Eight years ago I wrote this, the story of my first few years of running and how my tastes in footwear had changed over my first few formative years as a runner. At that point, I’d just bought my first pair of lighter weight shoes after pretty much always running in chunky boi stability Brooks GTS and I was mulling over whether to risk a half marathon in them for my attempt at a PB.
Three weeks later, I did and the rest is history. That pair of Mizuno Elixir went on to become one of my favourite shoes of all time and I still have them in rotation for (very) occasional use when I feel a bit nostalgic. Eight years old and several hundred miles in the bank, they’re knackered now of course but something about them means I just can’t let them go.
Aside from all the success they brought me, including PBs at 5k, 10k and half marathon between 2013-14, I think the main reason I remember them so fondly is because they were discontinued shortly after. There never was an Elixir 9. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that, but it wasn’t only me. You only have to look around the internet even today to see that I wasn’t alone in my heartbreak to see them abandoned. A real cult shoe it seemed and I still rue the day I didn’t stock up on them when I realised they’d be gone forever.
A sort-of replacement did appear a year or so after, the Sayonara, and I enjoyed a pair of each of the first two versions, using them to run what was at the time a PB at the 2014 Manchester Marathon. But it just wasn’t the same. They were more than decent don’t get me wrong, with a real zip to them as well as being quite a bit lighter than the hallowed Elixirs, but they just never had that same magic that I loved about their predecessor, not to mention the sole falling to bits after about 400 miles. But mainly in trying to replace two shoes – the stability-minded Elixir and the more neutral Precision – Mizuno kinda ended up not really entirely pleasing fans of either. I was still looking for that perfect replacement.
Finally, at the start of 2016 the announcement I was waiting for: Mizuno were back in the lightweight stability game. The Catalyst was released, promising to fill that void that all those Elixir orphans like myself had been facing.
When I finally got my hands on a pair in the buildup to 2017 London Marathon I discovered that, again, they weren’t quite the Elixir. The weight and stability were similar to what I had enjoyed so much previously, but they felt just a tad bulkier somehow, almost reminding me more of Mizuno’s own (heavier) Inspire rather than that incredible nimble speed merchant I’d remembered so fondly. However, a few runs in them was all it took to click and although they never quite filled that void entirely, they came to find their own place in my heart. So much so that I eventually bought four pairs and have, to date, covered 2323.5 miles in them.
With all the shoe technology you see nowadays (and don’t get me wrong, I’ve been enjoying plenty of it lately) there’s still a place I think for a good, solid, traditional trainer that can do a bit of everything. The construction of the upper is decidedly old school in looks compared to modern knitted uppers, 3D prints and all sorts, but it just works, supporting my foot aided by the fairly intense flame pattern around the side adding a bit of structure. A nice plush tongue and padded heel collar give a nice bit of extra comfort over the Elixirs, which is pretty handy as they quickly became my long run shoe du jour.
I’m not sure I’d have ever raced a marathon in the Elixirs, I never got a chance to find out. The Catalysts though were perfect for me at that distance. The new U4ic (pronounced “euphoric”) foam in the midsole meant the ride felt slightly more cushioned than the AP+ in the Elixir, providing comfort on all those long, long training runs and then the big days themselves, with the solid wave plate sandwiched through the middle keeping things stable late on as the form began to break down. Londons 2017 and 2018, the events I’d been looking forward to for literally decades, were both Catalyst powered, and very well they went too.
It’s not just the long runs though. Coming in at a similar weight to the Elixirs at around 9.2oz / 260g in my size 8, they could handle the faster stuff too if needed, very responsive with a nice bit of pop if the pace was ever pushed. They’ve served me well at all distances, all the way down to 5k blasts at the local Parkruns. A nicely versatile shoe.
Finally, on top of all that, they’re absolutely bombproof. Generally I replace my shoes around the 500ish mile mark if I start to feel any aches in my knees or whatever, but these just keep on going, the X10 outsole always holding up well with the midsole underneath still giving decent cushioning. Seriously, they last bloody ages, going way beyond anything I’ve ever managed on a pair of any shoe over the years. The OG pair from early 2017 are still in (very light) use despite being thrown straight into a marathon, now with well over 800 miles on and possibly a bit more to come, the first pair of shoes to ever go over 100 runs. They’re firmly in the “I can’t say goodbye” pile now, along with those Elixirs, and still get the occasional spin for a shortish effort just to remember the good times.
Nothing has really been able to replace them in my rotation and although there’s probably shoes I find a bit more fun to run in these days (the Reebok Forever Floatride Energy have been a revelation, and I’m similarly blown away by the Puma Velocity Nitro which joined the stable this month), the Mizuno Catalyst has been the most long-serving and downright dependable shoe I have ever had the pleasure of running in. There’s no other shoe that has taken me as far, through as many races and adventures, and most importantly were on my feet when I finally achieved my life’s ambition to run the London Marathon in 2017.
Soon, the romance will all be over and I’ll just be left with the memories, of which there have been many. That epic pair of London Marathons. Trudging through shin deep snow training during the Beast From The East in 2018. Being sick all over pair #2 half a mile after setting off on a 16 mile Sunday long run having made the fatal error of thinking chocolate Weetabix would be a good fuel for it. The Wirral Half struggling along the side of the Irish Sea with an ankle injury in gale-force winds and with waves crashing against the rocky shore, spraying the air (and me) with salty sea foam, before suddenly powering on and running my first ever negative split. The day I ran two events back to back taking part in both the Great Manchester Half followed almost immediately by the 10k. Holiday runs in New York, Malaga, Zakynthos, the Algarve, North Yorkshire, the Peak District, Brighton and Liverpool. Literally, thousands of miles across multiple continents. And now, it’s nearly the end.
Sadly, it seems my often niche footwear demands mean that I keep picking shoes, falling in love with them and then watching them get discontinued shortly after as they fail to sell very well. The Elixir made it to eight editions, the Catalyst only two. The pair I managed to bag off eBay in April 2019 following the end of the line are the last pair I’ve ever been able to find in my size and they’re beginning to approach their twilight years now. When they’re gone, they’re gone.
Every year since cracking that first box open in early 2017 I’ve had a pair of Catalysts as my daily trainers. Half my runs over the past fortnight have been in them. It’s the only shoe I’ve ever bought two pairs of the exact same model, right down to the colourway. When this final pair shuffles off to go and live on the farm I genuinely don’t think I have anything to replace it. And I’ve got a lot of shoes. But there’s nothing quite like the Mizuno Catalyst anymore, that reliable old tank with the retro looks that carried me over 2,000 miles and beyond.
Rest in peace, fellas.