Running Tips: Race Shirts – One Size Does Not Fit All

Posted on Apr 28, 2011

Posted in: Running Tips

5, 10, 20……..?

We’ve all got them….countless race shirts from countless races. But do we actually wear them? In my experience, most t-shirts get shoved in a drawer, pulled out only to wear while painting, gardening or performing some other messy chore.

Men and Women Are Different

It’s not that I don’t want to wear race shirts….it’s that race shirts almost always only come in men’s sizes and are almost always cotton. Let’s face it. Women and men are shaped differently. Their t shirts are shaped differently. Women’s’ t-shirts are fitted and men’s are shaped like a box. When was the last time you saw a female athlete shaped like a box? Even when I put on a small sized men’s t-shirt, the sleeves end up half way down my arm and the body of the shirt falls low enough to wear it as a mini-dress. It is not humanly possible to tuck in that quantity of material.

T-shirt or Parachute?

Now that you have a visual of me in the boxy night shirt, imagine what I would look like running down the street….extra material flapping in the wind behind me. Not only is it difficult to run in a men’s sized cotton race shirt, it is extremely hot. It doesn’t breathe properly. A well fitted technical T will move with you and offer moisture wicking capabilities. While cotton is fine for everyday use, serious runners appreciate any race that offers technical shirts.

Why Offer Both Men’s and Women’s Sizes?

Given the fact that most half and full marathons have nearly as many men as women participants it would make sense for race organizers to offer both men’s and women’s’ sized shirts. I understand that organizing a race involves much more than selecting race t shirts, but considering that these shirts can inflame such passion in the participants, the style, size and design might be worth more careful consideration.

Cost Saving Measures

There may be added cost to purchasing a larger variety of t-shirt options, and considering many races benefit charities, this is a significant concern. There are ways to compensate for the increased expense. One way is to guarantee t-shirts only to pre registered runners. Another way is to limit the maximum number of T-shirts you will give away. Race organizers could guarantee t-shirts to the first ‘X’ number of entries. Either way you limit expense of having surplus t-shirts at the end of an event.

One Design For All Shirts

Another way to compensate for the increased cost of purchasing both men’s and women’s sized shirts is to use one t-shirt for the series of races that take place at the event. For instance, The Madison Marathon provides men’s and women’s technical shirts. One way that they solve their logistical t-shirt ordering challenge is that they have one design for all the events–every shirt says marathon. I realize that some people will be concerned that a half or quarter marathoner may be confused with a marathoner. Given the option a shirt that fits with a single design for all events OR different designs for each event on an ill fit shirt, I believe people will choose the single design on a shirt that fits.

Non-Cash Benefit

Finally, I believe there is a non-cash benefit to providing both men’s and women’s’ sized shirts. The number of people who actually wear the shirt would increase exponentially. The marketing benefits alone should outweigh the increase in cost.

You Think YOU Have The Ugliest Race Shirt?

While my challenge is mostly with the sizing, there are some out there who would be happy just to have an attractive shirt of any kind. The ugliness of the shirt becomes much less relevant for me because I am never going to wear it anyway. I found this amusing contest to find the world’s ugliest race shirt. Take a look. You may find one from a race you’ve run.

If a race organizer gave me a shirt that is in my size and that fit properly I would wear it proudly, showing off my accomplishment to every single person I pass along my run. Until that time I suppose I will continue to wear my commemorative mini-dress while painting or gardening.