An Open Letter to the Lady in the Way Too Huge Cotton Tee


I see you. Lately, I see you often. I am here, running behind you. Even though you never acknowledge me. I know you hear me. I know you can see me from the corner of your darting eyes. You cross the street, as far away as you can get from me, every time you feel I am too near.

You won’t look up.

You are running. Even though I am certain you don’t believe that you are. In fact, I know you don’t believe it. There you are, looking straight down at your feet, willing them to move faster. They are not being compliant. Your stride lacks confidence. You are unsure. Your legs are not as strong as you would like them to be and it is bothering you. It’s bothering you immensely. You are frustrated. I can see it. You shuffle along, huffing and puffing, in a four sizes too large cotton T-shirt, that hangs limp, well past your knees. You are a shadow of your former self. This much I can clearly see. You are struggling. You walk. You run. You walk again. You slap your thighs in disgust. Defeated. You can see me. You can hear me. Yet, you cross the street. Again.

You run from mailbox to mailbox at first, stopping short when you reach the second as if you’ve run right smack into an imaginary wall. You stop dead in your tracks. Spent. Your ponytail flops forward over your face. You exhale. Frustrated, but not thwarted. You start again. I smile at you.

You can’t see it because you won’t look up.

Telephone pole to telephone pole. First two. Then three…You keep at it. Pole by pole. I slow my pace and I watch you. You’re up to 3 poles before you slow, out of breath. Only this time, you don’t stop. You keep moving. Forward.

And if you would look up?

You would see me running along behind you, cheering you on. I am proud of you, my Stranger Neighbor in the Too Huge Tee. I am rooting for you. Christ. I WAS you. Running from pole to pole, house to house. A half mile. A mile. A 5k. And so on… You are stronger! Your strides more confident! You are progressing! And isn’t that wonderful?! You ARE a runner- just as much of a runner as you think I am. We all have to start somewhere. And I will never forget where I started. Ever. Thank you for reminding me. It takes more courage to start, than to finish. You are so very brave. Someday, You will be Me, The Runner You Think I Am, zipping along and you will spot someone, Starting. They will stop short, and crash into the imaginary wall that exists only in their mind. Just like you did.

Only when it happens, I hope you are looking right at them. And cheering away.




45 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Lady in the Way Too Huge Cotton Tee

    • Thank you Carrie. I should have titled it “An Open Invitation to Go for a Run” but I don’t think she’s ready for that. Someday…
      Thanks for stopping by! And for your thoughtful comment! 🙂

  1. Love, love, love this post, Colby. I think we’ve all seen someone like her on our runs. I love seeing overweight, very slow shufflers, or runners who look like they are trying to be invisible, like they don’t belong there. I know they are just starting out and I want to tell them “good job!” as I run past, but I remain silent. I don’t want to sound or look condescending.
    They make me happy when I see them. And I always hope they at least see me smiling as I run past, even though I know they won’t look up.

    • Thank you Angela. 🙂 I love your thoughtful comments. A friend of mine this past weekend ran her very first 5k. And I was THRILLED for her. I told her just that. She says? “Well……I know it’s not a 200 mile bike ride or a marathon but….” But nothing Lady! BRAVO! I am more impressed and in awe of someone STARTING than I am of someone who is a well seasoned, hardcore athlete. Starting requires a serious change- getting way out of you comfort zone- and sticking to it, which I find incredibly admirable.

      I smile away too at them. And if we pass, I throw a high five. Every time.

  2. I’m in tears. I remember trying to get passed that 5 mile struggler…You were my cheerleader, my inspiration. I finally did it and WE conquered that damn Fairfield Half in 2009. I’m still running…not as much…but think of you every time I struggle to put on those damn sneaks…

  3. One of the best blog posts I’ve ever read. I’ve shared it on my physio’s Facebook page ( because he’s got lots of runners he helps (he’s just started the Running Injury Free Revolution [RIFREV] – a free running resource). Here’s to all the people just starting out … You go you good things!

    • Thanks Andrew! By all means, share away! Thank you for the kind words. It’s so difficult to start and yet, no matter what distance we run, there was a time we had difficulty running that first mile. I’ll never forget my journey. 🙂

      • It seems that this letter is popular among the Brisbane running community. I found it has been shared on some Park Run FB pages 🙂 . It’s really touching people hey. Well done!

      • Really?!?! WOW! Who knew we were huge Down Under?!?! That’s wonderful!!! Thank you for the note. Honestly, you have just made my day. The best compliment is hearing that something you’ve written has touched someone. I’m smiling ear to ear. 🙂

  4. Brilliant post!
    I always congratulate people I see who are working their ass off beyond their comfort zone. They may not know it but their work rate and drive always peps me up. Beginner runners have nothing to be embarrassed about. Every runner was a beginner at one point, and we all remember what it was like when you promised yourself a walk if you *just* made it to the next lamppost.
    I hope you make contact with your new running partner in the oversize tee!

    • I hope to make contact with her as well! I see her so often these days. I think it means so much to me to see people starting out because I know how transformative running has been for me. My wish is that they experience it as well. I also remember what it was like to start running. And I never want to take for granted ANY run- 3 miles or 20. It’s a gift. Thank you for your kind words— and the reblog! 🙂

  5. Iam a slow runner, who passes the people
    on the footpath, the occasional smile as
    i slowly go past. I push myself a bit
    more than catch my breath, the start
    again. I dont care who sees me, atleast
    i get off my arse…JFDI mb in the back
    of my mine. I put on fb my cals burned
    for my sister to comment, she has taught
    me how to run and how to clean eat.

    • Hi Tracey! Keep up the good work!!! I’m cheering for you!! I love that you post your calories burned and your sister chimes in—such a wonderful incentive! It’s great to have a cheerleader in your corner. In addition to your sister, you have US! Go get ’em!! No matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch!!!

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  8. This is great! I started running this year and can now run 9km. I live on a farm so no one can see me run. Let alone when I started! I have run in the city a few times but feel very intimidated by ‘runners’. I am planning to do a half marathon at the end of September not something would ever have imagined back in January. Will be checking out the rest of your blog. 🙂 Thanks from Western Australia 🙂

    • Lookit you Nikki! That’s simply fantastic. You know what makes you a runner? You run. Period. No matter how fast or how far- You Are A Runner. Be proud. The mile you run in Western Australia (Wow!) is the same mile both my neighbor and I run way over on the other side of the globe. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. Running is very much a part of who I am. I’ve said it so many times here on our blog- running has been transformative for me. Truly. Please keep me posted on your half marathon training. Bravo, Nikki! Big Cheers from Connecticut! 🙂

    • I would love to print it, roll it up and pass it to her, like a baton and yell “STICK!” Although that might be a bit much. She’d run screaming from me instead. I love that you and your kids cheer. You’re a good Mom, teaching your kids beautiful things. 🙂

      Thank you for stopping by!

  9. How did I miss this frickin post??? Fantastic, I have a huge white tee gentleman I use to see in my city but I haven’t seen him lately…I use to smile at him but I wanted to yell, you’re awesome. It breaks my heart to think that he may have stopped because he was battling every time I saw him, fighting but forging ahead and it was truly inspiring. I say next time you see her you tell her exactly what you are telling us…I blogged about this last year and swore I would say something and haven’t had my chance.

    • And how did I miss this frickin’ response!?!?! I have seen her only once since this post (Man, I’ve got to BLOGGGGGGGGG) and I did manage to sneak in a smile. I’d call that progress! 🙂

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