All good strings

All good strings must come to an end.

I'm at the stage where the few trail or road race shirts that I have are coming to the end of their own race. Today, the venerable yellow shirt from the 2010 Escarpment Trail Run gave up more thread from the seams than I thought a shirt could have. I don't know how that arm is staying on, but it's only one of several injuries that the shirt has sustained over time—this is merely the first one that had structural implications. The long scuff mark from washing the shirt in Mumbai is there, as are some scratches on the shoulder from eating some rocks on a trail near Malibu.

And so on. A history of a shirt isn't interesting. A shirt is a rag, and a history should have some consequence, else it's just an anecdote.

These running shirts, though, as they fray into rags, are apt metaphors for the capacity and training that were there when they were first acquired. The ETR is possibly the hardest race I ever ran, though it was only a 30 km run—up down up down up down up down viciously through the Catskills. You could bury me halfway up Windham High Peak if I tried it today. I would fray harder than any shirt ever could.

Shirts are things. Things break. Experiences don't break. In fact, experiences become larger over time as we embellish them, inflating the good and forgetting the bad, where possible. It's only Right. Ask me what I remember about that race. Not so much, eleven years later. I remember part of the walk up—run, ha, sometimes the uphills are insidious and some require all hands and feet—and I remember some of the lookouts up high, and I remember coming down from Stoppel Point and needing to slow down and walk part of the downhill because I was so tired that I couldn't process the trail fast enough to run it anymore. It must have been a tough race that year because not even Ben Nephew broke 3 hours when he won.

A shirt is just a shirt. I know its color and size and the mountain image on the front. I don't remember the conversations there at the tent at the end of the race, nor the specific people I met, or any detail that doesn't vanish when the mind's eye scans over the fuzzy image called up from deep storage. And there is a fuzzy image there—something that has the shapes and the colors and the sun and the humidity and the picnic tables and the food. And there is the drive across the long width of Massachusetts, a place of small mill towns locked in amber. And there is, as ever, the ready crowd ready to start the race.

A shirt is just something that is cast into oblivion at the end. Our memories are the same, I suppose, and the threads come out of them and the fabric gets thin, and eventually it also gets cast into oblivion with all its fuzzy images and its meaningless/meaningful anecdotes.

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