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Race Day Shirts: Nothing Is Forbidden

Posted by: on July, 23 2014

Written by Denise Reich.

Race day shirts: Nothing is forbidden

My name is Denise. I have been racewalking in 5Ks for seven years now. Since 2011 I’ve done about 34 races, and I’ve completed every single one and medaled in two (the only two that had racewalking categories).

And as far as the “racing elite” are concerned, I’m either an outlaw, a rookie or just plain ignorant based on my race day fashion choices. Sometimes I wear clothing that has nothing to do with the race. Sometimes, if it’s a race I’ve done before, I will wear last year’s shirt. Sometimes, however, I’ll go right from packet pickup to the port-o-potties to change into the event shirt. That’s right, I break the taboo and I wear the event shirt on race day. Sorry.

In all honesty, up until recently, I wasn’t aware there was any sort of issue about this. It’s only within the last few months that I’ve read article after article after blog about how wrong it is to wear the event shirt.

The reasons given for this prohibition are varied. Some say that it is bad luck and angers the running gods. There are those who claim that it’s simply poor form, since the race shirt is something to earn. Yet others compare it to wearing a band t-shirt at a concert (I’ll admit, I don’t get why that one is bad, either). And it’s simply uncool.

Oh, please. Are we still in high school, where everyone strives to live their lives according to some unwritten code of “coolness?” I don’t think we should. I have full respect and understanding for those who truly feel superstitious about wearing the race shirt on the course. I also acknowledge the feelings of those who believe that the shirts should be earned. I’d never try to slam them or their decisions. However, I don’t feel that I have to agree with them or let them dictate my own personal race experience.

1. It’s not the same thing as a finisher medal.

If the shirt were something you needed to “earn,” they’d give it to you at the end of the event. Instead, they hand it to you at the beginning. It is yours free and clear, without any strings attached, whether you run the race or turn around and go home. In fact, at a lot of races anyone can go to the expo or online and purchase shirts that very closely resemble the ones that are given to the runners. It’s something you get for registering; not something you earn for crossing the finish line.

2. It fosters a sense of community.

When I’m in a race and I see thousands of people around me all dressed the same, it makes me feel as though I’m part of a community that is much larger than myself. Running and racewalking can be very isolated pursuits; feeling as though you and your fellow racers are all in it together can inspire a very warm and fuzzy feeling.

3. Frankly, it might be the only time I wear the shirt.

Some race shirts are hideous. It’s a simple, sad fact. The race just might be the only place I will ever be seen wearing it because it’s the wrong color, it’s ugly, it’s splashed with too many advertising logos, or it simply has an unfortunate design scheme. Once the race is over, it’s going to be laundered and sent off to Goodwill. I’ll never be wearing it again; I might as well enjoy it once.

4. Conversely, I might like the shirt so much I want to wear it right away.

Every now and then I receive a race shirt that is so incredibly wonderful, beautiful or cool that I want to wear it as soon as possible. There’s no time like the present.

5. It’s none of your business.

If you’re really focused on running your race, other people’s wardrobe choices should be the least of your concerns. Why, exactly, would it bother you? Is someone else’s wardrobe choice going to influence your time? Is it going to be distracting? If it irks you enough to affect your race, perhaps it’s your issue, not theirs. If you’re wasting your time judging others for what they wear to the race or snickering at the “n00bs,” perhaps, again, it’s your problem. As long as runners and walkers are polite and respectful to each other and to the staff and volunteers, I personally don’t care if they show up wearing the race shirt, a Fred Flintstone costume, or completely naked.

To each their own.