The Power of a Purple Hat

Perhaps I was born to the purple: Sarah means "princess" in Hebrew, after all

Despite growing up in Connecticut, I’ve got a strong streak of West Coast woo-woo running through my veins. A recent example? My almost spiritual connection to my purple Asics running hat. I don’t know what it is about me and this cap, but I feel a very strong tie to it. It doesn’t make much sense on numerous levels. For starters, blue is my signature color, not purple. Yet despite having the exact.same.hat in royal blue, it’s the purple one I feel a bond with.

Even my kids know it: Daphne, 5, loves to put on the purple topper and run laps around the cluster of chairs in our bedroom (see photo, below). The other evening (the indoor lap-running is always a bedtime-activity, of course. Why brush your teeth or put on jammies when there is running to do, right?!) Daphne was working up a sweat, and I told her to go easy on the hat. She stopped and asked me why. Big sis Phoebe piped up, “because that’s Momma’s favorite hat!”  Then she corrected herself, “Well, she likes the color of the blue one better, but that hat is more special to her.” Ever-astute Phoebe.

My affinity for this hat began at the Eugene Women’s Half Marathon on a brilliantly sunny September day. To keep from deepening my crow’s feet for 13.1 miles, I donned the hat, which coordinated with my Lululemon running top. The hat switched from the practical to the spiritual when my pal Julie, who was behind me, yelled out that she had been following my purple hat for most of the race, knowing I was setting a steady pace. (Julie yelled this out as she, um, passed me when my speed faded…) After the race, Julie told me she knew that if she kept my hat within sight, she was running a strong race. That meant a lot to me as Julie is younger, stronger, and faster than I am.

Somewhere behind dark clouds, Portland Marathon Day dawned uber-rainy. With all my running gear within arm’s reach (gotta love hometown races!), it was my purple Lulu top and Asics hat I pulled on. (The hat is made from a lightweight water-shedding nylon.) Regardless of an injury, Julie was toeing the marathon start line, too, so the hat was a nod to her as well. Near mile 23, I passed Julie, who was walking with a pronounced limp. But flashing her signature smile, she urged me to keep up the good work. As I pulled away from her, she shouted, “go, purple hat, go!”

So take a guess what hat I packed for the Philly Half recently? Yeah, you got it. Ol’ Purple. Late, after I posted a race day photo on Facebook, Julie and I got into an email exchange about the Asics topper. She wrote: “I wanted to comment on the purple hat from Philadelphia Half pics, but didn’t want to be overkill with the meaning the purple hat has for me...:) Purple hat...Chasing after a goal... going hard...using inspiration of someone else to keep pressing on....”

Wow, forgive my purple prose about my hat, but it felt good to know it wasn’t just me the hat spoke to. And, as Julie pointed out, “I’m sure many have ‘purple hats’ of their own!” So, tell us, do you? Is there a special piece of gear or apparel—maybe some socks, a headband, or a sports bra—that spells success and determination for you?

Daphne, taking a break between repeats

30 responses to “The Power of a Purple Hat

  1. I LOVE my propel run tights from They make me feel like a rockstar! : ) My brother sent me a gift card for my birthday and I found them advertised in “lucy’s feel-good guide to Holiday Survivorship 2010.” I love their motto right now too! “Peace. Love. SWEAT. Have a feel-good season.”

  2. Unfortunately, my favorite running “item” is my white Life is Good cap. That thing has been bleached so many it’s not even funny…and it stinks, and looks disgusting. And I positively love it!

  3. What a great post. In the summer, I have a running skirt that I KNOW makes me faster. 🙂 I bought 3 of them because it it so great. And, I feel naked running without my Road ID, so I never leave home without it.

  4. When I run – especially in the winter or colder months – my eyes tear constantly. Tissues don’t work well so at some point I decided to carry one of those really soft tiny baby washcloths that I had a pile of leftover from when my kids were tiny. They are really soft and just the right size so I started carrying one with me on most runs. For some reason I got attached to a certain washcloth and I carried it all the time while training for my second marathon. During the marathon I had it with me of course and at mile 22 or so I dropped it and actually turned around to go back and get it!! It wasn’t too far back but I realized then that I had an unusual attachment to that particular washcloth. I’m also very attached to my 2010 Boston Marathon hat and I wear it all the time – it is without a doubt the perfect running hat!

  5. a tiny pair of white gold (leaver-back so they won’t fall out) heart earrings…while it doesn’t enhance my running physically, it makes me feel ‘pretty’ when i get all grimy and sweaty and gross…they add a bit of sparkle to some bland or boring running gear…been wearing them to races now for a couple of years…just feel lucky with them on while running…hey, then again, maybe it does enhance my running! : )

  6. I have a very old green long-sleeved New Balance shirt that my husband proposed to me in (we were hiking, not running, but I consider that a good luck shirt!). Also, I have a wool stocking cap that I got for running in the 2001 Midnight Run New Year’s Eve race in Central Park. Got that hat before the days of tech beanies and 9/11. I wore it in a 5K last Saturday and set my post-pregnancy PR. Maybe these two pieces of clothing are why I always do better in winter races….

  7. I have a white Nike running hat that I cannot run without. I am so afraid that something is going to happen to it, I bought another one for back up (much like I bought back up security blankets for my kids, in the event that they lose them…). I started running the Philadelphia Marathon this past November in my black Under Armour beenie (due to the cold), but promptly called my husband (yes, I was THAT woman using a cell phone during a race!) to have him meet me with my white Nike running hat at the corner of 12th and Chestnut. It just didn’t feel right to continue on with the next 22 miles without my running “companion”.

    1. this is such a wonderful story…i love it! the sentimentality of running ‘gear’ sometimes gets lost in the shuffle – in this case strides! : )

  8. I love my visor, my Mickey Mouse ring, and of course my Garmin. I have to say that my PR in a half was without the Garmin (I forgot to charge it). I was terrified that I would just bomb without it. It turned out to be about 8 minutes faster than any 13.1 I’ve ever run. I still run with it every time, but now I know I can live without it if I make another boneheaded mistake!

    1. That is AMAZING that you knocked 8 minutes off your PR when you ran Garmin-less!!! I actually missed a flight because I got to airport, en route to a race, and realized I’d left my Forerunner at home! If only I’d read about your experience beforehand…

  9. I would say my bright orange Nike cap… until recently, it was the only cap I owned, but I feel naked without a hat, and more specifically, THIS hat. I don’t know why. I mean, I like orange, but it’s not my color, green is. But I think I’ve clocked so many miles in it, it’s like a best friend that knows all my secrets, struggles and victories.

  10. Um, Sarah. I may be younger, but I am not faster!! 😉 Cheers to that purple hat. It will forever be a part of my race memories!! I hope I can keep it in sight again someday! Boston 2012?! 🙂 You know how to set the pace, friend. Strong and steady, you are!

  11. I have a red mountain hardware tech t-shirt that I’ve dubbed my “lucky shirt”. Every time I wear it on a run, it’s always a good run. I’ve run PRs in the 10k and half marathon clad in my dependable “lucky red”. I ran my first marathon in October and there was no doubt in my mind what shirt I was going to wear! I ran a good first marathon and I’m sure it was all due to my lucky shirt 🙂

  12. I’m wed to a hat too! Its a pink meshy Nike cap. It was part of my gift from hubby when I started running and I’ve worn it through all my races. I started wearing it because I thought some how it might hide my face and how hard I was struggling. (LOL, I know!) But its become a bit of a security blanket to me. Also, when I was training for my half marathon, I kept envisioning a super cute outfit to wear, as we got closer to the race, I clung to my capris and tees and the pink cap. I wanted my “blankies.” I’ve only started running occasionally with out the cap, but I do not for see racing without it. =)

    1. Ah, a security “blanket” of a hat. Awesome. I especially like that your husband gave it to you. It must be a nice reminder of his love and support….and understanding of you defining yourself as a runner. Later on today I’m going to ask people to post photos of their own “purple hat” on our Facebook page–I’d love to see you in your pink Nike hat.

    1. Thanks, Meredith, for getting teary instead of laughing at me. Honestly, it’s largely Julie’s attitude toward the purple hat that imbued it with meaning for me. I am so crazy about all you WA gals!

  13. I don’t have anything that I currently run with, but have heard about the Phiten necklaces, so looked it up and am planning on buying one at the Expo on Friday for the Honolulu marathon. Perfect timing on this post, thanks!

  14. I have a white Girls on the Run hat. I don’t run without it other than in the freezing cold winter months. It is a reminder of why I run and all that is good in life!

  15. Right now it is the pendant that my running bud Sarah gave me for my birthday. She has the same one, so we are total wondertwins.

    Form of: uberbadass running mamas. Oh wait, that’s us everyday. 🙂

    I haven’t run with it, I save it for the times when I am not running. But I do wear my momma/child necklace at every race.

  16. My hot pink under armor visor. It lets my ponytail swing, and frankly, that just makes me feel girly despite the sweat!

  17. You know, I really don’t have a must-have piece of clothing, but I don’t run a race without my Phiten necklace. I also wear my Garmin and my Road ID anytime I hit the streets.

  18. My black Under Armour hat. I CANNOT run without it. I even wear it to the gym because I feel naked without it. I definitely have favorite running gear–a favorite watch, favorite pair of shorts, favorite tank–but while I can switch those out no problem, the hat is a non-negotiable.

  19. The best bit of swag I ever got at a race was a pair of nice running socks. It was a 8k Turkey Trot, so they are burgundy and gold, with a turkey and the year (2008) on the ankles. I love them so much, and I wear them in every race. Even though the colors look atrocious with ALL of my running gear.

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