Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Red Shoe Theory - Paws for Life 5K

I have done a lot of 5Ks, and this year I started to notice a trend. Whenever I showed up to a 5K race and someone was wearing flashy red or orange shoes, they would end up winning. I speculated that red shoes somehow guarantee victory in a 5K. I call it “The Red Shoe Theory”.

I tested my new theory first when we did the Purple Elephant 5K. As I was sizing up the competition, I saw a lot of skinny, fast looking teenagers, but it was an older and heavier guy that I anticipated would win. He had an unbeatable edge: bright orange shoes.
In that race I was in the lead with a mile to go, when his orange shoes blew by my dirty gray Sauconys, just as I predicted.

Then, a few weeks ago I was at the Athletes’ Foot, taking back a pair of size 12 Mizunos that were too big, which I had previously exchanged for a pair of size 12 Sacuonys’ that were too small. At that point, I was sick of trying on shoes and told the guy to bring me anything. He came out with red shoes with glowing orange laces. I knew I had to have them.

Shannon and I signed up for the Paws For Life 5K in Wake Forest because she volunteers for the animal shelter that the race benefits. I looked up the winning times for the Paws 5K for the last 4 years, and they were all much faster than I was capable of. Even if I had a perfect run on the hilly course, I would still be minutes behind the winner. So I was excited to test my Red Shoe Theory: would my new flashy red and orange shoes somehow magically carry me to an improbable victory?

When we showed up at the race on Saturday morning I took a look around at the other participants, and there were no other red shoes there, probably because they were all down in Raleigh running the Autism 5K. I did spot one skinny guy with fluorescent green Nikes, and my heart sank. Does fluorescent green trump red?

The race started with a “go” and we took off down the street, following a big SUV. One guy raced well ahead but I didn’t worry about him and his dull white Asics. The first half of the race was downhill, so I focused on turning my feet over as fast as they would go, following the SUV. My new red shoes did not feel magical. In fact, despite resting all week, I was really struggling to keep my normal pace and my feet were killing me. My left foot felt like it was swelling up.

The roads were not closed to traffic, so I had to weave back and forth to avoid cars. When I reached the halfway point I was in the lead, but the course turned sharply up a big hill. There, I slowed to a crawl gasping for air, as my Garmin said I was doing an 8 minute mile. I cursed my new red shoes that were not magically lifting me up the hill, and instead were making me do all the work. I trudged along the rest of the way, not looking back, but assuming that at any moment either some one would pass me or I would drop dead of a heart attack.

Neither happened, however, and I finished first in a sluggish 19:26, setting a new course record for the slowest winning time. I broke the previous mark of mediocrity, 18:47, by a whopping 39 seconds. The shoes definitely did not make me fast, but somehow, inexplicably, I won.

So the "Red Shoe Theory" was once again confirmed: red shoes in a 5K guarantee victory. Click here for The Red Shoe Theory - Part 2

Shannon took a bunch of pictures of the event, and those are here.