As the race season continues, you will see many people who are running with t-shirts that are customized to honor a loved one who may have passed on or to memorialize some specific event. It is something that never fails to break me up when I am coming on someone in a marathon with a t-shirt that has a picture of a young child and a birthdate and death date. They will say something along the lines of “I will always love you, sweetie” or some other special phrase. The more recent the death the more it breaks me up.
Running for memory
Not only will people run to honor some specific person, but I will often see t-shirts remembering some tragedy that claimed the lives or welfare of many people. Sometimes, people run races that are setup to honor or raise money for specific causes or charity. During those races, you will see many people that have some personal story to share about the cause that is being run for.
All of these incidents and t-shirts are common on race courses. One of the reasons you will see it is because running for sentiment sake is a powerful aid. Running is a wonderful way to find out what you are made of and pushing yourself to honor the memory of someone else is a great way to achieve it. I have spoken to many people that have had such t-shirts in races because I always want to encourage them and pay their loved one the tribute of having yet one more person know their story. Many times, I will hear something about how the loved one had some disease and encouraged the remaining members to do what they can to be healthy. Those people end up taking on running as a way to accomplish that. Some people will express that they and their loved one used to run together and now they continue to run because it invokes such powerful memories of the time they used to have. Still others do it because it gives them a way to silently grieve and dwell on the memories and good times that were had.
And yet one more reason often is to fulfill a promise made to a loved one to one day accomplish something like this. I ran next to a dad one time in a marathon who was running to honor his 15 year old daughter who had passed. He said that she had always asked him to run a race with her but that he never liked running to always said no. Finally, she made him promise that one day he would run a race with her. He did promise but said he never planned on actually following through. After his daughter died, he trained hard to fulfill that promise to the best of his ability. On his back, he had a large photo of his daughter and some different things that she had loved written around it. It was then signed by family and friends.
Races for causes
When it comes to races that memorialize a person or tragedy or that seek to raise awareness of some deadly disease, many people who have lost loved ones run those particular races because it is a joyful duty they can take on to honor the one who has passed at the hands of some disease or event. Most local races will always have some cause that is the charity of focus. I know that many of us runners do not run those races because the cause necessarily resonatates within us, but we can certainly take the time before,during, or after the race to talk to the people participating who have been touched by the cause.
Have you ever run such an event or donned a shirt to honor a loved one during the course of your race? It is a wonderful gesture to make and, as one who has run races before to honor someone, I know that the recipient is always touched. It sure helps to add another dimension to our running!