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My Life in Race Shirts: Area 51 Marathon

Joe Dudman started running road races as a sophomore in high school, circa 1980. Since that time he has accumulated over 600 race T-shirts (Yes, he finally got around to counting them!) Some of them evoke special memories and (hopefully) interesting stories. In this recurring series, he recounts some of them for Run Oregon readers.

The plain white T-shirt and blank finisher’s medal from the Area 51 Marathon.

Back in the 1990s (I’m not allowed to reveal the exact year) I was lucky enough to obtain a rare lottery entry into the highly exclusive Area 51 Marathon. Run entirely within the famously mysterious Air Force base in Nevada, the course wound through open desert spotted with strange bunkers and half-buried high-tech objects, around the dry Groom Lake, through enormous hangers with gleaming metallic aircraft of all shapes and sizes, and along dark corridors of an unmarked building where medical personnel examined and treated a variety of vaguely humanoid patients.

The course was just part of what made this the most unusual and unforgettable race I’ve ever experienced. Not surprisingly, there were no race photographers there to record our efforts, and other amenities were sparse. Tang was the drink of choice at the aid stations, and MREs served as the post-race snacks.

The finisher’s medal was blank, and results are only available on a federal government site on the dark web. The official race T-shirt was plain white, so as to not give anything away. Even so, this shirt remains one of my favorites, a lasting link to an experience with very few tangible reminders, and proof of membership in a very special club.

So, if you spot someone wearing a plain white T-shirt, chances are good that they too ran the Area 51 Marathon. Like me, they are surely very proud of their accomplishment and would be happy to tell you what they can about the experience. Don’t miss a chance to hear more about a fascinating place. Whenever you see someone in a plain white T-shirt, go right up and ask them about Area 51!

About Joe Dudman (235 Articles)
Portland, Oregon native Joe Dudman has been running races since his sophomore year in high school, and has accumulated over 600 race shirts through the years. Although he has survived 8 marathons, Joe prefers shorter, faster races like 5Ks and the mile.

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