Thursday, 1 August 2013

Are Running Shops The New Record Shops?

At the back of my top desk drawer at home is a small badge (or a "button" if you're reading this in America). It's black and in small white letters is written "home is where the record player is". I used to be the definition of vinyl junkie and while the badge may have once been true if I were to buy a new badge I think it would now read "home is where my running shoes are".

A few hours ago I was in a running shop and it suddenly hit me:

Running shops are the new record shops.

For me, and I am pretty sure for thousands of men of my generation, running shops have taken the place of record shops in my life.

Here are a few of the parallels:

1.    When I was younger I used to find it hard to pass a record shop without going in. I would already know all the latest jazz, rap and R'n'B releases (that was my thing) but I'd still wander in "just to have a look around". Now I find it hard to pass a running shop without popping in "just to have a look around". I pick up Nike Flyknits, Adidas Adizeros and various other brands, turn them around in my hands feeling their weight and look at the price, even though I already know exactly how they feel and could tell you the price before even entering the shop. In the same way I used to spend hours flicking through record sleeves of records I already owned, pick them up and read the notes on the back - again half time I could recite the notes from heart before even entering the shop.

2.    I find a camaraderie with total strangers if they are in the running shop with me. I can spot a "real runner" and feel we have an unspoken bond. When I used to visit record shops I could see two people buying the same A Tribe Called Quest or Wynton Marsalis album. But instantly I just knew one was a rational person with a healthy relationship with music and the other was a fellow suffering addict! Now I see two people buying the same pair of Asics shoes and can tell if one is on their 5th marathon and the other is about just about to start their addiction (I often have to stop myself embracing the latter and declaring; "Welcome to my world, you will love it!")

3.    Just in my record buying days I now buy things to do with running I completely do not need by any objective or subjective criteria. The result of this is I currently have the following unnecessary running accoutrements:

·         Four sports iPhone armbands (one would suffice)
·         Three Nike running caps (for summer)
·         Three running skull caps (for winter)
·         Six pairs of winter funning tights
·         Too many running tops to count
·         Random running sports and running apps on my phone.
·         Back copies of running magazines I will never read again but still do not throw out.

This is by no means a definitive list but I am just too embarrassed to confess further.

Similarly I am far too embarrassed to list all the records I own but will never play. When did I ever think I was going to play the instrumental album of "Straight Out The Jungle" by The Jungle Brothers? And while some of Grover Washington Jr. earlier albums are great someone should have told me to draw the line at "Strawberry Moon"!

4.    Lastly, despite being relatively successful at my job and in other aspects of my life I find myself being deferential to shop assistants who are half my age and I suspect have run less than half the distances I have raced. But I tacitly seek their approval. The running shop worker - like the record shop worker before them - is like the village vicars of my religion, (the high priests are of course the elite runners and musicians themselves). In a two minute conversation about running socks I want to "prove" I know what I'm talking about and crave their approval. I have just one question for myself; "Why?!"

Normally when I write these blog posts I try and summarise what they really mean to me in the last sentence or two - the moral if you like. In this one I don't think there is any deep lesson or wisdom to impart.

I just felt compelled to write it as I suspect I am not unique and there is a whole generation of running men just like me.

So if you can identify with any of the above dont worry Im there for you.

(The picture today is of the Blackbyrds' album "Action" a rare example where my two addictions of running and Jazz collide).

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