Shoes for a "Real" Runner - From Couch to TrySports Ambassador

Friday night I was introduced to the TrySports Ambassador Team.  What's crazy is that this year I am on the team!

TrySports is my local running store (Mount Pleasant, SC).  They have other stores in North Carolina (Charlotte, Wilmington and Raleigh).  There are a lot of cool people who work there and I always feel like Norm walking into Cheers when I walk through the doors (if you don't get what I just said, you are way too young to be reading my blog).

This was not how I felt the first time I walked through the doors of a running store to buy my first pair of shoes.

I remember when I decided to get real running shoes.  I had been in boot camp for a few months and was starting to get serious about my fitness.  I had been wearing the same shoes for years and they were awful for running (although they were pretty good for mowing the lawn).  I had been told to go to a running store instead of a big box sporting goods store to get the best shoes (easily said by skinny people who look like runners).

I am usually a pretty confident guy, but for some reason I was really uncomfortable with the idea of walking into a "real" running store.  I know it may seem strange to some of you, but its not easy to walk through those doors for someone that does not fit the image of a runner (well, at least what I thought the image was at that time).

I went to two different stores (with "Run" and "Mile" in their names - that seemed to make them official running stores to me) and was pretty much treated like a fat guy who did not belong in a running store.

Both places had people who ignored me (or looked me up and down) until I finally asked questions.  Both places had lots of clothes and shoes for tiny runners, but not much for the rest of us.  I left each time feeling very low and even more self conscious (but at least I had not spent any of my money).

I told a few friends from boot camp what happened and they recommended TrySports.  They even told me I needed to get on a treadmill at the store and be fitted for my shoes (really???).

So once again, I worked up the nerve to go back to another running store.  Can you believe it was right next to an ice cream place?  Who puts a running store next to an ice cream parlor?  This was torture (but at least I was a little more comfortable with my surroundings)!

I walked into TrySports and still felt out of my element.  There were tons of shoes on the wall, clothes all around on racks, water bottles, jelly beans (okay, that was cool) and a treadmill with a camera (that was strange...).  Before I made it more than a few steps into the store two people yelled "hey!" to me and smiled at me.

One of them (Angela) came over to me and asked my name and wanted to know what kind of training I was doing.  I bet I spent a good thirty minutes rambling on about boot camp and wanting to run more and a bunch of other stuff I will never remember.  She listened and laughed and seemed really interested.  She told me about the treadmill and that she wanted to ensure I had the right shoe.  I did the whole thing and she explained it to me and then picked out some shoes that she thought would be good for me.

The first thing I noticed was that they were not the most expensive shoes on display (or the ugliest).  I had already made the decision before my first running store visit that I did not care about the cost and I did not care how they looked, I just wanted the best shoes.

As I was trying on shoes, the other person working asked me if I wanted something to drink and brought me a GatorAde.  I know its odd that I can remember this shopping experience so vividly, but its a big part of my whole experience and its one of the many peaces that moved me away from the couch and towards the great adventure I am still running.

TrySports is obviously all about customer service, but after my first two running store experiences this was something much different and from the start I felt like a "real" runner.  For over three years I have continued to go back and still feel comfortable each time I walk through the doors.

So when I was asked to be part of their Ambassador Team I was honored, but still shocked.  I mean, I run a lot but I don't win races (my seven year old son has pointed this out to me at the end of a marathon)...

I read the bios of all the other Team members and I was really impressed.  I was sent an email about our first meeting and once again felt a little self conscious about fitting in with this group.

I walked in, hung out with everyone for about an hour, talked about races and shoes, and felt fine.  Once again, I was treated like a "real" runner.


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