I started running back in 2010, with a pair of Reeboks but they weren’t really suited to the Maun sand and gravel – more of a gym shoe. Sadly most “sports” shops in Maun and Francistown only sell fashionable sports shoes (hello, JB Sports), and Cape Union Mart seem to flog only over-designed, over-priced, gaudy Salomon shoes.
This is a gripping tale of brand loyalty, internet shopping and, unexpectedly, obsessive colour matching.
In 2011 I went on a training course in Johannesburg and while on a shopping spree in Totalsports came across a simple no-frills trail running shoe by Asics, the Gel Enduro 6. I liked the look of them so much I drove halfway round town to a different branch to get a pair in my size.
For the next two years they carried me round Maun and through my first race, until at around 1,600km (1,000mi) they started getting a bit tired: letting in sand through worn holes at the toe box and looking a bit shabby.
Sadly local sports shops continued not to have acceptable stock, I resorted to Amazon UK, who could only deliver in the UK, so I had to get my Mum to bring them with her when she came to visit in 2013.
My choice this time was a pair of Asics Gel Trail Lahar 4 G-tx, the G-tx standing for Gore-Tex which is slightly redundant in these parts. Anyway, they were comfy, the sizing was consistent with the previous pair and they have lasted even better than the first pair.
Sporttracks has a useful gear tracking function, and I could see the Lahar 4’s 1,600km mark approaching (or, more accurately, the psychologically important but non-ISO compliant 1,000 mile mark). During Jo’burg trips in late 2014 I checked Totalsports again in person and various other SA retailers online, but there was nothing appealing. Into April 2015 and I decided it was time to venture online again. This time eBay provided the answer in the form of the next iteration of the Lahar range: the imaginatively named Gel Trail Lahar 5 G-tx.
This purchase was more stressful, since the Taipei-based eBay seller was had listed them with a combination of US and cm that didn’t match any conversion chart, and I am used to the UK system. Anyway, they arrived with surprising haste – about a fortnight – and slipped through customs without attracting any import duty. Bonus. Happy to pay if the authorities ask.
On the matter of sizing: I wear a UK size 9 shoe/boot normally, with fairly thick socks. I find that the Asics UK 9.5 works for me with thin socks, the newest pair is equivalent to a UK 9 according to the Asics sizing chart and does feel more snug.
At this point I drift into reminiscence… back in 1997 I joined the university gym and bought some shoes for that, and they just happened to be Asics. I’d previously had a Reebok habit, but the university sports shop didn’t have any in stock and the Asics were cheap. That first pair of Asics went on to accompany me during my first stay in Botswana during ’98 and ’99. They saw action on the building site (health and safety? don’t step on nails), yomping round the Okavango (” If they come closer, don’t run.”) and various other excursions. They were retired on the day I packed my bags in Mosetse.
Asics? I’m a fan.