{Approximately 70% of this post was written using the Android WordPress app (in Flight Mode).}

I ran my first full marathon in Oct 2002. I had spontaneously decided to train for the Mercury Interactive San Jose Marathon exactly 3.5 months earlier. The only marathoner I knew at that point was Mike Clothier. Mike, a colleague at Yahoo, was no ordinary marathoner. An amiable super-nice South African – he had already run 25 marathons and 2 Ironmans. Much later I would find out how big a deal an Ironman is. He never mentioned running the Comrades because (I’m speculating here) Comrades is like a Bar Mitzvah for South Africans who turn 15, right? (or is it 12?)

I joke about these things now but back then I was a complete marathon neophyte. Sure – I had trained 3 months for a half-marathon during my Chicago years (and missed the race – another story!) but doubling the distance was quite a daunting prospect.

Mike served as my virtual Dronacharya (aka “Drona”) during my entire training duration — from recommending a shoe store to the virtues of Body Glide to chalking/following a detailed running plan. The ‘virtual’ adjective is very important because Drona isn’t particularly liked because of his many ‘lapses of judgement’. Mike is ALL GOOD (and this habitually digressing writer shall leave that as an understatement). If you are wondering why I’m obsessed with Drona, this alternative reality Ekalavya story tells you why.

Ryan’s Sport Shop

Mike recommended this boutique runners’ gear store tucked away in a strip mall not far from Santa Clara downtown. The store proprietor (Gary) explained the etymology behind the other two names that show up in the store listings:

  • Goettelman: Gary’s last name
  • Ryan: Gary’s son

You start reading the Yelp reviews and and you’ll quickly see that this is a very special store with a very special proprietor. Gary and his wife (Barbara?) were elite marathoners in their heydays. I recall him mentioning he had finished in the Top 20 at Boston. The store has a picture of Gary at the top of Heartbreak Hill. His wife (even more accomplished apparently) might have had a few podium finishes too. The marathon genes had apparently not passed on to Ryan. He DID run a marathon with his father once – presumably to humor him.

Running Shoes

In a memorable first visit to the store (when Gary shared the above running lore), I walked out with 2 pairs of Nike running shorts, a Brooks Adrenaline GTS-6, 2 pairs of non-wicking running socks, and a stick of Body Glide. The GTS-6 was picked after a series of A/B tests that Gary put me through (not very different from what an ophthalmologist would have you do). It needs mentioning that I stayed true to Brooks Adrenaline during my entire shod running days except one year when I was alternating between the GTS-9 and Asics 2140 (which I ended up hating). The 2 pairs of Nike shorts are STILL going strong, as are the 2 running socks though the latter have been relegated to ‘regular’ socks.

Second visit

On a business trip to US in 2009, I headed over to Ryan’s – partly because of nostalgia and partly because I was curious about other shoes. The A/B test quickly converged to the Brooks Adrenaline GTS 9 and Asics 2140. Gary was convinced that the 2 were identical shoes (made by 2 different companies). My feet were telling a different story – the 2140 was noticeably narrower in the front and I was concerned.

At this point Gary threw in the “tires theory”. Why not buy BOTH the shoes? Just like car tires last longer when you ‘rotate’ them, shoes do too.

I warmed up to the theory. After all I was getting a professional reason to buy TWO pairs of shoes. So what if the dispenser of advice was conflicted? I was not thrilled with my second pair choice but hey… I was really going to find out how good the Asics were.

At the checkout counter as I was signing the credit card receipt, I casually asked him “So how many miles before I change these?” He gave the predictable and oft touted answer “500 miles is safe though you can probably go up to 600 also.”

He then gave me a quick glance. As though he had only then realized I was a slightly built man weighing approximately 60kgs, he added “But with YOUR build, you can keep running in these forever!”

With the trademark ‘Kuruganti poker face’, I stared stupidly at him, thanked him and left.

To be continued…