Most runners will tell you that their most important running gear is their running shoes. Runners can get crazy when it comes to their shoes. A Road Runner Sports sales clerk once told me when a shoe model is being retired by a shoe manufacturer, people who love that shoe will buy every pair in their size that they can find. It is not unheard of for a customer to buy the last 10 pairs of their favorite shoe if it is being discontinued. Seems a bit obsessive compulsive to me. I think the most pairs of shoes that I ever stockpiled was 2 pairs.
Besides my shoes, the most critical piece of running gear for me is a yellow scarf. I got the scarf from my friend Marnie. In 2007 I ran my first marathon with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) Team in Training to show support for Marnie when she was going through chemo for lymphoma. I asked her to give me something of hers to carry with me during the race. I was running for her and I wanted to have her along for the ride. Marnie gave me one of the bandanas that she wore during her chemo. She wore her “do-rags” instead of a wig. I tied it to my fuel belt and carried it the whole race. Since then, that scarf has gone with me on most training runs and to the start line of every race I’ve run except one (I forgot to pack it). It makes me think of her and why I started running in the first place.
When I was diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis in 2011, I knew I had to control my core body temperature when I ran in the heat. Heat makes my TM symptoms flare up. For runs in hot weather I wrap ice cubes in the scarf and put it in the freezer the night before. The scarf is nice and cold when I head out – perfect for keeping me cool.
A couple years ago I completed the Rim-to-Rim in the Grand Canyon. I ran a lot of trails during my training. During one of my trail runs, I realized I had dropped my scarf. I panicked. I turned back to go find it. That scarf had become very important to me. I couldn’t imagine running in the heat of the Grand Canyon without it. I was relieved when two miles back I saw a yellow spot on the trail. My scarf. I was so happy to be reunited with it.
I had my scarf with me in Berlin for the marathon. I filled it with ice and popped it into a ziplock bag before I left the hotel. It was crazy in the runners village and gear check areas – huge crowds and lots of noise. When I found the drop off for my gear bag, I was juggling a bunch of things – my hat, my fuel belt, my gear bag, the ziplock with my scarf, my sunglasses. I still debating whether to wear a singlet in the race or change into the short sleeve shirt I had in my bag. I finally settled on the singlet. It was chilly so I was wearing a plastic trash bag as a long skirt to keep my legs warm. At the bag check, I took off my jacket, stuffed it into my bag then checked it. I tossed my “plastic skirt” in a trash bin then headed off to my corral.
At the control point for the corral, I realized that I didn’t have the ziplock bag with my yellow scarf. My heart sank. I couldn’t believe that I’d have to run the race without my scarf. Throughout the race, I hoped that the scarf had accidentally been dropped into my gear bag when I took off my jacket, that it would be waiting, a soggy mess, in the bottom of my gear bag.
When I reclaimed my bag, I tore it open, looking for my scarf. But it was gone. The first thing I told my husband when we met back at the hotel after the race was that I had lost my scarf. He knew immediately what that scarf meant to me. Losing it cast a shadow over my joy of a new PR.
I think that my yellow scarf had come to represent my confidence in running. Maybe I had some sub-conscious idea that, without it, I couldn’t do well – like Samson without his hair. It gave me strength. It was a connection to Marnie and why I started running in the first place. The scarf was something that helped Marnie through her chemo and it had become something important in keeping me running. And running is keeping me healthy.
I am trying to decide what I will do now to keep cool when I run. I can’t get another scarf from Marnie. She got rid of her old “do-rags” when she moved last year. Maybe I will keep using my homemade tube-sock arm warmers. Whatever I come up with, it won’t have the same connection to Marnie. That yellow scarf was special.