Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Sat, 16 Jan 1999 09:16:22 -0500

Lost Weekend

Standing in street clothes, watching the half-marathoners leave me behind at the starting line, I felt like a fraud. I'd advised them in a talk the night before. Now they were running, and I wasn't.

This was embarrassing because I'd ignored the first rule of running travel: Never put your shoes in a checked bag.

How many times have I written that line? I'm ashamed to check.

You'd think after 30 years of flying to running events I'd know better than to let my shoes out of my sight. You'd think I would listen to my world-hopping wife Barbara, who says, "If your flight has more than one connection, your luggage won't arrive with you."

Mine was a three-legged journey to Birmingham, Alabama. I waved bye-bye to my bag in Eugene -- and didn't see it again for five days.

This was my first trip with a new laptop computer. The carry-on bag didn't have room for the computer and the shoes, so the laptop won this space. Does this say something about priorities?

The checked bag must have gone to Birmingham, ENGLAND. The airline couldn't retrieve it during my stay in the Alabama city, so this was a lost weekend for running.

I didn't run one step. Not the usual jetlag-clearing session on arrival, and not the planned half-marathon the next day.

Two big zeroes went into my diary because I'd forgotten the basic rule of packing. Anything but shoes (and especially the orthotics I wear in them) can be bought or borrowed.

I bought toiletries and borrowed shirts. But I didn't try to replace the lost shoes.

"We have lots of shoes," said Valerie McLean. She owns the running store, Trak Shak, that organized this race.

She would have made me a good deal on any shoes in her store. Two problems, though:

1. Running a half-marathon in untested shoes is risky. Another rule of running is don't trust a pair that hasn't passed training tests.

2. Running in shoes without orthotics is like trying to read without my bifocals. It can be done but is none too pleasant.

I might run in new shoes with inserts or old ones without them, but not the foolhardy combination of new and empty. Especially in a race of this distance.

So this brought me to the finish line of the half-marathon, feeling not only like a fraud but like a homeless person begging free food from the runners' supply. I still wore most of the same clothes that had arrived in Birmingham on me. They'd taken on, uh, character in these two days.

The only running I did here was out of town early as soon as the race ended. At the airport I heard my name called and was told, "Your bag just arrived."

"Check it again," I said. Then it disappeared, with shoes still inside, for another three days. The lost weekend dragged on.

I can't say it too often: Wear your shoes on the plane, stuff them in a carry-on, even drape them over your shoulder, but don't check them.


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