One of the highlight of signing up for a race is opening the bag to see the race t-shirt. Few people seem to keep their stinky bib numbers or wear the race medal around (except my younger sister who recently, as a joke, wore her Disney Princess ½ Marathon medal to the grocery store) so the t-shirt is the lasting “proof” that we registered for a race and picked up the packet.
Yesterday I wore my 2006 Boston Marathon wind-breaker and it prompted conversations with people throughout the day. In the line at Starbucks, an elder woman told me about her granddaughter who is running Boston this year. At the coffee pickup, an elderly gentleman told me how he was running his first 10k in May for charity. His neighbor’s grandchild has some dreadful disease and he agreed to help his neighbor by participating and hitting up sponsors for money. The man was so excited that I was tempted to give him ten dollars on the spot. Every encounter was great. The jacket even incited a conversation between workers in the typically silent elevator ride in my office building. By 5:00 pm, we usually sprint to our spots in the parking garage, but we actually stood around for a few minutes talking about running.
On the drive home, I reflected whether it was my ego that had driven me to wear the 11 year old jacket. It was windy outside, but I could have chosen any jacket in the closet. I picked out the Boston Marathon jacket so I could remind myself and others that I ran Boston. How egotistical! But then I thought, is this different than a Cubs fan wearing a baseball cap to support her team or a “Domer” clad in Notre Dame gear? Does their gear truly help the team? Does it set the person apart from the thousands of others who wear the exact same clothes? No, no, and no. The reason that we wear certain clothes is to project an identity and help us connect with others. Baseball fans can talk about their team because they identify each other as having a common interest. A Christian may wear a cross around their neck to reveal a belief in Jesus.
So, was my decision to wear the jacket completely void of ego? Probably not, but it was a pleasant reminder that folks, at least in the Midwest, enjoy connecting. In a world that seems to increasingly discourage “putting ourselves out there,” it is nice to have friendly chats with others. It certainly makes the elevator ride go a lot quicker.