In loving memory of five dead pigeons
To truly understand the journey our beloved homemade singlet undertook during its glorious existence we must start from the beginning.
Chapter I – The Canvas
The date was February 16, 2018. The location was Thousand Oaks, California. I entered a running store with my aunt and mother called Roadrunner Sports. My aunt lives in California and she decided to celebrate my first time visiting her out there with a trip to this store. She told me that she would buy me a pair of shoes and a clothing item of my choice. First, I scoured the shoe display searching for something with decent support and cushioning for longer mileage. Eventually, I settled on the Brooks Levitates. (I used these shoes through out indoor and outdoor track that year. They were ok, but I hear the Brooks Levitate 2s aren’t the same.) Next, I began to rummage through the clothing isles waiting for something to catch my eye. I thought perhaps a new pair of split shorts or tights would be in order. After a few minutes of searching I saw something that interested me – a simple navy-blue singlet. My high school singlet was the only one I owned at that point, so I decided picking up another one wouldn’t be a bad idea. I ended up using it in one road race, but it was quickly replaced by a different singlet and collected dust in my closet until I brought it to Maryland with me.
Chapter 2 – The Paint
The date was September 1, 2018. The location was College Park, Maryland. I entered a convenience store with my roommate called North Convenience. I had recently moved into my dorm and my roommate and I decided to buy some masking tape to hang things up in our room with. We quickly found the isle containing all the tape and settled on a roll of white masking tape. Despite my protests, he ended up paying the entire cost. However, the tape was ineffective at sticking to the wall and the roll ended up at the bottom of some drawer.
Chapter 3 – Rendition One… The Birth of a Meme
Shortly after joining the running club, we ordered apparel that included an official club running singlet. However, the apparel was not expected to arrive until a couple of weeks before nationals. There was the option to rent a singlet from the club, but for an unknown reason this did not appeal to me. As the first meet of the season approached, I decided to use my original navy-blue singlet. Quickly, I realized that it had absolutely no Maryland spirit, so I bought a pair of Maryland flag shorts from Amazon. The day before Paul Short while I was packing my bag, I decided that the flag shorts were not enough, and I had a Eureka moment. I searched through a drawer until I found that reject roll of tape that failed to stick to the walls, and I applied a simple masking tape “M” to the front of the singlet. After stepping back and admiring my creation from afar I decided to add a line under the M. Once I finished the line, rendition one of the homemade singlet was complete.
The reveal of the first home-made singlet at the start line of Paul Short went well. Overall people seemed to like it. However, Mitch informed me that It looked like a Michigan singlet. This observation was valid as Michigan also has navy blue singlets with an M on the front. The realization that I had unwittingly represented the wrong team weighed heavily on my soul throughout the race and the weeks that followed. I was determined to return to the next race with an improved version.
Chapter 4 – Rendition Two… The Sting of Failure
Throughout the two weeks leading up to the second meet of the season I reflected on the lessons I had learned at Paul Short. I thought long and hard on what I could do to improve the singlet every day. Many ideas crossed my mind such as printing out a picture of the Maryland flag and taping it to the jersey. However, this idea, and all the others, were tacky and stupid. Before I knew it, the night before Princeton had arrived and I had no ideas. I decided to scroll through pictures of college team singlets for inspiration and saw multiple designs with words going down the back. This was quite aesthetically pleasing so I decided to implement it into rendition two. I started the creation process with the same “M” with a line underneath on the front. Next, I made a “MARYLAND” running along the back of the singlet vertically by cutting strips of tape in half. It took a few tries to get the placement and sizing right, but the result was beautiful.
I wore the second home-made singlet to the meet and revealed it right before the warm up. The reveal was a huge success as everyone was a big fan of the MARYLAND addition. Pride and happiness carried me through a great warm up. However, when we returned to our area after the warm up I was informed that all the letters on the back were falling off. I looked down at my chest and noticed the M was failing as well. Shock and despair filled my mind and heart instantly. I had no choice but to remove the MARYLAND. Elliot helped my repair the M with some safety pins and more tape. Unfortunately, we had to sacrifice good looks for structural integrity. While we were standing at the start line Briggs looked at what had become of the singlet. I cannot recall his exact words, but the general idea was that I was a disgrace to the University of Maryland and the team. Each kilometer of that 8k race was dedicated to one of the letters that fell off my back.
The night after that race was hard. I wondered if I was cut out for making singlets. I questioned what I was working towards. Was this a dream that I was chasing, or just time that I was wasting?
Chapter 5 – Rendition Three… The Singlet Stronger than its Creator
During the week between Princeton and NIRCA Regionals tragedy struck. I felt a pain in my left shin and would find out a few weeks later that it was a stress fracture, but at the time all I knew was that it hurt way too much to run on. Despite not being able to run I accompanied the team to regionals for moral support. The day before regionals I decided to create a singlet and bring it just in case. However, the pain from my recent failure was still fresh and I only put the M with the line on it.
While I was talking to Brian at the meet, he told me that he did not have a singlet. I happily gave him rendition three of the homemade singlet to use. Although I had succumbed to injury, my creation was going to continue to cross the finish line. Brian did not warm up in the singlet, and the tape ended up staying on fine. Through this meet I learned why I had failed at Princeton. The sweat from warming up in the singlet weakened the tape before the race even started.
Chapter 6 – Rendition Four… The Game Changer
A few days before the UVA meet I was discussing the homemade singlet with Mike (DiDonato). He told me that he wanted to wear it, and I happily agreed to create another one. I was eager to apply what I had learned at regionals to rendition four of the singlet. The night before the meet I once again meticulously created a MARYLAND down the back.
The morning of the race I made sure that Mike did not warm up with the singlet. This day was the most fun I have ever had while spectating a cross country meet since nearly everyone was making a meme of it. I ended up giving a hype up speech, handing a slice of bread to Dan, Brian, and Elliot mid-race and handing a whole loaf of bread to MT. However, deep down beneath all the memes I was slightly nervous about the performance of the singlet. Heading to the start line, it was in perfect condition. The gun went off and I scrambled to my bread hand off positions throughout the course. About two miles into the race I saw Mike run by and was happy to see the MARYLAND was still intact. Next, I stood at about 500 meters to go and continued to hand out bread. Shortly, Mike came into view with someone in a unicorn costume in pursuit. As they passed I caught a glimpse of the MARYLAND still fully intact. I was nothing short of overjoyed. After a failure at Princeton that made me question everything, this victory was huge. Also, Mike out kicked the unicorn so we all won that day.
CHAPTER 7 – Rendition Five… The Finale
As nationals approached, the club apparel arrived, including the singlets (they are amazing). Shortly after they arrived I decided that nationals would be the homemade singlet’s last race. It had served its purpose as a place holder and was beginning to show signs of wear and tear from its journey. There was a small hole forming in the back and there were permanent stains from the clay and mud of the UVA course. I wanted the final rendition to be the best one and considered many elaborate editions. However, I eventually settled on adding color to the tape for the first time. The night before we left for nationals, I spent a concerning amount of time drawing the Maryland flag design on the line of tape beneath the M with red, yellow, and black sharpies.
The night before nationals I was discussing the singlet with some guys and both Briggs and Craig offered to wear it. As it worked out during race day, Craig would be the one to take it across the finish line for the final time. I enjoyed watching all the races take place throughout the day, and unlike UVA I was not nervous about the performance of the singlet. I knew deep down that it would perform well on the national stage. After all it had been through, I had no doubt it would hold up.
The gun went off for the Freshman/Sophomore race and Craig set off carrying the singlet through its final 8k. It was admittedly hard to spot the singlet in the sea of runners, but we managed to pick it out in the crowd a few times. Each time we saw it everything was still intact, and this would remain true as Craig crossed the line. The singlet’s odyssey was complete. It had crossed the finish line of every race that season
Chapter 8 – The Conclusion
I find it quite poetic that a useless roll of tape and an unused singlet combined to make something so memorable and meaningful. Something that I will laugh at every time I see a roll of masking tape. Something that helped me bond with my teammates. I’ll miss spending an hour cutting and coloring tape, but this meme has run its course. Here’s to the next one.
I would like to thank the people that made this possible. Thank you to Mitch and Briggs for encouraging me to improve my singlet when it did not live up to its full potential. Thank you to Brian, Mike, and Craig for taking it across the line when I couldn’t. Thank you to Lent and Hiro for documenting the singlet’s journey through photography. Finally, thank you to the club as a whole for the funnest (I firmly believe funnest should be a word) XC season of my life.