Monday, October 27, 2008

My Marathon Shoes

As my sore quads can attest, I finished the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday! Although my friend Kathy E. McKee and I were a bit slower than expected due to a comedy (or calamity!) of errors, I finished strong and met my other goals such as improving my overall fitness level. In addition to six months of physical training, I also used a lot of mental techniques to help me through. Along with a bunch of mantras, I framed the marathon miles into roughly four chunks.

The first set of miles I focused on the support I was receiving from family, friends and colleagues who believed in me and were impressed by my determination. The second set involved cataloging past accomplishments and the resources I have to draw from to take on such a challenge. The third chunk I refer to as the “stop your bitching” as I reflected on the fact that I was choosing this challenge, while literally billions of other people have daily realities that involve pain and deprivation without the financial, physical and cultural/political resources I have access to. Don’t confuse this segment of the race with pity miles, though, as I was reminded by a Marine who had his right leg partially amputated. He cheered me and Kathy on (calling us “The Obama Girls” due to the bumper stickers on our backs) as he, another Marine, and his prosthetic device whizzed on by! The final set was "Memorial Miles" as I dedicated the toughest miles to the memory of friends, family and colleagues who were unable to run due to their early deaths: Angela Campos, an AmeriCorps leader murdered by her ex-boyfriend; Ivan Klein, a Quaker friend who died in a freak hiking accident; Christopher Mastrangelo, my 40 year cousin who died after a 6 month struggle with brain cancer; and Kennan Garvey, another Quaker Friend and leader whose heart attack ended his life just a few weeks after announcing his retirement.

The last 1.2 mile was just the “whatever gets you over the line” and that included singing songs, walking A LOT, and chatting with fellow finishers.

As this is a professional blog, you are probably wondering what all this has to do with Fair Trade. Well, during all the training, I got pretty curious about runner gear, especially my shoes. In a recent issue of Running World an article traced the journey a pair of Asics running shoes in an effort to build runner awareness of the environmental impacts of their most important piece of equipment. Although I wish the article had also considered the workers in each step of the value chain of these shoes, because environmental sustainability is a key principle of Fair Trade I thought I would share the path of an Asics pair to highlight what it takes to bring a consumer good to market AND what role we can play in reducing our carbon footprint (pun intended!)

Here is the shoe journey described by Runners World:

1) Asics has a factory in Shandong Providence in China whose workers put together dozens of components from other factories to sew, glue and assemble the shoes.

2) A container of shoes takes a 12 day voyage by sea to the Port of Long Beach in California

3) After clearing customs the shoes are shipped to a warehouse in Southaven, Mississippi

4) The warehouse mails them to a running store. My local favorite is Fleet Feet in Adams Morgan, Washington, District of Columbia.

5) Once I wear my purchased shoes for 350 miles, it is up to me to either donate them to a program for the homeless or have them recycled. Nike (yes, Nike) has a network of recycling centers that cut shoes into rubber, foam and fabric pieces.

6) These materials are sent to places such as athletic-surface manufactures, which grind up the rubber for tracks and use the foam for basketball courses or running tracks.

Sounds like a nice virtuous cycle but the Runner's World article estimated that a pair for a runner from New Jersey (my home state) would travel 12,986 miles to make all this green activity happen. And I thought the 26.2 miles of a marathon was long!

Here I am at the finish line!


  1. Jacke:

    Congratulations on finishing the marathon! Very impressive. I liked the "self-talk" you shared. The "journey" of an athletic shoe was interesting. I wondered if there were any athletic shoes made in the US any more?

  2. Anonymous2:20 AM

    Congratulations on finishing the marathon..! I am so excited to see your running shoes.