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The Fabric Of Our Running Lives

The Fabric Of Our Running Lives

Article by: Michael Selman

Reproduced with permission of the author

Last weekend, I finally got around to the spring cleaning that should have been done when we moved in to our new house a year ago. The main target of my attack was the boxes in the garage. Inside many of the boxes lay the masses of cotton and polyester that I have accumulated over the past 18 years of running. The skins of my hunts at every distance from 5K to marathon; the sacred T-shirt.

I didn't just take the boxes and move them from the garage to the attic. I had a reason to go through every box, and look at every shirt. You see, every race T-shirt tells its own epic, and the shirts with the best narratives are going in a special shrine which is being created in honor of the stories the shirts weave.

As I went through box after box, and reviewed the legend behind shirt after shirt, I found myself enormously entertained, but facing the most difficult task of reducing all the lore down to the "top ten" all time race T-shirts. Some were a given. My very first road race had a distinguished place in my heart. The race was the first annual Riverside Ramble, winding its way through an exclusive part of The Bronx. I couldn't even tell you what year it was, but my hunch is it was somewhere around 1978. I have never run a more hilly 10K in my life, and the trip took over an hour. But this was an introduction to long distance running. Years later, I found out that training and preparation could make the 10K experience even more enjoyable.

My first REAL race shirt also had a high ranking in my mind. By real, I mean a race that was preceded by some semblance of training. That was Shelter Island in 1982. This was a lovely 10K race nestled on an island between the north and south forks of Long Island, and the only way to get there was by ferry. I broke an hour that race, and then limped on blisters for the next week.

Then there was my first marathon. Definitely another keeper. It was the Long Island Marathon, in the spring of 1983, and I hadn't planned to run a marathon that day. Long Island has a 1/2 marathon and a marathon, both traversing the same course for the first half. At the halfway point, you could choose to stop or continue. I had planned to stop, but for reasons really unbeknownst to me, I continued. I ended up finishing in a little under 4 hours. The accidental marathon, I like to call it. Unfortunately, after sifting through all the boxes, this shirt was nowhere to be found.

There were other firsts, and firsts are significant to this runner. My first race after I moved to North Carolina, in October 1986 was one of them. I ended up living there for close to 10 years. The race was the Stroh's Run for Liberty, a road race held simultaneously in many cities across the country. I ran mine in Winston-Salem. Other milestones were my first race in Georgia, which is now my home, and my first hardware race, which didn't happen until over 10 years into my running career.

But there have also been bests. Those PR's at every distance. Unfortunately, some of those T-shirts have been worn beyond recognition, and no physical remnant remains. Other shirts never existed. Many PR shirts will be missing from the quilt. However, one that will be the centerpiece of this special place is my marathon PR shirt. That occurred at Tybee Island in 1997, and the very next evening, I "met" Harriet for the very first time, in the Runner's World chat room. You can't do much better than that.

And that's the other half of the story. Next month, Harriet and I will be married, and she will have her own special T-shirts also inducted in our shrine. It will be ours, a blending of running histories. It is a representation of hers, mine, and ours. It will include shirts from race we have run individually, and races we have run together, but they will all be special.

Harriet will be going through the same exercise of sifting through her shirts, and selecting her top 10 also. She has her own history, her own firsts, and a couple of Boston Marathons thrown in for good measure, including the historic 100th. We each have our own stories to tell, and the best of the best will be included. Much of our running histories took place before we met, but perhaps some of the most significant took place in shared races.

The shrine is actually a quilt, which will be prominently displayed in our family room. To us, it will be the story of hers, mine, and ours. The most perfect blend of cotton and polyester. The quilt will be the fabric of our running lives.

Michael Selman
Roads Scholar
Atlanta Georgia USA
Michael Selman is a freelance writer who has appeared in publications and web sites throughout the world, including Runner's World, Footnotes, and CoolRunning.

Michael has published many other articles on running and his personal experiences in the Thoughts of a Roads Scholar. Feel free to E-mail him at

This page last updated: Saturday 20 March 2010

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