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Byron Shire
March 8, 2021

A shoe by any other name is still a runner

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a shoe

By design: When I was a kid the Volley was white with a little green stripe at the back. These days they are pink, blue and I’ve even seen chequered one. Oh how the humble have risen.

Story & photo Eve Jeffery

When I was a kid I wanted a pair of adidas runners. We called

them runners. Not joggers or sneakers. We didn’t jog in them. We didn’t sneak in them. We ran. Runners.

Every kid I knew wanted a pair of adidas runners.

Back in those days we called them plain old adidas – that is addy-das. These days they are known as ah-DEE-dus. What. When did that happen? What a load of crap.

The bloke who invented the shoes was a German called Adolf ‘Adi’ Dassler. It wasn’t until later that he changed the spelling of his first name to Adolph so as not to be associated with another famous German of the time.

Adi Dassler chopped up his name, registered it in a  lower case font and adidas was born, those three little stripes becoming synonymous with athletics, soccer and a bunch of other sports.

Curiously, Adi’s brother Rudolph ‘Rudi’ Dassler with whom he started the monolithic company, went on to become the founder of adidas’s greatest rival: Puma.

Anyway getting back to my feet – up until I was ten years old I had always worn Dunlop Volleys – actually methinks it was the Clarke Rubber rip off of the Volley that in reality I wore, but still a little white canvas shoe for running in.

Once a week or so I would get out the little pot of whitening stuff that came with its own little sponge on the end of a stick and diligently re-whiten my runners. Oh I loved white runners. When I eventually graduated to real Volley’s (probably when I was old enough to notice the difference), I would go through whitener by the gallon.

I never had a moments trouble with my Volley’s. I could outrun anyone I knew and even when the old pair was too tight and the new pair too loose, I still managed to go pretty fast.

It must have seemed like I was running somewhere because when I was in the under 11s, the week before the start of the athletic season, I was taken on a Saturday morning to a tiny sports store in Hampton Street. A real actual sports store that catered only for sport. I didn’t believe such a thing existed. It was a sweet rubbery-leathery smelling wonderland full of bats and balls and racquets and runners. Millions of runners. Well probably not millions but I was a short ten year old and the stacks looked big.

The fellow at the store greeted us with a magical box. A magical navy blue box with the unmistakeable diagonal stripes across it. Could it be? I sat on the fitting bench and when he lifted the lid, he pulled out a pair of size 13 adidas runners. The dark navy canvas slashed with the gleamingest white motif. I was awestruck.

When almost reverently he put them on my little tootsies, I thought I would explode. They were wafer light. So light America’s Next Top Model could eat three square pair a day and still look anorexic. My feet felt almost bare. Nirvana.

The offering of $26 was deposited on the altar and the shoe meister smiled benevolently as we departed the chapel.

Now twenty-six dollars might not seem like much, but 34 years ago, it was a lot of money to spend on the fourth child’s Saturday morning feet. Not a figure to be sneezed at or lost at the racetrack.

Speaking of the track, the day after I got my new runners our club was having a pre-season-warm-up-bonding have we got enough members to run the club this year, fun day at the home of the Melbourne Racing Club, Caulfield Racecourse.

We all met at the gates of ‘The Heath’ at the required time and bloke in muck covered riding boots let us in and onto the course. It was a beautiful spring day. The sun was shining after a night of heavy rain and it was fresh and warm all at the same time. It didn’t take long for us to work out why the gate keeper’s boots were all covered in muck, and it took less time for us to realise that the special training session devised by our coach was basically once around the track. 2080 metres of mud. Yik.

By the time I had made it to the finish line my brand spanking new adidas were simply the bottom bit of my thigh to toe ‘monster from the blah lagoon’ costume.

I took them off in disgust and in a hissy huff threw them in my sports bag. So I thought.

When I arrived home, still a little cranky miss, I opened the bag to clean the unholy non-white mess and was shocked to see that only one of the little monsters had made it home. The other, obviously terrified at the thought of my torturous bottle of white paint had done – a runner!

Uh oh spaghettio, was I gunna be in trouble. How does one approach one’s adult human guardian folk and tell them that one has lost one half of one’s brand new very expensive athletic footwear?

One doesn’t remember the actual telling. One does remember the fallout being almost nil. In hindsight, one suspects that the look on one’s face was enough to convince the said adult humans that the loss of the item was punishment enough.

We did make the trip back to Caulfield but and hour long search turned up nothing and next Saturday at the opening of the season I was wearing sparkling white Volleys that I had dug out of the depths of my wardrobe and painted yet again. I still won my race but I would have done it faster in the adidas. Or not.

Sometime during that season a brand spanking new pair of generic running shoes appeared on the kitchen bench one Saturday morning. Nothing was said as the adult human folk scrambled the eggs, but the runner faerie had obviously paid a visit.

The blue wasn’t quite as navy and there were only two stripes, but they were wafer thin. And methinks America’s Next Top Model could still have downed a couple without gaining a gram.

Now Nike, pronounced Nye-kee, was a big girl. She was the goddess who personified triumph throughout the ages of ancient Greek culture. Nike was the daughter of Pallas and Styx, and the sister of Kratos, Bia and Zelus. Now her cousin was the mother of …


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