Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Darker Side of Trail Running

While this blog and most other trail running musings chronicle and celebrate races, individual accomplishments and the joy of trail running, there is a darker side of running that is ignored. Much is written and shared about the positive side of running. But, the darker side is seldom discussed. This post is an effort to illuminate this darker side, and in particular, to find a voice for our orphan socks – invisible, forgotten and often mistreated.

Running socks have never had the respect they deserve. They are the front-line between our feet and the miles we log over harsh and varied terrain. Without complaint they absorb our sweat, fight friction no matter what the conditions, do their best to repel dirt and rocks, and suffer quietly when we fail to properly maintain our toe nails. Yet, do we ever attribute a great run, an endorphin high, or a winning race to our socks? No! We fail to show our appreciation and thanks for all that they do for us.

And then to add insult… For no fault of their own, and often a result of our own negligence while doing laundry or not watching our pets, our trail socks become orphaned. What was a pair becomes one. Suddenly alone on top of the dryer. Cast aside waiting for their mate to possibly be found. Gathering dust. A life of purposefulness ended. And how do we respond? We ignore them for a while. Then, if the mate is not found, we often throw these orphans away. A sad, unfortunate, and completely unnecessary end to a sock life.

How has this become socially acceptable? American’s donate more than $2.2 billion each year to prevent the euthanasia of dogs and cats in animal shelters. Yet, we think nothing of euthanizing our orphan socks. Hospice care represents a $12 billion a year industry. Don’t our single socks deserve similar love and care when perhaps their usefulness and ability to contribute is diminished?

Why do we treat orphan socks this way? How can we fight the stigma and discrimination that result from the value we place on having our socks match? Why must socks be paired for life? What has resulted in our thinking about socks becoming so rigid? Is it possible for us to become more open-minded regarding socks? Must all sock pairs match? Can sock mixing find a place in a world constrained by order and “style?” What if we ran with a comfortable and durable Darn Tough® Merino Wool on the left foot, and a Darn Tough® CoolMax on the right? A no-show and a 1/4?? Tan with green?? Don’t we have a moral obligation to these orphan socks to provide them with a life where they can continue to serve us?

Many of us feel overwhelmed and helpless to act on behalf of orphan socks. Yet, while perhaps the problem seems so vast and unsolvable, I have a 5 point plan that can help these socks, who for no fault of their own have lost their ability to protect our feet and absorb our sweat. Please join me in making a commitment to, and taking the actions required to both prevent socks from becoming orphaned and find mates for those that have lost their partner.
  1. Exercise good laundry practices. Several simple actions can prevent many socks from becoming orphaned in the first place. Never put a wadded or rolled sock in the laundry. Always make sure the sock is in its original shape before being laundered. This will help prevent a sock from becoming lodged between the agitator in the washing machine or caught in the lint trap. A sheet of Bounce® can prevent a polyester sock from eloping with a cotton undergarment. As socks are removed from the dryer, fold them over each other so they do not get separated in the sock drawer.
  2. Know your pets. Pets are the leading source of socknappings. Many pet owners are in denial about their pet’s role in breaking up sock pairs. If you think there may be a problem with your pet, consider keeping both your dirty laundry and clean socks in a location that is out of the reach of your pet.

  3. Utilize microchips in your socks. Consider placing microchips in your socks to help locate runaway, lost, socknapped, or misplaced socks. It may be worth the cost and effort to place microchips in your very favorite socks. I have done so in my Darn Tough® socks.

  4. Accept and practice sock diversity. Fight the belief that socks must match. Experiment with wool and polyester. Make a statement and mix a knee-high with crew. Welcome an orphan into one of your most beloved sock pairs. Celebrate the sock trio.

  5. Participate in an online mating service. Check it out. You’ll be surprised how many socks are seeking socks. Just today, there are eleven postings for “Darn Tough® Coolmax ¼ Sock Mesh #1492, lightly used in good condition seeking similar Darn Tough®.” If all of these sock owners took action, there could be five new pairs of Darn Tough® socks and ten fewer orphans!

Please join me in creating a better world for our socks… Remember, simple actions can have world-changing results. Preventing and helping orphan socks begins with each of us.

Celebrate the sock trio!


matteoman said...

brings a tear to my eye everytime I read it

Anonymous said...

"I'm single and looking for a good mate". Sounds like maybe one should post single socks on craigslist or the MRC blog.