An Extra Large Problem (The Long Run 2009 Apr)

xlLet me start by saying that I wouldn’t have written this piece at all if I’d just followed my accountant’s—ok, my wife’s—advice, and registered in advance for most—try, any—of the races I’ve entered in the past seven years of running. You might recognize me. I’m the guy who’s always in the race-day registration line five minutes before the race kicks off; the guy who’s sweating as if he’d already raced the first mile. But my eleventh-hour race-day registration strategy is the subject of another piece; I only mention it to introduce what I really want to chat about: The extra large race t-shirt.

You know what I mean, all of you diminutive—and itinerant—runners who’d love nothing more than to boast of your participation in the weekend’s big running event, but can’t for fear of tripping over the hem of your own t-shirt, or of catching something—a stick-shift or a passing child, say—up in its voluminous sleeves.

Ever puzzle over whether or not to wear your race t-shirt during the race itself? If your t-shirt is several sizes too large, I don’t recommend it, unless you’re dying to experience the view from the back. But go ahead if you must. Just don’t complain that you look like a wind sock in race photo profiles. When the finish line volunteer asks if you got lost, you can wittily answer—only in my t-shirt. And when that volunteer informs you that you are the race’s final finisher, you may answer with justifiable indignation, “What, I don’t get a ribbon for having just swam 5,000 meters—in my t-shirt?” If nothing else, you can boast of having a winning sense of humor—ok, maybe not.

I could go on, but you get the point. This is a cry for help, a call to arms—arms that don’t fall past our elbows! Are you listening race directors? Runners are small people—at least we’re trying to be. Ok, granted, not all of us are small. But there are enough of us small people to call dibs on your stock of small and medium t-shirts long before the average race-day registrant has breakfasted and, in a bold stroke of prompt and decisive action, set his sights on that race scheduled to begin in one hour.

This is a big problem–an extra large problem, if you like. If you early registrants don’t believe me, just try registering on race day. When you get to the front of the t-shirt line, you’ll probably find that it’s slim—ah, better make that not-so-slim–pickings.

Of course I could start registering on time, bite my tongue, and hope it all comes out in the wash. But—and here’s the action item–what would be wrong with ordering a dozen fewer extra larges for the next race and a dozen more smalls and mediums? If the strategy goes wrong, just give out the extra larges left over from last year.