Put a Sock in it!
By Bill Donnelly
Here it is, July, and I’m trying to think of a topic to write about, you know, something fascinating from Back in the Day. While looking through the advertisement sections from the Sunday paper it hit me. Why not write about what we used to wear for winter running. How did that connection happen, you ask? Yeah, it’s July, but look at what’s being advertised now in July.
Cripes, they put bathing suits on final clearance sale months ago, and summer hadn’t even begun. Now I hardly have a reason to look through the ads anymore. By the time you read this, the sale of winter clothing will be right around the corner, and I’ll already have gotten some great deals on shorts even though summer’s just begun.
To all you teachers out there, I know what a kick to the old gut it is seeing back to school ads already, and school just let out days ago. They don’t give you time to even relax and forget the kids. You’ve just finished setting up the hammock and mixing a vat of daiquiris, and you are now constantly reminded that the little darlings are out buying supplies of pencils and spit-balls and sneezing powder and whoopee cushions and, oh I could go on and on. Suffice it to say, as a former Special Ed Teacher who now reads meters for the natural gas company whose name rhymes with irrational fool, I like the meters because they don’t talk back to me. No spit-balls or sneezing powder or whoopee cushions either, but I digress.
Back to the topic at hand, the winter clothing we ran in Back in the Day. I should start by making it clear that winters were much worse back then, being much colder, windier, and as I think I have pointed out before, the snow was much deeper. Be that as it may, and of course I have my own theories as to why things were tougher Back in the Day, the clothing we wore was much different than what we wear today. Remember, I stopped running in 1981, and when I began again back in 2000, imagine my amazement at the changes that had occurred in running clothes.
Today, you can throw on a pair of tights and a shirt and jacket, along with mitts and head gear, all made out of modern miracle materials, and you could pretty much brave running in the artic. Criminy, they have races there now, thanks to modern materials. Back in the Day (A second here to explain something. When reading or saying the term “Back in the Day”, you must use the right inflections, with the emphasis on “Back”, a bit of a pause, being almost religious about it, and then with reverence, “in the Day”, with a bit of accent on “Day” of course. Go ahead, practice it a few time to make sure you have it right. When you feel comfortable with it, and a bit in awe, proceed with the article.)
So anyway, Back in the Day, we basically had but one miracle fiber, and that was cotton. We wore cotton everything. Now, cotton has many wonderful uses, such as stuffing in the top of aspirin bottles and on the ends of Q-tips. It is also good for making nice looking clothing, as long as you don’t have to sit or bend or release gas, for then it must be immediately ironed. But that’s about it for cotton. Running clothes should not be made out of cotton, and I will explain why, since it is one of the many things I am an expert on, thanks to my running experiences from …Back in the Day!!!
We runners were the inventors of the fashion of layering. Since cotton does not do much of anything to protect you from the cold and wind, we had to wear many layers of cotton products. How cold it got would determine how many layers. For very cold days, the number that sticks in my mind is seven. That’s right, seven pieces of clothing, at least on top. This would usually be four tee-shirts, a long sleeved shirt, and a couple of bulky sweat-shirts. This sure did nothing to show off our trim figures.
And talk about heavy. As anyone knows who ever wore cotton to run in, you know how it absorbs sweat, and keeps it nice and clammy against your body. Well, with seven layers, I figure the average runner would build up about 43 pounds of slimy sweat in the course of a sixteen mile workout. Remember, we were all doing 100 mile weeks Back in the Day, and on longer runs, the pounds of sweat would double. I contend that this form of weight training we did was what made us so fast.
For extremities, we usually wore a couple wool stocking caps, and I always preferred a couple pairs of old running socks for mitts. I figured out early on that mitts helped keep your fingers warm much better than gloves. Are you starting to visualize what a fashionable group we runners were Back in the Day, especially if you saw a whole herd of us rounding
together. Delaware Park
For bottoms, I know I usually wore a pair of briefs, a couple of pair of long johns, a pair of bulky sweat pants, and running shorts over that just for added protection, and in case Runners World was in the area looking for a model runner for their next cover. Now we’re talking a lot of cotton, all I can say is thank God for the invention of the cotton gin.
I was never one for doing a lot of stretching before or after running. Who had time, what with running sixteen miles every day? And then there was the time it took to put on all those clothes, oh say a half hour. Peeling off the soaking wet nasty clothes took even longer, so stretching was just out of the question.
All these pieces of clothing created quite another problem once you finished running. As you peeled them off, you had to find somewhere to dry them so they would be ready for the next day. Believe me, my place of residence in the winter would take on an unworldly vision, what with pieces of wet cotton hanging from every possible drying post. Lamps were great, as the heat from the light bulbs helped in the drying process, and the stove provided a couple spots for drying. Let’s face it, everything in my abode had wet, smelly clothes hanging from them.
It made watching the TV tough, and I missed many phone calls trying to find the dang phone. Come to think of it, every girlfriend I had Back in the Day always seemed to break it off with me about a month after winter settled in. I wonder if there was a connection. Guess I’ll never know. If they weren’t happy, all they had to do was wash and dry my running clothes. I couldn’t, since that was women’s work Back in the Day. I just can’t figure why my girlfriends always left me.
I actually did my own wash back then, but I wasn’t overly fond of the task, so I would probably average ten days between washing, and of course when I did wash, everything went in together in one big load. That way, all your cotton things get that uniform gray color we men find so appealing. Didn’t we runners start to stink pretty bad by the second day? Why yes, and thanks for asking, but what did we care? There were few female runners to impress, and we men certainly enjoy trying to outdo each other in emitting bad smells. Why else would we be so fond of tacos and beans?
Besides, Back in the Day the winters were so cold, our smell would freeze in mid-air. It wouldn’t be until the spring thaw in June (yes, winters were longer then too) that a winters worth of bad manly stink would unfreeze all at once, and you couldn’t run in Delaware Park for a week at least. There was even talk back then of relocating the Zoo away from
because the June thaw and it’s resulting stench was always so upsetting to the animals there. Delaware Park
Now I come to the last item that was so important to wear in the winter, and I must find a way to do this tastefully, since The Chatter is a family newsletter. In fact, if you have any kids near you, I suggest you have them leave the room before you continue. All clear? Good, let’s continue.
I’m going to talk about a part of my anatomy that needed a little extra protection. I’ll try to do this without being vulgar, so I’ll not name that part. I’ll give hints though, it is the part of me that protrudes quite a bit and needs extra protecting. No, not my nose, although that did often need a scarf wrapped around it. It is something men have that women do not. No again, it’s not a lack of common sense, and why would we need to keep that warm.
Let’s try again, I’ll only say that this body part starts with the letter p. And no again, I’m not talking about my pierced ear. I already said I wore a couple stocking caps for that. It’s the part of me that a certain someone (who shall remain nameless but whose initials are Diane McGuire) calls her “Mr. Love Machine.” No, No, No! I’m not talking about her electric toothbrush.
One more time. It’s the part that I used to cover with my dribble kabibble whose wibble jibble was of course quite zibble. To understand that, check out my article called “Straight Eye for the Running Guy” in the July, 2004 issue of Checkers Chatter. Ok, you got it, finally. Some people are so dense, and I just wanted to keep this piece from offending any delicate souls out there.
So believe it or not, this particular body part can be very susceptible to the cold. I did know of one runner who actually had a bit of frost-bite there, and believe me, he said it was quite painful. I came close to frost-bite when I first started running in the winter, and I quickly realized I better protect myself, just in case one of my girlfriends would last through the winter with me, and want to start a family some day. Strange that never happened, but protect myself I did anyway. As mentioned, I used old running socks for mitts, and I found they also worked as frost-bite protection elsewhere. I would simply pin one or two socks to the inside front of my briefs, and wha-la, protection from the cold, and it would impress the girls, if there had been any running Back in the Day.
Yes, thank God for the modern miracle fabrics they make running clothes out of now. Not only do they save time in getting dressed and undressed for running, they take up less space for drying. They certainly weigh a lot less when running, and do not get so heavy with sweat. And I do not have to save my old running socks anymore; I can just toss them away. Now if I could convince a certain someone, who shall remain nameless, to wash my clothes for me now and again, I would smell better too when running. Yes, I must admit that some things about running today are better than they were Back in the Day.