When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping for shoes

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 December, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 December, 2008, 12:00am

Yikes! What have I got myself into? After a very optimistic Week One, Week Two's efforts were plain abysmal.

To mark the death from cancer of my mentor, veteran reporter Kevin Sinclair, one year ago, I made the decision last month to take on the half-marathon to raise money for the Hong Kong Cancer Fund. So here I am, confronted with a training regime that could kill the proverbial brown dog.

Why didn't I remember the pitfalls of mid-December in Hong Kong? Everyone's frantic to complete end-of-year commitments while party invitations arrive in droves.

In short, Week Two of my training was seriously getting in the way of my drinking time. How do people with young families and arduous work commitments make the time for this lunacy?

To make matters worse, last Tuesday I let things slip after a full-on weekend (plus Monday) of work-cum-partying. Feeling tired and a bit guilt-stricken, I forced myself to follow my disciplined regimen.

It was cold and dark and miserable outside, so running at the gym was better than not running at all. Grumpy and resentful, I powered up the machine for my warm-up. After kicking along at my recommended 9km/h, I found myself staring at the clock.

My beady eye was trained on the digital numbers as if my hateful stare would make the clock move faster. When the red neon light reached a painful 16:51 minutes, I threw in the towel. This sucks, I thought. I walked home in a huff and went straight to bed.

I phoned a friend who consoled me ... 'Those sorts of days happen - stiff upper lip, best foot forward and get back on the treadmill blah blah'.

My answer was blunt and colourful, and I wagged training the next day for a bit of retail therapy. Since in Hong Kong shopping passes as a national sport, my little expedition took me to Fa Yuen Street in Mong Kok, which is famous for its running-shoe outlets.

The painful fact is that up to this point I had completed eight sessions and was suffering from sore tendons and stiff muscles around my ankles. And my friend and taskmaster, Dr Simon Yeung Sai-mo, associate professor at the Department of Rehabilitation Sciences of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, had recommended that I invest in a pair of proper running shoes.

He explained that while I was tramping furiously on his treadmill last week at the Marathon Clinic, his HK$500,000 pressure sensor with attached camera videoed my running pattern. He found that when in full flight, my right foot lands on the ground and rolls or pronates inward, causing pressure on muscles and tendons.

Is there any part of my body that's remotely marathon-like? Not to worry. Thanks to advanced technology, the shortcomings of my deficient right foot can be corrected by a sturdy running shoe.

Despite being born in Canada, I have distressing Chinese tendencies that pop up at inopportune moments. One of them is my obsession about getting value for money. Which meant that I spent hours surfing Internet sites and grilling super-fit mates (over drinks) about their footwear. These usually reliable sources point me towards the award-winning Asics shoes.

All of which puts me on my journey of discovery to Fa Yuen Street, specifically to meet Chris Yau Ho-sang, owner and manager of Athletics Nation.

'First we must check out your feet,' says Chris, gesturing for me to take off my sky-high heels. 'I want to see how your tendons line up with your legs and assess whether you over-pronate or under-pronate. This affects the type of shoe for you.'

He um's and ah's and spends five minutes observing my feet from all angles. I pass on Dr Yeung's pronouncement that my right foot pronates inward when I'm running.

'Well, Dr Yeung is on the right track,' says Chris. 'From what I see, I would recommend two types of shoes for you.'

My spirits perk up when he whips out a pretty pink pair and a shiny blue pair. Colours I can do. The techno-garble is more complicated.

Millions of dollars are spent on research and development of these whizzbang shoes that as everybody knows have cushioned Impact Guidance Systems, fitted Biomorphic Fit Uppers and cozy Solyte Midsoles.

All I know is that my feet are shiny blue and happy.

'It's the repetition of running that is tough on the body and can cause stress-related injuries,' says Chris. 'These shoes will help ease the shock and also support your feet from pronation.'

I step onto yet another dreaded treadmill in the store and Chris continues with his assessment as he watches my feet pad along the rubber track at an increased pace.

'These shoes seem to be the ones for you,' says Chris.

The price is a nose-bleeding HK$1,400. Wow! My ankles and tendons will be saved, but at that price can these fancy shoes do some housekeeping, too? But I hand over my credit card.

Maybe the excitement of scooting along the treadmill in my shiny blue shoes will help perk me up during the coming week.

My mileage for the second week was a dismal 16km, which is far short of my target of 23km. I have no one to blame but myself.

When Kevin Sinclair was diagnosed with cancer for the sixth time in 32 years he said: 'You must fight! You must stick out your jaw, refuse to accept defeat, and be absolutely determined you're going to beat it again.'

Of course there'll be some more bumps on the road, but thinking about Kev's passion for life - and his long and brave struggle against cancer - I remind myself when fighting any obstacle in life, mental determination is paramount.

Plus some willpower, eh?

Falling short

Kilometres totted up in the second week of training: 16

Age: 29 Height: 170cm Weight: 69kg (+1kg) BMI: 23.2 (+0.3) Fat: 30.3% (-0.6)