Y’all, the past two days have been two of the weirdest days of my life. As you probably saw, the picture below has been floating around the Facebook and the internet for the past few days.
Why is that weird? Well, I TOOK THAT PICTURE back in May at the Flying Pig Marathon (which turned into a half marathon for me). So imagine my shock when I see that familiar looking picture being shared by not one but several of my Facebook friends, who had gotten it from other people. My first thought was “What a coincidence! Someone else took a picture of that guy too!” And then I checked my files and nope…it was ME. Seriously, the amount of shock cannot be overstated. And then I found out it was shared on HappyPlace, and Stumbleupon, and by running groups all over Facebook! All of a sudden, a picture from my blog had gone viral after being posted seven months ago. And in typical T-Rex luck, it wasn’t even of me, but I was willing to let that slide since OMG.
With the help of many of my readers, I was able to get credit for the picture from many different sites. Halbert somehow bullied the people from HappyPlace into giving me photo rights (it even says my name on it! LOOK!) and everyone else who saw it was very proactive about sharing the link to the original race report. All of a sudden, the questions starting pouring in and it seemed like everybody and their mother wanted to know who this guy was. The only problem? Well, from that picture, you guys have as much information as I do.
Here’s how the epic stalking took place. I seriously creeped myself out while looking for him, but I was tireless. I HAD to find him! This is not meant to give stalkers ideas, but I recognize that it probably does. Sorry I’m not sorry – the people needed to know.
1. I knew my approximate finishing time for the half marathon, and I knew he was a 5o year old man. That’s it. So first, I filtered through all of the Flying Pig’s half marathon results for men ages 50-54.
2. Because everyone starts in different corrals, I knew his finishing time could be a good bit faster or slower than mine based on whether he started ahead of or behind me, so I focused on people within a half an hour of my approximate finishing time (I have blocked the actual time from memory).
3. I then cross referenced the bib numbers in the results with the race photos and searched through them. The problem? Grey is a very popular shirt color in the 50-54 male demographic…and so are black shorts. So then I had to find other identifiers- in this case, the headband and headphones.
4. Finally, I came across a picture that matched. I audibly shrieked.
Now, if Thomas had Facebook, the search would have been over…but Thomas does not have Facebook, at least that I could find. The next step was therefore to search for everyone with his first and last name on Whitepages.com. I didn’t know what state he was from, but I figured Ohio would be a good start since that is where the race is and most participants are local. I got 4 matches with his first and last name and his age. Finally, I started searching the results by entering in the random cities that those 4 Thomases were from until I got a match! I’m sorry, I know you guys are so creeped out right now, but this was NECESSARY.
I was literally shaking when I called him because honestly, I was afraid he was going to be either a) really mad that his picture is everywhere b) really creeped out that I found him (can’t say I would blame him) or c) that it wouldn’t be the right Thomas and all my efforts would be for naught. Obviously, no one answered when I called and I left what was surely a very frantic sounding message on his voicemail. An hour later, I was on the phone with my grandma and the number called me back. Sorry, Nana! Gotta go! IT’S THOMAS!
And sure enough, I had found the right guy. Pretty much the first question he asked me was “Did my son put you up to this?” Fortunately, his son had called him just an hour before I did and told him that his picture was everywhere. Thomas thought it was a joke and when I called, he thought I was in on it. Nope! As you might expect from someone who made a shirt like that, he has an awesome sense of humor and was more than happy to talk to me about the race and the picture that has made him famous! Here’s the pseudo-interview (again, the kind of hard hitting journalism you’ve come to expect from me), during which I was so nervous that I am sure I sounded like an 11 year old girl meeting Justin Bieber. As always, italicized text indicates my enlightened thoughts and are not Thomas’ fault.
Was this your first half marathon?
No, it was my second. I ran the Pig in 2011 with my daughter also. My goal this year was to beat my time from last year.
Did you do it?
Yes, I did, but I was a little ticked off. My finish time was somewhere around 2:45, but I thought I could finish in the 2:30-2:39 range. My main goal was to beat 2:40. Well, I ate one of those GU gel things around mile 10 and started wretching (OMG! Sounds just like me!). I had to stop and catch my breath for about 5 minutes, during which time I saw the 2:45 guy run past. I was so mad! From that point on I made it my goal to catch up with that pace group, and then I made it my goal to beat them, which I did.
When and why did you start running?
I ran in high school and college, but life gets in the way. I started running again about 4-5 years ago as a way to get back in shape and spend time with my daughter, who is also a runner. We have run both half marathons together and we’re talking about running the full marathon next year, but I don’t know about that yet. (It was at this point that I pointed out to Thomas that if I have finished 27 marathons and I was running behind HIM, then clearly, he could do a marathon too.)
Where did you get the idea for the shirt?
Well, I thought about what would piss me off the most if I read it on a shirt that was in front of me. (I’m still laughing about that. Best reason ever.) I wanted to needle people as much as possible, kind of get to them, you know? I know it would motivate me! In 2011, my shirt said “Finish or Death,” and the front of my shirt said that this year, but I added the rest onto the back for this year.
What is the best comment anyone has made to you about the shirt?
I’m very hard of hearing and I wear two hearing aids, plus I always have my ipod and my headphones on, so even though I know people say things to me about it during the races, I don’t always hear them. A lot of people slap me on the back as they run past, though. This year, after the race, I was walking back to my car when a lady stopped me in the parking lot and said “I saw that damn shirt in front of me the whole race and I tried like anything to beat it and I couldn’t!” My response was “How did that make you feel?” (I died. Then he asked me if it was me that spoke to him in the parking lot, and I said no. He did beat me, though!)
When I explained to Thomas how I found him (including my results/picture cross referencing), he actually laughed and told me that HE DOES THAT to people that he finds in his finisher photos! He remembers people that he crosses the line with and then goes back and looks for their bib numbers in the pictures so he can see if he beat them or not. I about lost it. Thomas is officially my hero/new best friend. I told him that I am determined to conquer Flying Pig after my epic failure this year, and he said he would think about running the full too. He couldn’t believe that I travel and run as much as I do, but I couldn’t believe I was talking to the guy in the most talked about shirt on the internet.
And that, my friends, is the story of the man behind the best race shirt you’ll ever see. I hope you enjoyed meeting him as much as I did!