17 running t-shirts and the stories behind them

1/ Highland Fling Ultra, 2014

Sam Murphy, 48, Rye

‘If ever I’ve “earned” a race T-shirt, it is this one. The Highland Fling (through Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, Scotland, was my first (and still only!) ultra-marathon event. Training didn’t ever really get off the ground and I almost withdrew from the race, but I eventually decided to go ahead. That was not the best decision I have ever made. Fifty-three miles of challenging terrain isn’t something you can coast through unprepared. From around 30 miles in, I suffered – badly. In fact,
 I almost pulled out a number of times, I got lost, I cried, I berated myself and at the finish I felt humbled
 and broken. Days later, though, I realised I’d learned two valuable lessons. One: I’d survived it, despite the odds, which made me tough. Two: running challenges deserve respect. I’ve never gone into another race so unprepared.’


2/ Tipton 10, 1994

Nigel Lloyd, 56, Birmingham

‘My ancient Tipton 10 training top is still as good today as it was back then. A bit like me, I like to think! When I wear it these days for marathon training and long runs it inspires me because it reminds me of my fitter and younger days (I ran the race that year in 1:05:22).’


3/ London Marathon 2017

Rebecca de Jager, 34, Maidenhead

Between 2011 and 2014
I lost five babies through miscarriage. My fifth baby, one of twins, I had held in my hand. In between this, I was blessed with Hugo, and four months after his birth in 2012 I started running with a fantastic group of women from Maidenhead. Running supported me through
 the miscarriages and, fortunately, I did go on to have another baby, Louis, who’s now 21 months old. By 2017 I was ready to take on the marathon to support the work of Tommy’s, the charity that funds research into stillbirth, premature birth and miscarriage. I trained and ran the race with my best friend, Clare, and had five hearts on my top to represent the five babies I had lost. All my family turned up on the day to support us. It was one of the best days of my life.’


4/ 5 Marathons in 5 Days, 2016

Heather Whalley, 42, North Hants

‘At the age of 31 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After a 10-year battle with the disease I’ve now been given the all-clear. To mark
 my recovery I decided to raise funds by running five marathons in five days, from Derbyshire to London’s Cancer Research UK offices, wearing this T-shirt, which has the names of those I’d known who had cancer – both those who’d gone as well as the names of survivors.’


5/ Boston Marathon, 2011

Andy Dixon, 45, London

This top means a lot because it reminds me of the year I ran one of the world’s indisputably great marathons, and the only one you have to qualify for. Running through the raucous “scream tunnel” outside Wellesley College, at the halfway point, is still one of my all-time favourite race moments. Getting cramp on Heartbreak Hill at mile 20 wasn’t so good, but I still managed to get a PB that day.’


6/ Wakefield Hospice 10K, 2017

Kevin Mosely, 49, Wakefield

‘This was my first race, completed two years to the day after I’d had a stroke. I’d been fit as a younger, but working long hours, eating badly and gaining weight led to a bleed on my brain. In October 2016 I could not run the length of one football pitch without everyone in my household being on standby. But, despite being overweight, and with high blood pressure, I stuck with it and eventually ran 5K on the treadmill. By the time the race came along, in April this year, I was two-and-a-half stone lighter and my target to beat was 90 minutes. I was amazed to finish in 55:45 – the tears were rolling down my face – and I was delighted to get my first ever running race top.’


7/ Race for Life Marathon, 2015

Chloe Martin Brown, Tottenham

‘When I did the Race for Life Marathon in 2015, it was a disaster – I was undertrained and inexperienced. With no real plan of action I sobbed my way around the route and finished in 6:10. Eighteen months later, I wore the T-shirt for the first time since the marathon and realised how far I’ve come since then, how much fitter I am – and how important it is to be proud of the difficult runs as well as the successful ones!’


8/ Great North Run 2015

Scott Montgomery, 36, Formby, Merseyside

‘Our Daughter, Olivia Libby Montgomery, now two-and-a-half, was
born in January 2015 with dysplasia (when
the ball and socket of
the thigh bone do not fit correctly together). This was the trigger for me to decide to run 1,000 miles, with the Great North Run as the final part of my quest to raise awareness of the condition and funds for Steps Charity Worldwide. Crossing the finish line of the GNR, I felt very proud and relieved (not to say absolutely knackered). From mile 999 the feeling was overwhelming as I felt myself sprint to the finish. The sense of achievement was made extra special as my little girl was waiting for me and she took her first steps ever across the finish line with me, reminding me what it was all for.’


9/ Samphire 100-mile, 2017

Louise Tidbury, 38, Barrow-in-Furness

‘When my friend’s daughter, Sophie, died at just 18 after falling onto rail tracks at Sittingborne, I felt inspired to do something positive, so I set about raising money by running 1,000 miles in a year. Completing
 the Samphire 100-mile run was the culmination of this and was far beyond what I believed I could achieve. It will always be one of the most important days of my life; I was able to draw a small positive out of a tragedy.’


10/ Prefontaine 10K, 2000

Simon Underwood, 46, Eastbourne

‘While working for Nike 
I found we would be at Global HQ in Oregon at
 the right time for the Steve Prefontaine Memorial 10K in his home town of Coos Bay. I and some colleagues took a 230-mile road trip to the race. The other guys were “proper” runners, taking first, third and fourth. I finished further back. The organiser heard we’d travelled specifically for the race and invited 
us home for a barbecue, where I chatted to Elfriede Prefontaine, Steve’s mum. With his look (relaxed, tanned and long-haired), his rebellion against the amateur system, his talent and his early demise, he had a rock star image and had been an idol of mine since childhood. His mum [who died in 2013] was a lovely lady. She was proud of her son and pleased his memory was living on.’


11/ Giants Head Marathon, 2015

Kelly Spooner, 35, Ilfracombe

‘My favourite running top is from Giants Head Marathon, 2015. It gets its name from the fact that you run past the famous Cerne Abbas Giant chalk figure carved into the hillside. It was my first marathon and a tough one to attempt for a newcomer: the elevation was nuts, with about nine hills and 1,000m of climb overall. Speaking of nuts, the other reason 
I love this particular T-shirt is that it is, for obvious reasons, fondly known as the “willy” T-shirt.’


12/ Race to the Stones, 2016

Aaron Young, 41, Dorset

About to hit 40, with a bit of a beer belly and weighing in at 78kg (almost a stone overweight), I took on this 100-mile challenge with just seven months to train for it. Even though 
I hadn’t run for 18 years, I figured
 it was enough time to get into shape and finish the race. Admittedly, I walked more of the course than 
I ran, but I was so pleased that I got through the pain, blisters and lost toenails and finished. I lost 6kg in
 the training, which got rid of most
 of my beer belly – but, much more importantly, starting to run again has left me feeling fitter, healthier and eating so much better. And I’ve got the T-shirt to prove it.’


13/ Ascension Island Dew Pond Run, 1990

Glen Rowe, 53, Stockport

‘This was a run that took place 250 miles south of the equator on an eight-square mile volcanic rock in 23°C heat, at 7.30am. We started with our hands in the South Atlantic Ocean and finished at the top of Green Mountain, dipping our hands in the Dew Pond - which is literally an enormous pond created by the dew among the surrounding bamboo. The total distance was 7.2 miles, with 950m of climb. I waded the last few hundred metres through knee-high mud and pushing bamboo strands out of the way. Nothing has ever come close 
to such an experience.’


14/ Himalayan 100, 2013

Fiona Bugler, 49, Brighton

‘The Himalayan 100-mile multi-stage race was a much bigger challenge than I’d imagined. Having completed multiple marathons under 3:15 I felt I was the type of endurance woman who could take on anything. But this race, at altitude and in the shadow of Everest, pushed me way out of my comfort zone and I ended up being delighted just to complete all five days of the challenge. When I look at the T-shirt it reminds me that time over distance isn’t what matters; rather, it’s effort and experience.’


15/ Marathon training top, 2015

Shelly Hynes, 47, Rickmansworth

‘This isn’t a race T-shirt but I regard it as such. I wear it to a lot of my races as it has special memories for me. I bought it on Santa Monica beach in LA after an 18-month break from running due to injury. Adductor tendonitis (brought on by running four marathons between 2012 and 2014) had left me barely able to walk, but after loads of treatment, patience and determination, I recovered. When I came back I had a renewed sense of purpose – and fun. I’ve worn the T-shirt through my training and it always attracts positive attention. Since the injury I’ve run two marathons, including a PB at London this year in 3:39. Wearing this T-shirt always makes me – and others – smile.’


16/ Sundown Marathon, 2012

Alex McCleod, 50, Aberdeen

This race in Singapore took place just a few days before my 45th birthday. The run was tough. Though it begins a midnight it was hot, with very high humidity – a big thunderstorm struck partway through. Running along East Coast Park in the middle of that stormy night while other runners chose to take shelter is something I’ll never forget. I ran 4:15 and even though I’ve run faster, this was my most satisfying marathon.'