Running Streak — Day 12
I feel that someday my friend will potentially want to write about her favorite running shorts and all they have seen, so I won’t steal her thunder. I also won’t name names to protect the innocent. I will simply share a few thoughts to introduce the idea of the running clothes we can’t seem to throw away.
The shorts in focus are a pair of Nike (I think, logos and labels are probably long gone) blue Spandex shorts. I am guessing they were purchased with a 2-inch inseam, which at some point, through thousands of washes, has probably shrunk to about 1.5 inches or so. They are somewhere between the shades of Navy and Electric blue, but they have faded considerably over time.
I feel involved with this particular clothing item because I have been a big part of its life cycle. The shorts have accompanied me, with my friend inside them, for hundreds of miles through multiple cities across the US. They still are in regular rotation in my friend’s running wardrobe, and she even wore them recently for a race when she was incredibly with child.
These pants have become the subject of lore, an ongoing joke among their owner and her friends. Every now and then there is a wellness check conducted on the shorts, often in the form of one of us saying incredulously, “You seriously still own those things?”
But as runners who have been dedicated to this sport for years — years that have then flowed together into decades — we do find that just like old habits, favorite running clothes die hard.
I have running shorts that have existed longer than my marriage, which is rounding the corner toward seven years this August. I have running tops that have made it through two presidential terms. I have bras that have covered more miles on my person than what my car drives in a year, and in their lifetime will potentially surpass the overall mileage on the odometer.
When I find something that works, I tend to wear it all the time. I still love to run in hooded sweatshirts, a la Rocky Balboa summiting the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
I remember how excited I was when a running race gave away a technical t-shirt in the registration bag. My first marathon awarded cotton t-shirts to the finishers and handed out paper painter’s caps at the expo. People would place wet sponges underneath the caps to keep their heads cool during a race. I feel like when I explain this I am preparing an anthropological lecture on the fitness habits of runners of the late 20th century. The lecture will be attended by young and new runners wearing head to toe moisture-wicking, antimicrobial, sustainably and ethically sourced running apparel, wondering in awe how any of us old-fashioned runners coped with things like cotton, tags, seams, non-compressing fabrics and sweat.
I recently threw away a Spandex tank top that saw me through my first Boston Marathon-qualifying race, and probably a dozen-or-so other big races. It was my designated race day top for some time, bright green and easy to spot by friends on the sidelines, and it matched a Brooks running cap with a shamrock on it.
I didn’t want to let it go, but my body had re-shaped after having children in such a way that the fitted tank turned into more of a lengthy sports bra. Plus the elastic in its neckline made a weird crunching sound when it was tested, kind of like a warning gasp for anyone who had intentions of pulling it over their head.
I debated having a farewell jog in the piece, but the failing elastic growled at me when I tried to stretch it over my expanded torso, so I decided to let it retire on a high note with its memories of former glory.
Meanwhile, the blue shorts live on in the drawer, to run another day. My friend’s fiancee recently suggested she throw them away when she found that a small hole had worn in the crotch. She texted a group of us to let us know of the failing— like someone might call a close friend to share concern about an ailing parent — to which the chorus of running buddies reminded her that those shorts have been through more with her then he has. The battle was in easily in favor of the shorts.