'I put some new shoes on...

And suddenly everything’s right’, as goes the excellent song by Paolo Nutini.  But that doesn’t quite seem to be the case in distance running at the moment. The debate about the new style of carbon shoes which is raging at the moment is likely to continue for some time. This is all well and good but we have, somewhere along the line, got to remember about the person in all of this, the athlete. Last week Beth Potter ran a British and world best 5k of 14.41. A truly magnificent achievement but where has the focus been ever since?

Shoe technology of course.  The matter of how her latest Asics carbon plated shoes have totally helped her to achieve this time, almost as if she didn’t have to run it.  And questions about the performance itself, since it was a big improvement on her previous 5k pb of 15.22

I know these debates are valid and I actually find myself thinking a ‘marker in the sand’ of when carbon shoes started to be worn would be a good thing for history and record purposes.  But my worry is that we are indirectly (and in some cases directly) criticising the athlete who has benefitted from this technology that is now available. 

I don’t know Beth personally, but have known of her for some years and have always thought of her as a ‘gutsy’ runner who is not afraid to really put herself in the ‘pain cave’ to get the best result.  Something she has now taken into a successful career in elite triathlon (although I still like to think she is a runner at heart).  But if she is able to benefit from the latest technology then good for her; it’s not her fault it’s out there and if she doesn’t use it when everyone else is, then surely she puts herself at a dis-advantage? Yet somehow, she and others in a similar position, seem to be fair game for the views, opinions and criticism of the masses, some of whom have a relatively influential voice in the sport.

With the increased focus on mental health, and the suggestion that we should aim to be kind at all times. I’m just asking for this debate to stay on topic of the shoes and the technology and not drift into criticising the person themselves. It is not their fault and this could result in a dangerous, downward mental health spiral for an individual; one that may be extremely difficult to recover from. Surely none of us would like to see that.


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