Two Saturdays ago my family and I paid a visit to the location of the Gap Trestles Marathon to scout out the course. The race starts and ends at the Meyersdale Area Historical Society, an old train station that has been made into a museum. If you like to walk, run or bike; or if you are a railroad enthusiast, it is definitely worth a visit! Below are some photos and videos I took while I was there.
Here are some video clips of the course that I recorded during my bike ride:
When I first considered purchasing a pair of Altra running shoes, I was pretty confused over all of the different styles and versions available. After some head scratching, I eventually purchased a pair of Instinct 3.0s, and a few months later, added a pair of One 2.5s. I still do not have a complete knowledge of the entire Altra product line, but now that I have a couple hundred miles in each of these shoes, it is time to share what I know so far.
You can think of this as two reviews in one. I will take look at what both shoes have in common, what differences they have, and then share my final thoughts.
Zero heal-to-toe drop
Altra Instinct 3.0
There are two things that all Altra shoes have in common. First, they no heel-to-toe drop. Altra calls this common feature “zero-drop”. The vast majority of shoes on the market have a heel that is quit a bit higher than the forefoot, or toe, area. I don’t know all the reasons why shoes are made this way. There has been a consensus for a long time amount health professionals that high-heeled shoes typically worn by women aren’t good for you. Yet almost every shoe on the planet has a heel at least a little higher than the two. Altra’s philosophy is that the foot works best when it is in it’s natural position, which is flat. For that reason, all of Altra’s shoe are “zero-drop”.
Wide toe box
The second feature in common amount all Altra shoes is what they call the “foot-shape toe box”. Basically, its a wide, roomy space at the front of your foot so your toes don’t get squeezed. It gives the shoes a boxy look that some people criticize as being kind of ugly. The shoes aren’t sleek and pointed. They are basically shaped like feet, which is a good thing even if it means they are not pretty.
The other thing the Instinct and the One have in common is that they are both neutral shoes. They have cushioning, but arch support is fairly minimal, which is right for most runners out there.
Altra One 2.5
Altra has several cushioning levels: light, moderate, high and max. The Instinct has moderate cushioning, and the One has light cushioning. The difference is enough that you notice it, but my legs and feet typically don’t feel any different after running with these shoes. I’ve run a half marathon in the Ones and wouldn’t be afraid to run a full marathon in them.
The first things you’ll notice about the Ones is that they are very light. They weigh in at 6.6 ounces, where the Instincts come in at 8.1 ounces. The fabric on the top of Ones is also very thin – there is no insulation whatsoever, in case that matters to you.
The One has a wider toe box than the Instinct. My Instincts felt roomy until I starting use the Ones. Now the Instincts feel a bit cramp. The One is also a more flexible shoe than Instinct, giving you a better feel for the ground. I like that feeling on the road, but if I’m on a trail where there might be some large pebbles, I’d rather be running in Instincts. Of course, for trail running, neither of these shoes are the best choice because neither have a large amount of tread. One of Altra’s Trail running shoes would be a better choice for that.
The One has one design flaw: the grooves in the sole pick up pebbles. This happens in almost every run I do with them. This really doesn’t cause any issues at all when I’m running. But I always be careful when I’m finished to make sure there are not stuck pebbles before I go indoors. I don’t like to leave pebbles laying around in the house or scratch the floor.
I like both pairs of shoes, but if I had to chose one or the other, I would pick the Ones. They are the most comfortable shoe I’ve every put my foot into. They are my favorite shoe for road running and my favorite for everyday use and walking. But I like to change things up so I don’t run in the same shoe every day. I still wear my Instincts from time to time, especially if my feet are feeling a bit sore from the previous one.
Regardless of which one you choose, you’ll be getting Altra’s zero drop, wide toe box goodness; both of which I find it very uncomfortable to do without.
Staying in shape was not a problem in my growing up years. Between working on the farm and playing with my friends at school, I did a good job of staying on the move. But when I reached the age of 20, things started to change. I started a business of fixing computers, something that soon was keeping me busy for long hours. Still, I found time to play softball one or two nights a week, plus some volleyball now and then.
By the time I hit 30, there were more changes. I was a husband and a father, and other priorities had crowded out my playing of sports. Now it was just time at work and time with the family. I got more into hunting and fishing, but that doesn’t add up to a whole lot when it comes to building physical fitness. Life was great, but physically some undesirable things were happening. By the time I was approaching 40, my waistline was steadily growing. I could not run more than 50 feet or climb a flight of stairs without getting out of breath. It was time to take action.
In April of 2016, at age 39, I signed up for a local 5k, the Strawberry Stampede 5k. I didn’t like running, but I had to do something. And I still had enough of a competitive spirit that having the race on the calendar would keep me running even though I would hate it. I used my vehicle to measure out a roughly 3.1 mile section of roadway, and I started to train. At first, it was mostly walking, with a little running mixed in. It was brutal. Before long, I started getting a variety of running aliments. Sore calves. Shin splints. Runner’s diarrhea. It seemed my whole body was unhappy with my decision to run.
Landry crosses the finish line
By the time race day arrived, I had worked through most of those ailments. The race was brutal, like my training. I pushed myself as hard as I could, but still had to walk much of the way. I finished in about 30 minutes – right in the middle of the pack. I was delighted to get an award for finishing second in my age group. Then I realized that I was one of only two 30-39 year old males in the race, so the medal was basically a finisher’s medal. My 9-year-old son Landry finished in around 27 minutes, good enough for first male under 12.
I still didn’t like running, but crossing that finish line was rewarding, and my competitive spirit kept me running for a few more weeks. I rewarded myself by purchasing a pair of Altra Instinct running shoes. Soon I found I could “run” the whole 3.1 mile distance. It was quite slow, more like a jog, but nobody wants to be a jogger, so I called it running.
And then the unthinkable happened: I started to enjoy it. Running was still hard, but physically it started to pay off. I had more energy. I didn’t need as much sleep. In fact, the amount of time I spent running was more than made up for by the extra time I was awake. I could actually sing in church without running out of breath or getting light-headed. Over time, running became easier and my speed increased. In July I ran the Shippensburg Fair 5k and finished in 25:45. In August I ran the Bremenfest 5k and finished in 24:45.
Crystal ran the 5k and I ran the 10k. I had set a goal of finishing it in under 50, and it took everything I had to finish in 49:48. It was probably a bit too ambitious of a goal, because within a few minutes after crossing the finish line, I had a severe case of IT band syndrome that left me hobbling for a day or two and then fighting with it during my runs for several weeks.
Then I took the plunge and signed up for the Chambersburg Half Marathon, which was scheduled for March 11, 2017. My plan was to train for distance and use the Chambersburg Half as a training run to prepare for the Garden Spot Village Marathon in April. But my plans took a turn for the worse in December when I rolled my ankle during a run and pain shot through my knee. I suspect I had a mild LCL sprain. I never got it diagnosed, but it made running more than a mile impossible for about a month. It was February before I could start building mileage again. I still wanted to run the half, but I knew it was foolish to plan for a full marathon in April.
I had to ramp up my mileage rather quickly in order to be ready for race day. I did weekly long runs of 6, 8, and 10 miles in the weeks leading up to the half marathon in addition to my usual two 3-mile runs each of those weeks. Somehow, I made it to race day without any further problems. I knew better than to set an ambitious goal this time, so I decided to shoot for a 9 minute mile pace, which would put me at the finish line in just under two hours.
Race day turned out to be cold. At the starting line, it was about 18 degrees F and 10 degrees with the wild-chill factored in. I had never run a race in this kind of weather but somehow I ended up wearing just the right amount of clothing. Once I started running, I was comfortable. The easier pace made it a very enjoyable race. I felt great until about mile 12. At that point, my legs started telling me it was time to stop. But I kept them moving and crossed the finish line in 1:57:54. My family was cheering me on as I approached the finish line. By the time I had collected my finisher’s medal, they had escaped to the vehicle to warm up. Landry collected a few video clips and put together a nice highlight reel of the race.
Running has been a life-changing experience for me. It has become a form of therapy. My weekend long run is something I look forward to all week. Running is a time to enjoy nature, to reflect, and even to worship. And in the process of doing something I enjoy, I’ve lost 25 pounds and feel about as good physically as anytime I can remember.
This Saturday, I plan to once again run the Strawberry Stampede 5K, the race that started it all a year ago. My goal will be the same as it was a year ago, to cross the finish line.
Note: Because running is a bit off-topic for my Great Cove Adventures YouTube Channel, I have started separate channel for my running-related videos. To visit and subscribe, click here