What is the proper etiquette for wearing your race shirt? Can you wear it to race in, or should you wait until after the race is over to don the shirt?
These are questions that have been on my mind as I have been fondly gazing at my 2008 Bolder Boulder 10K race shirt. The race isn’t until Memorial Day, but I’ve had the shirt for a couple of weeks now and it’s the nicest race shirt that they’ve given out in the 4 years that I’ve run the event. I’m very tempted to wear it, but I know better than that. It has never been scientifically proven that wearing your race shirt before you compete in the race has damaging effects on your performance but why take the chance? Race shirts are for finishers like Trix are for kids and wearing your race shirt before the race takes place is just begging for trouble.
As I was pondering the protocol for appropriate race shirt attire, I came across an interesting blog post at Frayed Laces, one of the CRN member blogs. Frayed Laces was enticed by the lure of a ìfree giftî to pre-register for the Honolulu Marathon, a race that she completed the previous year despite suffering a fractured pelvis early in the race. The free gift that was being given to all the runners turned out to be last year’s race shirt, available in Large, Large or Large. Am I the only one that disapproves of the previous year’s race shirts being given out as a free gift? A race shirt is not a gift that you’re given, it’s an honor that you earn by finishing the race. The idea of a race giving away finisher’s shirts to nonparticipants is akin to the golf pro at your local course handing you a scorecard, a pencil and an air horn before directing you to the first tee box. They are encouraging something that they shouldn’t.
When I first started running I had no idea that there were unspoken rules within the running community pertaining to race shirts. If a race allowed me to pick up my race shirt prior to the event, I obliviously paraded around in the shirt regardless of whether or not I’d previously completed that event or even that distance. I look back on those days now and shake my head at my own folly. I wish that someone would have been there to point out the error of my ways and clue me in on proper race shirt etiquette. With that in mind I wanted to bring to light some of these unspoken rules of the race shirt, and what better place to start than at another CRN member blog. Bad Ben’s Ramblings posted an insightful and comprehensive guide to Proper T-Shirt Etiquette last year that should be required reading for all runners.
Essentially what it comes down to is that wearing a race shirt represents that you have completed that race. If you haven’t completed the event, or volunteered at it, then you should not be wearing the shirt. You should know that if you are ever exposed wearing a race shirt you didn’t earn you will be viewed by those that completed the event in much the same way a tourist with a Property of Alcatraz shirt is viewed by the ex-cons who did hard time there. Even though I wouldn’t do it, I think it’s OK to wear the race shirt for the race you are about to run in but you are probably tempting fate, not to mention that most race shirts are cotton and that’s just another rookie mistake. If you DNF in that event, then you should not ever wear the shirt in public again. You can shamefully wear it in the privacy of your own home (think pajama shirt) or to mow the lawn in your back yard as long as your neighbor can’t see you, lest he wrongfully think too highly of you. The best idea is probably just to sacrifice the shirt to the running gods by using it to wipe the mud and dirt from your Asics.
Be sure to speak up in the comments if you have any other rules to add or if you disagree with any that you’ve read.