Mary Baum

The Race Shirt Debate

First and foremost, a certain sister of mine turns 23 today!

Happy Happy Birthday Morgan!!

I hope your day is wonderful, and I am so glad to have you as a part of my life!

Race Shirts

I have a confession to make.

I have a race pet peeve. Well, I guess two really.

The first one….

How many people have you seen line up at the start line of a race, wearing the shirt they received for THAT SAME race. They haven’t finished the race, but they are wearing it already. Why does this drive me nutz!? I really have no idea. I just feel like you haven’t actually earned the shirt until you cross the finish line. I saw this happen a lot at the Rock N Roll St. Pete Half Marathon, so I guess it is fresh on my mind!

Which leads me into the second part of my super strange pet peeve….

It drives me a little batty when someone doesn’t run the race, but they wear the race shirt anyway. I understand that sometimes having a DNS is completely out of your control, like an injury, sickness, etc. – but wearing the shirt without crossing the finish line…?

I can’t do it.

Every race shirt that I own reminds me of something fun (or not so fun from that race). I sure do not want it to remind me of a race that I did not start.

My first marathon, and the reason I vowed to never NOT train again…

My favorite marathon (take me back to Beantown!)

An amazing local race series

 And a race put on by some awesome women!

My sister and husband tend to give me a hard time about this, and I believe it to be completely justified. And yes, it is considered a participant shirt, and not a finisher’s shirt. I get that. You paid for it, so you can do whatever you want with it. I just will not be wearing the shirt unless I have cross that finished line.

So really, I want to know your thoughts! Do you wear your shirt even if you have not raced, or do you put it in the bottom of your drawer (or give it away)? Do you view as something you have earned?


37 Responses

  1. Rachel
    Rachel February 22, 2012 at 9:48 am |

    The only race shirt I wear from a race I didn’t complete is from a 12K that was cancelled due to ice. We all arrived at the start just fine, but apparently there were some icy patches on the course, and the director cancelled the race. I trained for the race, I showed up to it, I just wasn’t allowed to run it! I’m okay with wearing that shirt.

  2. Running Backwards in High Heels
    Running Backwards in High Heels February 22, 2012 at 10:14 am |

    I don’t have a race shirt that I haven’t completed. WAIT. That is NOT true. I do. Rock N Roll gave me one of their St Petersburg race shirts to try to lure me to come run it… if I wear it, it is to clean or to wear to bed. I wouldn’t wear it out in public. But, it does drive me batty when people wear the race shirt of the race they are running OR another races shirt. Come on! Don’t you have a plan running shirt to wear?!

  3. Krissy @ Shiawase Life
    Krissy @ Shiawase Life February 22, 2012 at 10:24 am |

    As of now, i’ve never DNS or DNF so I wear my shirts with pride.

    I am SOOOOO over people wearing the shirt for THAT event though. Seriously?

    1. Samantha
      Samantha February 22, 2012 at 11:45 am |

      I really couldn’t have said it any better myself ;-)

      I’ve also never DNS or DNF a race, so I wear all of my tech shirts, t-shirts, and even one hoodie (yeah I was a bit obsessed with the Rock N Roll Providence Race) all the time, with pride!

  4. Carly D. @ CarlyBananas
    Carly D. @ CarlyBananas February 22, 2012 at 11:08 am |

    Ahhh this debate drives me insane. Unless the race shirt says finisher, who cares when you wear it? I typically don’t do it, because I have a ton of running clothes but a lot of people don’t. My boyfriend didn’t own a single moisture wicking shirt when he signed up for his first 10 mile race so he wore that race’s shirt so he didn’t end up with bloody nipples :) And, I think the only time I did end up wearing the race’s shirt to a race was for a St. Patrick’s Day 4 miler and the race organizers liked my picture so much they picked it to put on their website to advertise for the next year haha (It was cute!

    I’ve also worn race shirts for race I haven’t run. Sometimes race shirts run small and my friends give them to me since I’m really petite. I’m not going to turn down a free shirt. I sweat like crazy and the less times I have to wash my good shirts – the ones I race in – the better. I’ll go for a loop around my neighborhood in a random 5K shirt any day. I would, however, probably avoid wearing a race shirt for a race that requires qualification if I haven’t run it (ie. I wouldn’t wear something that said Boston Marathon or IronMan on it).

    Anyway, sorry for the novel of a comment! I just don’t understand why it bothers people so much! :)

  5. Erin
    Erin February 22, 2012 at 11:10 am |

    I don’t get what the big deal is with someone wearing a race shirt the day of the race. Isn’t is even more advertising for the event? If you see a group of people running by all wearing green shirts that have the event name on it, you might be inclined to look up this race and possibly participate in the future. I always feel a sense of camaraderie at the start of a race when I see everyone around me wearing their shirts.

    I once had to skip a race because I was sick and I still wear my shirt. It doesn’t say “Finisher” on it so I don’t feel like a fraud…and again, free advertising for the event! :)

  6. Lisa (Mom to Marathon)
    Lisa (Mom to Marathon) February 22, 2012 at 11:17 am |

    I never understand people wearing the event’s shirt for the actual race. And it happens in EVERY race. First, how do you know if you like that shirt for running? Didn’t anyone tell you not to try out something new on race day? Second, I’m a little superstitious. I think that wearing a shirt before you cross the finish line messes with your mojo.

    Once, a race gave me a tech shirt from their previous race because I was training for their next one. I couldn’t bring myself to wear it. I felt like wearing a shirt from that race without actually running it would jinx me. Ironically, it was my worst marathon, so I guess it didn’t matter. Now that I have run the race, I still don’t wear the 2009 shirt because I ran 2010 and it doesn’t quite feel right.

  7. PavementRunner
    PavementRunner February 22, 2012 at 12:09 pm |

    This is always a fun topic. I’m on the “don’t wear it until after” team. Although it doesn’t bother me when other runners where it during. I think it’s kind of cool. At least in the photos you’ll know which event it is from. LOL. To each their own I guess.

  8. Lisa
    Lisa February 22, 2012 at 12:35 pm |

    OK, so how do you even know whether someone’s finished the race or not? I’ve always found question #2 (do you wear the shirt if you didn’t cross the finish line) to be an odd one because it’s not like it has a big “DNF” pasted on it.

    Honestly, I find question #1 a bit odd too. They are running the race, yes? Then who cares what they are wearing? Maybe it fires them up or helps them stay in the moment (i.e., “I’m running this race, this year, not last year’s race/another race”). Maybe you’re too superstitious to do wear a race shirt or stick to the rule about not wearing something new on race day, but that’s you. It seems like the kind of nitpicky nonsense about how people who run a 5-hour marathon aren’t real marathoners. Or people who can’t run a 7:00 mile aren’t real runners. If I run the mileage (and yes, I run all of it, even if I’m sometimes slow), I’m a real runner. End of story.

    FTR, I don’t do either of the above. I haven’t had a race I haven’t finished (knock on wood) and I prefer to wear my race shirt after the race as a form of bragging rights for the rest of the day. But honestly, I could care less what anyone else is wearing. Promoting running? Actually running? Yeah, it’s all good.

  9. Clarisa
    Clarisa February 22, 2012 at 12:38 pm |

    Great topic, Mary! I won’t call this runner out by name but I know a runner who often wears the race shirt on race day. Why? She hardly ever buys any new running clothes. All her shirts are completely worn from age (and stinky sweat), so she feels better running in a new shirt!

    Happy running! :)

  10. Mark
    Mark February 22, 2012 at 12:46 pm |

    I have always found it weird when people wear the race shirt at the actual race it’s for. Seems to be more common with new runners. I say do the race and change into the race shirt after. As for wearing a shirt for a event you didn’t do. You did pay for it so why not. But it’s awkward when I see someone wearing a race shirt and I ask how the race was, and they say they didn’t do it.

  11. Lucy (toomanydoggies)
    Lucy (toomanydoggies) February 22, 2012 at 1:53 pm |

    I never thought of the race shirt as an honor you earn for finishing the race, but I can understand why you might feel that way about a race such as Boston. I see the shirt as marketing for the race and a way to support the race or the cause that the race supports. I was told that wearing the race shirt to the race was bad luck, so I rarely do it. However, this year at San Antonio Rock and Roll, I spilt on the shirt I brought to wear, so I wore my nice clean race shirt and didn’t think twice about it.

  12. Lydia
    Lydia February 22, 2012 at 2:33 pm |

    I always equate wearing a race’s shirt to run the race with wearing the shirt of the band you’re seeing in concert TO the concert. Sort of gomery, I guess. It doesn’t BOTHER me, per se, but it’s definitely something I think is sort of odd. Shrug your shoulders odd, not be crazy about odd (which I’ve seen some people actually scolding shirt-wearers before races – that’s in poor taste).

    I find myself not wearing race shirts very often, period. Too often, even if they are tech shirts, all the screen printing bugs me while running – it’s stiff and sometimes sticky. I love my plain UnderArmour shirts too much to compromise with a cheapo-quality race tech tee. Of course, most of the races I run are for non-profits, and I’d really rather they put my race fee to better use giving me a fancy schmancy race shirt.

  13. Julie
    Julie February 22, 2012 at 6:17 pm |

    I’ve always thought it was weird to wear a shirt the day of the race (and sorry if I repeat anyone’s comments) but then I wonder 1) Is it freezing out? Maybe they need the extra layer? 2) How far away is parking? I once ran a half with a hoodie tied around my waist because everything was so terribly organized I couldn’t get back to my car or have a place to leave it “safely” (not everyone got one). 3) Is it a nicer material than what they brought? Still for me it’s a trophy I have to EARN the shirt. I will wear shits if I DNF because I still gave it my all, I won’t wear DNS shirts, I donate them to charity. I MIGHT wear a shirt I didn’t run if it was a historical/retro look. Like if it was the 1955 Olympics (totally made that # up) and it’s obvious I’m not old enough to have been there but it’s a BEAUTIFUL shirt.

  14. Amanda @RunToTheFinish
    Amanda @RunToTheFinish February 22, 2012 at 7:40 pm |

    minus the local 5k where they give you like a mega orange shirt because it’s say the pumpkin run and you will never ever wear the thing again, no DON”T wear the shirt!!! :)

  15. Tami
    Tami February 22, 2012 at 7:45 pm |

    Wearing the race day shirt for the race drives me crazy too. I feel like the people are prepared…we never have any idea what the shirt will be so how do you plan what iu are going to wear and the. You just add that???? It really annoys me and I am glad I am not the only one,

    Another thing about shirts is all the cotton shirts I have been getting lately, out of the last handful of races nearly all have npbeen cotton,one half ironman age us two?!? Seems excessive.

    I think I need to take a deep breath and get over all this!!

  16. Theresa @ActiveEggplant
    Theresa @ActiveEggplant February 22, 2012 at 9:29 pm |

    I personally won’t wear a race shirt until after I run the event but it doesn’t bug me when other people do. I think a lot of it is when it’s a first-time racer (or infrequent racer) and just BEING in the shirt gets them all amped up for the race!

    I don’t really like running in t-shirts (which is usually the style we get) so I mostly race in tank tops and then rock the race shirt for the rest of the day after I shower. Although the Ringling Bridge Run this year gave us an AWESOME tshirt that I’ve worn for a run every week since I got it! Even on a 10 miler it didn’t bug me – that’s definitely a first.

    I’ve only had one DNS back in 2007 (got bitten by a bug on my heel & ended up on IV antibiotics the day before and day of the race and couldn’t run or even put my foot in a shoe) and I wore the shirt a couple times anyway. It was a cotton t-shirt so I wasn’t running or racing in it but I still felt entitled to wear it since I trained for and PAID for it. Like several others have said, I think it’s a whole different ball of wax if we’re talking about a “finisher” shirt rather than a regular old shirt that every registered runner gets.

  17. Melissa
    Melissa February 23, 2012 at 9:12 am |

    Hey I am new to running so I did not realize this was a such a debated issue! I would say that yes I have worn the shirt for the race with a big smile. I guess as a novice you wouldn’t know it was such a hot button issue… BUT, in my defense why do they give you the shirt in advance if they don’t want you to wear it? Shouldn’t they give it to you at the end as your reward?

    Truthfully, I do not LOVE t-shirts so I would never wear except on race day. I am trying to collect race shirts so I can make a running quilt. will take your old t-shirts and make you a collage quilt in about 2 weeks. I have not done enough races to amass the number of shirts required but I am working on it.

    Ps. I promise not wear the shirt before I finish from now on…

  18. Beth @ RUNNING around my kitchen
    Beth @ RUNNING around my kitchen February 28, 2012 at 1:39 pm |

    I agree completely!!! I can’t stand people wearing shirts to the start line, it drives me nuts! My husband had to buy a bib off Craig’s list for a race last year and the guy kept the shirt – that’s just not right. Another pet peeve is when a race makes the same shirt for different distances.

  19. The Gasparilla Distance Classic Health & Fitness Expo

    […] (the 5k and 15k share a shirt), and a jacket for finishing the challenge – You can bet I will not be wearing that until Sunday though The expo was pretty packed, and I felt like I was running into people every few steps I […]

  20. Jess-ThatJessGal
    Jess-ThatJessGal March 4, 2012 at 11:07 pm |

    I don’t like when participants wear the shirt on the day of the event because they look like dorks, in my opinion! I had never thought of them as a “finisher” achievement though…that’s what metals are for! (course I know that all races don’t have metals)

  21. Harold
    Harold March 8, 2012 at 6:52 pm |

    Personally, it doesn’t really matter, it is a personal decision that each person can make for themselves. I have been running for a long time and have been at both ends of this conversation. Now I mostly see race shirts for their utilitarian value and most of them are just shirts.

    There are personal traditions or regional ones that people tend to stick to like you do, but personally if the shirt is a quality shirt, I am going use it instead of wasting it or giving it to someone else whether I started or finished the race or not.

    If the race has a Nike running hat, Thorlo socks or Spibelt or other goodie in the goodie bag that comes with the race, do you not use that stuff either if you don’t run or finish the race? Sometimes we over-think the value or sentiment of stuff.

    I don’t have a lot of long sleeve tech shirts, because of a limited budget. I have a tech shirt that I wear all the time from a race that I didn’t start due to a knee injury a couple of weeks before the race. I wear another shirt or my jacket over it when I wear it outside. Just a personal preference, I won’t purposely advertise a race that I have not started, but I will use the shirt, until it falls apart.

    What works for you may not work for others or myself, that is the beauty of running, we can be individuals and each have our own beliefs and traditions as long as we don’t try to impose them on others, it all works out pretty well :-).


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