The Mental Turmoil of Purging Your Old Race Shirts

It is real.

Broad Street Run | Photo by M. Edlow for VISIT PHILADELPHIA

Broad Street Run | Photo by M. Edlow for VISIT PHILADELPHIA

The time came, this past weekend, when I just couldn’t ignore my bulging, overstuffed, overflowing dresser drawers anymore. Unlike Shoppist editor Emily Goulet, who often finds herself with too much vintage on her hands, my problem was my workout clothes: What had once been neatly contained in one dresser drawer was now occupying two drawers and a rolling suitcase stashed under my bed.

Clearly, I have a problem, and its name is T-shirts.

I decided the best tactic was to first pull everything out of its hiding place and sort my belongings into piles — leggings over there, outer layers here — to assess the extent of my problem. I probably should have taken a picture of the mountain of clothing for this post, but I was honestly feeling a little embarrassed when I realized just how much stuff I’d accumulated. I mean, who really needs 15 pairs of black running tights? So for the sake of my sanity (and drawer space), I knew needed to be brutal: swift, decisive, passionless. It was time to purge.

Getting rid of the excessive running tights turned out to be the easy part. The ones that had lost all shape and the ability to stay up without constant readjustment were clearly going in the Toss pile. Shorts were easy, too: If they didn’t fit right or were horribly stained, they were goners.

But it got tricky once I got to the t-shirts. There were several from Broad Street, a few from half marathons, and the 5K shirts seemed to go on for days. Plus, there were a ton of freebies I’ve accumulated over the years from various other events, and even a few I’ve held on to since high school. I am closing in on 32 years old. You do the math.

As the t-shirts were clearly the root of my problem, I knew I needed to rip the Band-Aid off, and fast. The more I dwelled on it — the more I contemplated what each shirt represented (I did it! I finished a 10K! Remember how good that felt?) — the less I’d be able to actually pull the trigger.

I started with the freebies and 5K shirts. If it was a charity run where I ended up walking more than running (because why in the world do they start the runners and walkers at the same time, I ask you?), it got tossed. If it was a weirdly thick fabric or an oddly large size or a ghastly color (Sorry, Susan Komen, I’m just not that into pink), it was a goner.

Then it was on to the other shirts. This is where I began to feel the pangs of nostalgia. Look at all those pretty Broad Street shirts in all those pretty colors! Look at the nice tech shirts from that half I did when I lived in D.C.! Aw, remember how much fun it was to run in D.C.? And look! There’s one from my first Philly Half Marathon! I remember how I thought I was going to die when I hit a few hills in West Philly. Silly me!

You guys are probably going to kill me here, but here’s what I ended up doing: Tech shirts stayed — those serve both utilitarian and nostalgia purposes, after all. That got me down to about a dozen. I looked long and hard at what was left. A handful of Broad Street shirts and one or two half marathons. The Broad Street-ers, I realized, had never been the favorite ones in my drawer. They fell into that category of being a little too thick to feel comfortable running in and, since I like larger fitting shirts when I work out, a bit too snug to boot. Plus, I remember always trying to stretch out the collars because they always felt like they were choking me.

So I did it. I made the call: I got rid of all my Broad Street shirts except one — the very first one from my very first Broad Street. With a sniff and maybe a tiny, nearly inaudible whimper, the rest went into the donate bag. I was swift. I was decisive. But I was not without passion.

Those high school shirts, though? You’d better believe they’re still going strong.

POLL: How many race shirts do you have stashed away in your closets and drawers?

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