On Saturday evening, the fourth and final New Balance Boston Twilight Meet of 2014 was held at Bentley University. Nate Jenkins was on the track struggling through what was looking to be only a mediocre 5,000m race (for him, at least). All of a sudden, there was a call from the stands. A promise of some nudity was made, the fires were lit, and the beast within took over and propelled Nate to victory.
Greater Boston Track Club coach (and USATF-NE president) Tom Derderian was there, right in the middle of it all:
“Before the race Nate saw me in the flowered Hawaiian shirt I wore and admired it profusely. During the race he ran well off the lead so the only thing I could think of to urge him to the very limit of his fitness was the shirt off my back. So I yelled, ‘If you win I will give you this shirt.’ Now, I don’t know what, if anything was going on in Nate’s oxygen starved brain, but he won the race and kept running to the infield to collect his prize.
“I happily peeled off the shirt and handed it to the gleeful winner who, brain now flooded with oxygen and endorphins, ran around in circles on the infield like a puppy waving the shirt as if it were a national flag handed to an olympic gold medalist.”
“Maybe or maybe not, Nate remembers any of this.”
Does Nate remember? Yes. Yes he does. How could anyone forget something like this? Here’s the race, from Nate’s perspective:
“First I LOVE hawaiian shirts. I have a few and I wear them in warm weather pretty constantly. Tom’s was particularly top notch and I was also after seeing it wishing I had worn one down to the meet myself as it was pretty darn warm out.
“In the race I got gapped when the young’ns dropped a couple quick laps which was ok as I felt strong at the time but I’m not in very good shape and pretty soon I was struggling. I felt I wasn’t losing much more ground despite the slow laps and was trying to steal myself for a big push over the last few laps but to be honest I wasn’t feeling all that confident, I’ve only successfully done this a couple times on the track, and as I said I’m not in great shape.
“Suddenly Tom yells “I’ll give you this shirt if you catch them” or something along those lines. It was the last mile of a 5k so my memory of the event is somewhat internally focused. Anyway this actually got me fired up. It took what was a poor race and gave it purpose. I immediately just thought this would be awesome. If I could just walk the leader down and get the win and the shirt. I know Tom is and would actually give up the shirt and it would be awesome. So I buckled down without trying to go crazy. I closed some but not a ton and as I went by Tom repeated his call to arms. Now I was fully consumed by the idea. Again it was a silly thing but it was perfect for that moment. Obviously I have run much faster and been in better shape but this turned a middling performance into something real fun and with real purpose for me. Now the gap was closing fast and I knew I had to get the lead quick because most anyone can run me down in the last 200 if I don’t get a chance to ‘soften them up first’ I think I got the lead with about 600 to go and upped the effort considerably at that point and then again with 400 to go. At this point I was hurting pretty good but all I could think about was not wasting the effort but getting rolled up in the last 200. Coming into the home stretch I actually got very good knee lift even though I was hunching forward and tightening my upper body too much but I knew I would hold off any challengers. In the end I ran the last 200 in about 32 which is awful close to what I finished most of my ~14:00 type 5k’s in.”
“After that it was just FUN. It was awesome Tom would go through with pulling off his shirt and I wanted to make as big a scene out of it as I could. I mean those who know Tom know he is up for a good gag but he is still the head of USATF-NE and at least the USATF part of that is a pretty stodgy not in touch with athletes, not fun group ,so if Tom, who is the sort of polar opposite of that, is going to be this good of a sport I thought it should be seen. Frankly it made my spring. It was a ton of fun. Now I plan on taking pictures whenever I wear Tom’s shirt and tagging him on facebook for a never ending running joke. Which will be fun to do and annoying all at the same time which is pretty much my sense of humor in a nut shell.”
While it may not be exactly like young ladies throwing panties at Mick Jagger on stage (at the height of his prime, not these days), it still is a very entertaining story. As Tom said while this was being put together: “It was great fun which is the whole point of racing, right?” Yeah you can make an argument that winning, PR’s or just flat out pushing yourself should be the point, but if you’re not having fun then just what exactly is the point? Here’s to hoping that more shirts are ‘transferred’ at the next track meet.
Thanks to Nate Jenkins and Tom Derderian for making this happen. All photos are courtesy of Tom Derderian, and the winning 14:41.39 was courtesy of Nate Jenkins. That time, by the way, is the new lead time for the track 5,000m portion of the new All Terrain Runner series.