I accepted my Ironman finisher T-shirt pictured at the finish line more than five months ago. Immediately, it elevated to the top of my favourite-shirt list, somewhere between this one and this one and this one. I loved it for the obvious reason – not for the way it looked or fit, but for what it meant. I wore it – with a lot of pride and with some relief – two days after the event. And then it sat buried in one of my drawers. I often saw it as I sifted through workout wear and weekend wear, but I only put it on once. And I took it right off.
Why couldn’t I wear it? Of any of the events I’ve tried and made it through, no matter how slowly or sloppily, this shirt should be the temporary tattoo – the words and art that act as symbols for the training, the time, the weekly third-degree burns on the inside of my thighs. I thought of plenty of reasons why I didn’t. There was this one: I couldn’t dare risk tarnishing my garb with a drip of coffee, toothpaste or jam. Or this one: It felt so chest-thumpy to wear it around town. It felt different advertising the accomplishment when passing strangers in real life.
I knew the real reason, though.
I feared what people would think: That my body didn’t match the words. Him? That bulbous boy finished an Ironman? Pfff.
I didn’t like that’s what I felt, but it’s what I did. Even though I knew, as my friend Doug has told me, nobody spends all that much time thinking about us anyway, we still waste so much time and energy worrying about what we think others think.
Instead, I should have embraced the same feeling I had and just re-framed it. Damn right, my body might not match the words in the way we might think an Ironman should look. But I made it.
It took time, but I learned that’s what my T-shirt is about – about finding a way around the walls that tell us we can’t do something just because we take a different path than others.
This weekend, I wore my T-shirt for the first time since early November. This weekend, I trained a little harder, ran a little faster.
This weekend, I made some strides.
You can follow Ted Spiker on Twitter at @ProfSpiker.