The Race Shirt That Just Won’t Die

A few days ago, I was digging through a dresser drawer, looking for a shirt.

And then I saw it, in the middle of the pile: The Race Shirt That Just Won’t Die.

It’s an ordinary cotton T-shirt that I got at a 5K race in 1993, called the Human Race, in New Wilmington, Pennsylvania.

The race was deadly dull: an out-and-back course, on a flat, country road, starting and ending at a small college. I plodded through it and finished in 24:57 (for an average pace of 8:02 a mile), making it one of my slowest 5K races ever.

I have no reason to remember this otherwise forgettable race — except for this shirt.

I’ve worn it hundreds of times, but it just won’t wear out. Sure it’s a little faded, but it’s still intact, and I don’t have the heart to throw it away.

Usually, race shirts begin to fray and wear within a couple of years. Then they become painting rags.

This shirt just doesn’t want to die or become a rag. Its will to live is strong. It is a survivor.

This shirt is now 16 years old. It is so old, it’s retro. The salmon color has gone in and out of style three times.

I think it has another 30 years left in it. It will probably outlive me.

Just look at the expression of the runner on this shirt. He has an iron will. Just like this shirt.


It’s amazing what difference a day makes.

Yesterday, I was shuffling and limping along the towpath, doing my best to get in a five-mile run. I had to abort about halfway into it, due to tight muscles and sore joints from Saturday’s trail race.

Today, I felt strong and refreshed. I returned to the scene of yesterday’s DNF and ran five miles, feeling not a single twinge. The miles flew by with little effort. I finished in 42:17. 

There’s a lesson here. I’m not a young man of 49 anymore. I have to build in more rest days after long races.

That is, if I want to outlive my shirt.


RACE UPDATE: The Knobstone Trail race results were finally posted online this evening.

I finished 65th out of 108 runners, overall. Among men only, I finished 57th out of 81.

I had hoped to place better in this field. I need to do more trail racing to build speed and endurance on these tough hills, and become more competitive.

Yes, this was a mostly hard-core crowd of trail runners. If road runners showed up in great numbers, I would have finished much higher in the pack.

But I need to measure myself against the toughest, if I want to be a true mountain goat.


One Response to “The Race Shirt That Just Won’t Die”

  1. “The salmon color has gone in and out of style three times.” Funny :)

    My son has a t-shirt that won’t die. It’s classic white with navy blue letters and it says Sparta Track. It’s only about 8 years old, but he was still wearing it as recently as this past August, so I’m thinking it has some years left.

    You know, you can have someone make a quilt out of your old race t-shirts.

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