Save Earth: Recycle those running shoes
by RICK NORTON, Associate Editor
Jun 09, 2013 | 630 views | 0 0 comments | 61 61 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rick Norton
Rick Norton
“Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you criticize them, you are a mile away from them and you have their shoes.”

— Jack Handey

American humorist

(b. Feb. 25, 1949)


My wife’s zeal to save Mother Earth through recycling hasn’t waned over these past few months; her specialty remains Diet Coke cans and plastic bottles of untold shapes and sizes, which by ipso facto, makes my specialty much the same.

Just last Sunday I mentioned our 36 years together. What I didn’t divulge was her ultimatum — that the 37th, and beyond, are tied directly to my allegiance to her recycling efforts. As soulmates, she reminded me, we are bound to love, honor and obey.

Sounds reasonable, but I suspect the “obey” part had direct reference to me and to how I conduct myself in the face of her spousal wishes, and the length of time required in honoring each. I have doubts about reciprocity, perceived or otherwise.

Heck, she must consider me a Duck Dynasty reject with the IQ of a dumpling. The other night over supper she mentioned the preacher who married us had included saving the planet in our vows. She quoted him as asking, “Do you both promise to love, honor and recycle, for as long as you each shall live?”

Now I didn’t just hop off the turnip truck yesterday, folks.

He never said “promise.” He said “pledge.”

“Did not,” my wife countered.

“Did too,” I retorted, though mindful that another section of my vow was the allowance of only two “did too’s” in any one conversation, and I had just burned one. I don’t recall hers coming with a limit. Seems unfair now, but I’ve found that over the last 3 1/2 decades marital bliss is linked to personal sacrifice. Mine.

But vows, promises and pledges aren’t the point today.

It’s about recycling. Frankly, I am inspired by my wife’s newfound successes in doing the right thing. I wish her more to come. And yet, a couple of days ago I realized I have been recycling for years without fanfare nor public recognition.

It’s my running shoes.

For those scratching their heads, let me explain.

I’ve been a jogger — I choose this word because somehow “runner” overstates my ambition — since the mid-1980s. Yes, people jogged back then, too. It was just on the fringe of becoming cool, but long before everybody and his brother started running marathons every third weekend. We “Just Did It” and our legions eventually gave rise to the likes of Michael Jordan.

So for almost 30 years — with the occasional missed day here and there — I’ve been pounding area asphalt, sidewalks and tracks, while subsequently beating into submission an unbelievable number of running ... er, jogging ... shoes. I haven’t a clue as to how many, but if runner’s justice truly prevailed I’d be a member in good standing of the Nike, New Balance, Avia, Brooks and Asics boards of directors.

Granted, on an ordinary day running and recycling have little in common. But in my day, past and present, they do. You see, I never toss aside old running shoes. They don’t become trash-can dropoffs and they never see the inside of the Bradley County Landfill until their absolute, bitter end.

My old discarded running shoes become yard shoes.

I mow in them.

I landscape in them.

I trim shrubs in them.

I plant trees in them.

I water flowers in them.

I paint the house in them.

I spill paint on them.

I clean up spilled paint in them.

I drop tools on them.

I climb ladders in them.

I plummet from ladders in them.

I rake, mulch and complain of leaves in them.

I burn old brush in them.

I cut firewood in them.

I clean the gutters in them.

I build things in them.

I tread through mud in them.

I ford flooded creeks in them.

I slip and fall into flooded creeks in them.

I haul dirt in them.

I spread mulch in them.

I stomp ugly bugs in them.

I run from snakes in them.

I dig up stumps in them.

I sweat in the hot sun in them.

I get drenched in late-afternoon showers in them.

I question my love for the outdoors in them.

I wish I were inside watching TV in them.

Little is there in life that can be done in the yard — front or back — that I have not done in my recycled running shoes. In these trusted friends of tired feet, I have done much. I have done it often. And I have done it for years.

If these recycled shoes could talk, they would tell grave stories of going more miles — all within the cozy confines of a single yard — than they ever amassed in six months of jogging on crowded tracks near and far.

But with time, dirt and repetition comes this inevitable truth to recycled running shoes: Smell.

And that’ll be my focus in a couple of weeks. It’ll be an inglorious tale of how these once proud knights of Nike fade into the ruins of time and dwell in the lost shadows of neglect.

Frankly, the story stinks.

It’s coming June 23.