By the end of an event, the typical runner’s bib is a crumpled, wet rectangle of paper with safety pins hanging off it. A mess, yes. But one I’ve never been able to part with. Over the years, I’ve accumulated dozens of numbers, which sat in a box along with an old tube of Bengay and other dusty running-related gear. My mom, who’s very crafty, took the numbers off my hands last year and surprised me at Christmas with a piece of decoupage wall art that incorporates bibs from some of the major races I ran. Coolest. Present. Ever.
DIY Buy a piece of canvas at an art-supply store and coat it with a neutral color of acrylic paint. Using an acrylic gloss (such as Liquitex Gloss Medium Varnish, about $5 for 4 ounces), paint the front of the numbers and allow them to dry overnight. Repeat on the back. After you’ve decided on placement, paint the back of the numbers one more time with acrylic gloss and immediately affix them to the canvas. Use the same process for other decorations such as race photos. Paint the completed design with one coat of the gloss.
What do you do with a too-big cotton tee with an ugly logo? Even race tees made out of higher-tech material stump me—I typically don’t work out in them. I searched around online and nixed the oft-cited options: Make a quilt with them (bor-ing) or tear them into rags (fair enough, but not much fun). Here’s a cool alternative: Create a tote bag out of a shirt you care most about—a race where you ran a personal best or the design is actually pretty neat—and use it to carry your gear to future races or for grocery shopping.
DIY Flip the tee inside out and lay it flat on a table, making sure all the seams are lined up, then sew a hem (with a machine or by hand) that closes the bottom of the shirt. Flip the tee right side out and lay it flat on a table, making sure all the seams are lined up. Place a medium-size bowl about halfway over the neck hole. Using a water-erasable pen, trace along the edge of the bowl and pin the front and back of the shirt along the outline. Cut along the outline to create a large enough opening for the bag. Line up the hems on the front and back side of the sleeves and cut them off.
Framing medals from a few important races is a nice way to show off those momentos, but make them about someone else creates even more of an impact: The charity group Medals4Mettle takes medals and gives them to children who are battling life-threatening illnesses in hospitals across the country. Kids dig medals, and receiving one from a doctor makes them feel like superstars. The runners who donate are in effect saying, “I soldiered through 26.2 miles, but that’s nothing in comparison to what you’ve endured. I want to honor you and your journey.”
DIY To donate your medal (only marathoners are eligible), follow the directions at medals4mettle.org. You can even write a personal note to your recipient.
Bank of America Chicago Marathon Grant Park, 300 S Columbus Dr at Jackson Dr. El: Red, Blue to Jackson; Orange, Brown, Green, Pink, Purple (rush hrs) to Adams. Bus: 1, 3, 4 (24hrs), 6, 7, 14, 26, 28, 126, 145. Sat 12, 8am.
Read "Runner rubdowns" for tips on how to reward your body after the marathon, "Wear it's at" for the best marathon gear and "Body of evidence" to find out what really happens to your body over 26.2 miles.