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Next is Vaseline, to coat you when the wind-chill factor is in the 20s. And to slather over chafed areas in any weather. But tape your feet first. Once you have Vaseline on your hands, the tape becomes unmanageable.
Then come the gloves and the ski mask. There are days so cold that you just won't finish if you have to run without them.
And for the summer, there's the handkerchief. By tying knots in the four corners, you can fashion a cap for your head and cut down on solar radiation. If you keep it wet during the race, it dissipates the heat on August days.
And don't forget a nail clipper and felt pads to use as heel and arch supports. Or the pins for your number and an extra buck for the entry fee. And nasal spray, antacid tablets and APCs. Remember also a ballpoint pen and a pad to record your number, place and time.
On one occasion or another, I have forgotten one, some or all of these essentials. In fact, I have arrived at a race with nothing at all, not even my running gear. So now I have developed a foolproof solution. I put on my running clothes at home and then check out each article in my ditty bag.
I did that for the Heart Fund race in Jersey City. I dressed at home. No problem. Then I checked the bag. Money, pins, tape, Vaseline, ski mask, gloves, shoelaces, nail clippers, nasal spray, antacids, APCs, pen, pad, extra turtleneck sweater (in case it turned cold), a plastic wrapper that came on clothes from the cleaners (in case it rained), the entry blank with the date and the starting time, some extra sugar cubes and a can of soda for after the race. All present and accounted for.
On the way up, I was relaxed, knowing I had prepared myself for any eventuality. But when I walked into the dressing room in the basement of the Stanley Theater, I had the feeling I had forgotten something.
I had. The ditty bag.
When I was young, I knew who I was and tried to become someone else. I was born a loner. I came into this world with an instinct for privacy and an aversion to loud voices, to slamming doors and to my fellow man. I was born with the dread that someone would punch me in the nose or, even worse, put his arm around me.
But I refused to be that person. I wanted to belong, wanted to become part of the herd, any herd. When you are shy and tense and self-conscious, when you are thin and scrawny and have an overbite and a nose that takes up about one-third of your body surface, you want friends. My problem was not individuality, but identity. I was more of an individual than I could handle. I had to identify with a group.