My husband, Jim, has always been active in swimming and biking and had been encouraging (bugging) me for years to take up a sport we could do together. When our son left for college in 2010 we bought road bikes and have been in love with the sport ever since. It has opened up a whole new world for us to explore.
We are very grateful and fortunate to have cycled all over the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, Idaho, Italy, England and The Netherlands. We have upcoming trips planned to Mallorca, Spain and the Greater Yellowstone area. When I turned 50, we incorporated running into our routine and entered several 5k's and 10k's and a few half marathons. Jim has even completed an IronMan.
As a two-person team, we just finished Run The Edge’s Amerithon Challenge. Between all these rides, runs and triathlons we've accumulated many bibs that just sat in our "special drawer". Every once in a while we would pull them out and consider throwing them away, but the memories of training and race day's past always made us put them back in the drawer.
Not wanting to throw the bibs away and eager for a creative way to show them off, I searched the internet for ideas. I saw a lot of different designs, including several bags, but none of them were exactly what I had envisioned. Having started sewing at the age of 10, I thought, "I can design and make my own!"
As I used my new tote bag to go to the gym, it wasn't long before friends in our local running and riding community took notice and were asking me to make one for them and they wanted to pay me for it! How wild is that? That's how "Miles of Memories" was born. It was mainly a hobby that has now grown into a small business due to the referrals of family, friends, and friends of friends.
The featured bag(s) in this blog take between 20-25 bibs. They can also be customized with fewer bibs, using as little as 6 for one strip all the way around the bag. Some people have had only enough bibs for the outside area, so I used a race t-shirt and appliquéd it for the internal pocket. It worked great. My process is very flexible and customizable, depending on the number of bibs and/or race t-shirts you have and want to use.
In a nutshell - after determining, the layout and sewing the bibs together (and/or constructing the appliquéd t-shirt side), I then back the bibs with a craft bond, attach the handles, add the canvas bottom and stitch the sides together.
Then I construct the inside pocket (whether from bibs, race shirts, or material), attach it to the lining and sew the lining to the inside of the bag. I do a lot of step-by-step photos with my customers so they can be involved in the layout, see the progress and even choose the color of the inside and each bag takes me 15+ hours to complete.
Knowing my own struggles in trying to cross the finish line, (especially due to previous health issues) I truly understand what each of these bib numbers represents, so I really try to keep the cost down. I have currently been charging between $120-$150/bag, validating the cliché that sewing these bags together really is a labor of love.
I love how every bag takes on its own personality. Each bib has a story to tell of that individual's journey to the finish line. The struggle to take that first step, the fear of failure, balancing life and a training schedule, the friendships formed with training partners, training missteps, celebrating training milestones, self-doubt, race day anxiety and the ultimate joy of crossing the finish line.
It's all there, written in that one little number on the race bib. It's powerful. The process can be life changing. To quote John Bingham - "The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start."
Rhonda and Scout at the Day of the Dog 5k
I believe that more women in particular need to hear this message and take pride in having the courage to start. I hope that, not only will these race bags be that message of inspiration and encouragement, but that they will also be the source of reflecting back on special memories that helped shape their present and future life.
After all, these are their own "Miles of Memories."
If you are interested in more information on a Miles of Memories bag, please contact Rhonda Kohnke at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Miles of Memories Facebook Page.
Words and photos by Rhonda Kohnke | Edited by Cindy Edgar
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