Admittedly, the impetus for my decision to purchase a pair of Altra Olympus is the video (http://www.altrarunning.com/fitness/en/Altra/Men/olympus-men) of an elite runner dominating in blazing fashion some rugged trail in southern Utah.
With upbeat music in the background, ultra marathoner Josh Arthur and his trusty Olympus gobbled up the trail and its natural obstacles (be it a tree stump, muddy poodle or a crevice) with a lot enthusiasm. Rugged harmony in motion.
|Snippets from the Josh Arthur video : Tree stump no problem for the Olympus|
|Nor is a muddy poodle.|
|The crevice ain’t wide enough.|
It is one of those Blink moments. Like at first sight and, by Gladwell, the Bicolano Penguin better have a pair fast. Trouble is, just like the Hoka, no Altra store yet in the Philippine archipelago. The closest to our shores is 2,400 kms down there in Singapore. Good thing we have the email which I used to communicate with Sing Phil Enterprises (https://www.facebook.com/altrarunningsingphil). Within 24 hours, I received a reply from Boon who promised to arrange for a delivery of the Olympus. Actual delivery was handled by a Pinoy by the name of Blue who made it thru LBC. He did not even wait for my peso payment for him to make the delivery. A refreshing take on trusting one’s customer. Certainly made me feel special.
|The LBC package|
|Side of the shoe box|
Having my hands on the package, I could see another something special about this upstart running shoe company. On one side of the shoe box read a suggestion on putting it into good use by recycling it into something like a “time capsule.” Three cool things already about the Altra experience and my soles haven’t sampled yet the main course. Excitement was in the air.
Opening the box, the main actor came into view. It looked soft. It felt soft and light in my hands. Wearing them, the pillow soft feeling sure was real and the weight seemed lighter than the advertised 11 oz. Talk about the height of it all in pampering one’s feet.
|The pair of Altra Olympus & the pamphlet|
|Astra Olympus Gunmetal/Fiery Red/Orange colorway|
Wait. There is more and this was elaborated by the smallish pamphlet that came with the box. It talks about two innovations that the Altra people are very proud of:
CUSHIONED ZERO DROP
Altra’s creator and founder, Golden Harper, coined the term “Zero drop” as a way to describe how the cushioning no longer dropped from the heel down to the forefoot. Altra offers runners the world’s first fully cushioned, training shoe without an elevated heel. This unique platform allows runners to enjoy the comfort and support of a traditional shoe without the high-impact landing and efficiency loss caused by a heavy, elevated heel. Altra's shoes also include a greater than average amount of cushioning compared to traditional running footwear. In the case of the Olympus, this is accomplished via a midsole that has a dual layer EVA with A-Bound top layer and a trail-specific sticky rubber outsole.
|No discernible difference in the height of the heel and forefoot in the Altra Olympus|
|A view of the midsole and outsole|
FOOT-SHAPED TOE BOX
Setting Altra apart from other performance shoes, the foot-shaped design promotes healthy, happy feet. The distinctive toe box follows the shape of a foot for better comfort, balance and running efficiency. Altra’s research showed that most foot problems were attributed to the pointy toe boxes of modern footwear. Although it looked different, the founding fathers believed that a toe box shaped like a foot was the only way to prevent and cure foot problems like bunions, neuromas, metatarsalgia, plantar fasciitis, etc.
|Foot-shaped toe box|
|Comparing toe box of Asics Cumulus and Altra Olympus|
Holding my first pair, the orange colorway, was more than a month ago. Already, my soles have feasted on the Olympus and found it to be delivering on the promise of a better run. Because it encourages a better more natural running technique, the Altra has been a favorite for my training runs, both the 21-km LSDs on Sundays and 5-km hill training on Thursdays. No muscle fatigue or soreness. Race-wise, I first deployed it on the 2014 Mayon 360 Ultra last April 5 and was aiming to use it the whole 80 kms if not for it getting soaked wet (due to all the water showers to combat the heat) already at the 50-km mark. To avoid blisters, my feet had to transfer to a drier pair of Hokas. My 2014 Mayon 360 experience seem to point to the Olympus as retaining water when they get wet and this observation was shared also by a Wasatch-based ultra runner (http://miracleinthewasatch.blogspot.com/2014/02/altra-olympus-review.html). Guess no shoe is perfect.
|The BP in Altra Olympus running in the shadow of Mayon Volcano last April 5|
|The BP in Altra Olympus running in the shadow of Mt. Iriga last April 18|
The experience of feeling efficient strides in the Altra Olympus continued for me in my Galloway-free running of the 10-km race at the Pro Earth Run last April 12 (http://bicolanopenguin.blogspot.com/2014/04/pro-earth-run-2014-galloway-took-day-off.html?utm_source=BP_recent). More and more, my feet are getting happier. I am also getting to notice that my son Marcel has been wearing my Altra Olympus every chance he gets. Not just for running but also in going to Sunday mass and shopping in the mall. Asked why he likes the Olympus, he tells me that they are awesome not just because of its softness but also because of its cool appearance.
I had to inquire from Boon and Blue where and when I could get another pair pretty soon. The ease in their customer care was again in full display as they promptly informed me that a pair of Olympus could be had at the Swim Bike Run Expo at the Mall of Asia SMX Exhibit hall come last weekend of April. An opportunity taken advantage of for I certainly wanted to make my son happy.
|Astra Olympus Gunmetal/Lime/Maz Blue colorway...|
Altra Olympus is named after Mt. Olympus, the most prominent peak in the Wasatch mountain range in Utah, the home state of the innovative running shoe company . But it might as well have been named after the original Mt Olympus of Greek classic fame.
|Mt. Olympus in the Wasatch mountain range|
“So saying, grey-eyed Athene departed to Olympus where, they say, is the seat of the Gods established for ever. It is not shaken by winds nor ever –wet with rain and the snow comes not nigh; but the clear air spreads without a cloud, and the white light floats over it. There the blessed Gods take their pleasure for all their days.” – Homer.
|Mt. Olympus in classic Greece|
In Greek mythology, Mt. Olympus is the playground of the gods like Zeus, Aphrodite, Ares, Hermes, Athena and Apollo. We, mere mortals, will have to do with Olympus of Altra as our place of play called running. Don’t laugh. At play (in my case, running) is the surest thing a person can feel extraordinary. At play is the closest thing a mortal can ever have the feeling of an immortal. To quote from the runner/doctor/philosopher George Sheehan, “Play is freewheeling, uninhibited, with no boundaries of time or space... It is in this encounter with time and space that the runner is forged. The race makes me that athlete. All my potential becomes actual. I leave nothing behind, nothing in reserve. There is only the now, the here, and me in unity of this effort. Like most common people, I become uncommon only in my sport.”
Can’t help feeling poetic (more like odic) when one is running happier in one’s new playground.
|The penguins are happier with the Altra Olympus.|