Fleet Feet, Marshmallow Mascots, and Embarrassment…

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Having never been an athlete (or even close to it) I never paid any attention to stores catering to that specific clientele. I assumed it would be a room full of very slim, attractive people jogging in place or stretching in impossible ways, eating celery, and talking about fat people. As I fall into the fat people category, that did not seem like a place I should visit. I have only been “running” a couple months, off and on, and at a very slow pace. More like, walking at varying speeds with the occasion quick shamble thrown into the mix. I’m not an athlete. I’m barely a human. So those stores are most certainly not for me.

Mancandy used to be in the Marines. He’s further along in his running journey than I am. He assumes he belongs anywhere. And he got it into his mind that he needed a running shoe. Apparently, all athletic shoes are not running shoes. Runners are athletes. But athletic shoes are not for all the athletes. I guess. Which makes sense really, I just hadn’t thought of it.

Whilst running (or, shambling, which is a better description) my shins have been killing me. I assumed shin splints, talked to a couple runners, read a few articles, and then just accepted my shins would be angry. I didn’t really think much of it. New shoes were mentioned but I had zero intentions of buying shoes specifically made for runners. They are pricey and I’m not really a runner. I don’t know what I am (a shambler…a randomly spirited walker….a wheezer), but looking at other runners and then looking at me will very quickly make that fact apparent.

Mancandy insisted we needed to go into Fleet Feet. I’d never even heard of the place. The name alone obviously wasn’t going to call one such as I. But being a supportive idiot, I went in.

Full disclosure, I did not want to. While I admire anyone who is confident and comfortable with their size/body/abilities/disabilities, I am not there. My body is just a thing. I don’t like it. I don’t really think about it if I can avoid it. And while I will never be a pixie little waif of a woman (which is some serious bullshit as I would LOVE to be a tiny petite ballerina looking thing) I could be more comfortable and healthier. So…running. But, I generally do this alone, under the cover of darkness, so no one can see my inability to move gracefully.

All that to say, the perfect beautiful people munching celery are not my people. And I was quite sure they are a judgy clan. Pretty, perfect-skinned, hairless athletes just waiting for a fat chick in sale rack non-running athletic shoes to mistakenly cross their threshold. My palms started to sweat walking across the lot. Entering the store, there was a whiteboard set up asking guests to sign in. Mancandy wandered off. I blinked, explained to the intimidating salesperson that I was not there for a try on so we didn’t need to sign in, and scuttled after Mancandy. If I made it apparent I knew I didn’t belong maybe they wouldn’t judge as harshly. I poked at shoes whose brands I’d never heard of, cooed over really soft, thick flip flops until seeing the price tag, and tried to appear appropriately shameful of myself.

Eventually, Mancandy decided he DID want to try on shoes (which made me panic as we had not signed up on the whiteboard as we’d been asked). The same intimidating sales person walked up and I immediately threw him under the bus saying I’d TOLD him to sign in and he was the trouble maker. He ignored me and started discussing shoes. It became apparent quickly that she knew what she was talking about, he did not, and this pleased me. Until she asked what I was wearing. I muttered “Fila” and got the look. She told us to sit down. She brought shoes for Mancandy. They talked.

I tried to will myself to stop stress sweating. And blushing. Why was I blushing? Who knows. My body reacted to the stress in the most annoying ways possible. I sat with my offending shoes tucked as far under my body as I could get them and tried to be invisible.

Once Mancandy had decided on his shoes they both turned to look at me. I blinked back. Our salesperson asked if I would please take my shoes and socks off and roll my pant legs halfway up my calf. I blinked again. I asked if I could come back another time. She said I could not. I tried again, I was not prepared for this and my feet were stress sweating and my legs were so pale I am basically translucent and my eczema is bad right now so I don’t even know when I last shaved my legs and at this point, I’m drenched in sweat and tomato red.

Also, because stupid Mancandy and stupid perfect skinned salesperson are continuing to try to convince me, I’ve become the center point of attention in the store. If you have ever been suddenly aware of people’s attention, it has weight. You can tell. And everyone in the store was looking at me. Athletic, hairless sales person calmly shoots down my “excuses” and other than storming out and causing a scene, I had no choice. So I took off my shoes, peeled off my sweaty socks, and stood on a machine thing with my not at all pretty or perfect legs sticking out.

I wanted to ugly cry. Everyone was looking. And many of the things I find repulsive about myself were on display. I absolutely abhor being the center of attention and all these strangers (most of whom with slender, runner people physiques) were looking at me.

The freaking machine wouldn’t work. I stood there, on display, sweating and trying not to throw up, for ages. She finally took pity on me and had me use some sort of little metal thing they used when I was a child. She let me unroll my pant cuffs and hide more of myself. I could breathe a little easier. I walked up and down the store, she and Mancandy discussed my shin issues, and just focused on not throwing up.

Three different types of shoes were brought out. The first two were pretty, sleek looking things. They felt like normal shoes. The third pair were unattractive, boxy-looking things with huge soles compared to the other shoes I’d tried on. She explained they would absorb more impact and keep my shins from being so sore. I was too embarrassed and upset to argue, so I tried them on. And made an involuntary “Oooooooooo” sound. They were so soft and comfy. She boxed the other two up, took the try-on socks she’d had me use back (her pretty, long-fingered hands casually touching the super sweaty socks….more embarrassment), and told me they’d need to be replaced in 6 months.

I keep shoes until they fall apart. So, that seemed ridiculous. They were expensive. Then she gave me the parting shot. This particular shoe’s mascot is a running marshmallow. What she did not say but the entire store must have been thinking, I was the embodiment of their mascot. Humiliating, but it tipped the entire experience into the land of farce for me and I was able to laugh a little bit.

There was no way to explain any of that to Mancandy. He’s one of the most self-assured, confident people I’ve ever met. Much to my annoyance most of the time. But I did make sure to go tell my buddy from work who runs insane distances. She told me about ambassadors for the brand, they send you shoes and you wear them and I’m assuming represent them on social media and whilst running. Obviously, I should be the ambassador for this brand.

Hoka, where are you at? I am your marshmallow! I mean, no one ever sees me run, but I could be your ambassador convincing all the scared, shy plump little peoples to run! Have your people call my people.

Also, in the next edition of embarrassing stories I shouldn’t tell but do, other people’s children gave me a stomach bug and I’m still terrified to run(ish). That seems like a recipe for more embarrassment. But, if it goes poorly, it will be a good story for those who enjoy laughing at others.