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Collecting raceT-shirts and remembering where they came from

Running & Fitness
Saturday, May 15, 2021

I was doing some household chores this week and trying to catch up on laundry. After drying the clothes and folding them to put everything back in the closet and shelves, I realized that there are a couple of articles of clothing that seem to stand out. The two articles of clothing that every man, and most women, find in their wardrobe are T-shirts and ball caps. T-shirts are comfortable, cool in warm weather, easy to care for, and often make a statement. T-shirts come from a variety of sources and tend to accumulate over the years. If you travel to another state or another country, a ball game, or a special event the one item that is something to buy is a T-shirt. Buying a T-shirt for yourself is a reminder of the visit or event that you can wear to show others or to reminisce about. If you need to buy a gift for a friend or relative while traveling a T-shirt is not very expensive, will pack easily into the suitcase, and in most cases the person will appreciate the gift. 

T-shirts make it easy to advertise a business, a race, a special event, a favorite sports team, or simply have a phrase that you think is either funny or important to you. They come in a large array of colors and styles. Some are very special and are worn only on special occasions. I have a T-shirt with Bill Roger’s signature on it that states, “Moe, See you in Boston, Bill Rogers”. I might as well frame that shirt as I have only worn it about three times. 

For runners a T-shirt is a reminder of a race they ran. I don’t know what race started the idea of giving a runner a T-shirt but it is an established routine that almost every race follows. I started to accumulate a stack of T-shirts during my running days and thought it would be good to give runners a different item. I had some cotton towels printed that said, “I (a big red heart) Love to Run 10K’s” and gave it instead of a T-shirt. The long time runners appreciated something different, but the first time runners felt cheated out of the T-shirt. Years later that towel became something special for the runners that ran the race.

I got my first race T-shirt at the first Capital 10K in 1979. I received my latest T-shirt at the Bobcat Prowl 5K shirt a few weeks ago. After folding the shirts and trying to stack them in some sort of order on three shelves it became apparent to me that I have too many T-shirts. Between running races, organizing races, volunteering for helping at races since 1979 the T-shirts are out of control. Some of them are not from races. I have a few from when I was a strength coach for NHL hockey teams, some from traveling overseas, attending special events (like the last time Willie, Merle, and Ray gave a concert in Austin), several that had Black Legends photos on the front (Arthur Ashe, Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson) and the a few that were gifts from others. I organized the Better Half Marathon for 33 years that had a variety of shirts in the pile. Long sleeved, short sleeved, high tech, cotton, and even a jacket one year. There are green fluorescent, orange fluorescent, blue, green, grey, black, and even a few odd colors in the pile. I don’t think I ever had a red shirt for the race though. 

I have to admit that I have stored a few of them in a bin out in my shop area. The first Cinco De Mayo 10K back in 1979 that we had here in San Marcos is still around. Some of the first Sights and Sounds 5K race back when the telephone company sponsored the race. A few shirts from when I managed a slow pitch softball team are still in that bin. I haven’t really dug down to the bottom of that bin to see what other T-shirts from my past adventures are there. 

I imagine I can be classified as a collector, a hoarder, or a pack rat for saving all of those shirts. I couldn’t wear all of those shirts in a year – or longer. But, each time I wear one, or even look at that special T-shirt, it brings back memories of the event. And the T-shirts don’t even count for the coaching shirts, teaching PE shirts (a few with SWTSU, HPER, and ESS) that are no longer up to date. This all started when I was putting the clean shirts back on the shelf and I knocked a pile off the top. It revealed a few shirts that I hadn’t seen in many years. It reminded me that I need to go through those shelves of T-shirts and make another trip out to the bins in my shop area. And if you think T-shirts are bad, don’t get me started on ball caps and that mess on another shelf.

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