Are you a collector? Some people collect valuable things like stamps and coins. Some people collect trinkets from around the world, things like beer mugs or thimbles. Not me. I want things I can use, things with no value but the sentimental kind. I collect tee shirts and running shirts from wherever I can get my hands on them.
My closet has shelves and shelves of the colorful tops that make up my collection. A green tee from the Hawaiian islands shares space with a blue one from the Florida Keys on my "to be worn to the pool" shelf. An aqua tee from a fine Mexcian resort rests comfortably waiting for our next visit to Cabo. For sports-themed days at the lab I can pull out a Paulie Konerko or José Abreau White Sox tee, while psychedelic days have a couple of tie-dyed options.
But my running/work-out shirts are the heart of my collection. Short-sleeved tees, in cotton or some of the slicker sweat-wicking type of fabrics, dominate one wall. At least half of them are blue--a combination of UroPartners tops, spanning most of the 15 years here at the lab, and SeaBlue shirts from the annual UsToo Lincoln Park Run for prostate cancer support, education, and advocacy. (Yes, in a few months I will be asking you for a donation before this September's run. Have your credit cards and checkbooks ready.)
Beyond all the blue, the variety starts. Shirts from multiple 4th of July 5K races in Lincolnshire, including a hideous neon green number. There's a recent addition, a gray shirt from last year's Labor Day Stampede in Buffalo Grove, where I powered down the homestretch like a buffalo myself, intent on maintaining my short lead on my daughter-in-law. A late kick I didn't know I had.
A kick that also came in handy in some Northwestern University 4.1 mile "Runs for Walk" honoring their late football coach Randy Walker. Those are the source of my princely purple tees. Two other favorites are shirts picked up on our annual guys' baseball trips: a blue Milwaukee Brewers shirt that made up for the massive traffic jam getting into the parking lot at Miller Park, and a gray and yellow Andrew McCutchen tee from Pittsburgh's PNC Park, a beautiful stadium nestled along the Allegheny River. Andrew doesn't play there anymore, but I still like the shirt.
Various fitness centers are well represented. A pair from the Buffalo Grove Rec Center are joined by a gray Charter One shirt, and a marvelously soft bright orange tee from Lifestart Fitness, my current favorite Westchester spot for cardio after work. To round out the collection, there are a few shirts that I have gotten as gifts, a Nike "Just Do It" one always reminding me to give it my all.
For running in the cool of the evening, I have a few long-sleeved tees, memories of long ago 10K races in Highland Park. The last of those, the 2002 trot, ended with bananas and Carol's Cookies at the finish line, and, oh yeah, two stress fractures in my right leg. No, I haven't run a 10K since.
Over time and many workouts and washings, some of my favorites have just withered away. But as long as I keep on going, the shirts will keep on coming. They mean more to me than a thimble ever could.
So what do you collect? What means something to YOU?
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