more fancy the sport becomes and the more it is about absolutes and metrics I fear we lose the joy. I know, I have lost some of that joy with making it about what my running results say about me and what I sometimes say about them. I am guilty of “ what’s your PB?” and “ How many Bostons ? “ from time to time and I feel ashamed of that but my ego enjoys this and so I brag. So if results matter so much to me shouldn’t I use the Vaporflys? For me and me alone, No. Instead of investing in the shoes, I should invest in more in myself and look more at joy rather than my hypocrisy at shoes which are fine and are no more an advantage than my present shoes were over ones from bygone days. More sudden a leap perhaps but unfair? As much as I am a “ purist”, whatever that means? and though I am often called a throwback or an iconoclast ( nice word for stubborn older guy) in my cotton shirts and simple gear, I am good with whoever wears the shoes and why. For me the answer is no but I draw my line of hypocrisy where I draw it and who am I to say it is better drawn than anyone else’s.