Out There: On Running And Hoarding

Face it: You have at least three pairs of old running shoes in your closet, and you never wear them. Illustration: N.C. Winters

Runners have a tendency to keep things well past their throw-away date.

“Wait, so you’re saying this is junk?”

My partner, Neil, held up a pair of mud-encrusted trail shoes he had just found in the garbage. I was most certainly in the doghouse. I had to choose my words carefully, finding a way to honor his sentimental feelings about his shoes while still addressing the fact that he hadn’t worn them in several years. Cueing up my most comforting tone, I whispered:

“Yes, honey. That’s exactly what I’m saying. They’re junk. Smelly junk.”

If I’m going to end up in the doghouse, I might as well go all the way to the back, right?

When it comes to running gear, Neil is what some might call sentimental. I call it hoarding. But I digress.

There’s a strange phenomenon taking place in the households of runners everywhere. It always starts quite innocently, usually with a lone pair of shoes near the front door. What the runner doesn’t realize is that such footwear is an invasive species introduced to the biosphere of the home.

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Like weeds, race shirts begin to take over the dresser drawers. Medals appear behind the peanut butter in the pantry. Stopping short in your vehicle causes a litter of moldy water bottles to lurch out from under the seat, as if to yell, “How dare you disturb our habitat?”

Once you get to the stage of water bottle castigating, you might as well just give up. Your ecosystem is out of control.

I’ve tried to cull the herd in my house. I send most of my race medals to my niece and nephew for Olympic-themed make-believe games, and when I’ve worn through a pair of trainers, I send them to a charitable organization for recycling.

Neil, on the other hand, finds the one drawer in the house with a cubic inch of space and shoves his new treasure in there until it fits. These medals and race shirts will never see the light of day again, but apparently that’s not important. He says these items are valuable — irreplaceable, even.

I acknowledge and appreciate this argument. I have used it plenty of times myself, usually regarding photos from college or a $350 pair of pink high heels I’ve only worn once. The difference, of course, is that it was my argument, so it made perfect sense then.

Desperate to regain control of our closet, I covertly began throwing out some of Neil’s old running things. Under the cloak of night, I’d sneak out a pair of malodorous race flats or a race shirt reminiscent of Swiss cheese. For months, this cleanup went unnoticed. Never once was I asked, “Honey, have you seen my pink cotton T-shirt from the 1999 Jamboree Jaunt 10K and Family Fun Run?” Valuable, my butt.

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But one day, Neil took out the trash and discovered the pair of trail shoes from 1993 sitting on the top of the heap. Busted!

In the end, we compromised. He threw away some of his old running gear, and I gave my pink heels to a teenager who was heading to her first prom. I got some empty drawers, and he gets to do more races to fill them up again. The order in our ecosystem is restored. For now, at least.



About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many).  Susan lives and trains in Utah with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete husband. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

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