Sound Off: Race Shirts Manifesto

Ragnar Napa Tees
I don't know this team, but I love the shirts.

My five vanmates and I arrived at the starting line for Ragnar Napa around 4:30 a.m. We picked up our race tees at 5 a.m.--and even in the dark, even with sleep crud still in the corner of my eyes, even though I couldn't see the whole shirt through the beam of my headlamp, I knew immediately that I really, really liked it.

Which for me means that I would wear it again—and not end up in my Goodwill pile wiith weeks.

Which is the the exception, not the rule, for me these days.

The Pikes Peak Ascent shirt (bottom) never made it to my drawer. I'm a female runner—not an NFL Viking—and I'd prefer to look like one.
The Pikes Peak Ascent shirt (bottom) never made it to my drawer. Love the long sleeve, hate the unisex-ness of it and the design. I'm a female runner—not an NFL Viking—and I'd prefer to look like one.

I should state up front that I do not emotionally attach to race shirts. I saved my 2007 Nike Women's Marathon until it pitted out—it was light pink— and I'll probably hang onto my 2013 Ironman Couer d'Alene one for a few more years. A new race tee isn't the reason I sign up for a race, and I already own plenty of running gear I can't seem to let go of.

So I'm not coming at this from that of a beginning runner (when every race tee should definitely be worn with pride); or from somebody who wants to make a tee-shirt quilt (great idea, but not for me); or from a 50-states, 50-marathons or similar runner who wants to mark her racing journey with momentos. I'm simply coming at it from a runner of 20+ years who doesn't have more space in her drawers—and who lives on a planet that doesn't need more tees being made just because they're expected to be.

Race tees need to be advertisements. Get that. Still, you can have fun with it, like the ZOOMA letters on this women's specific tee.
Race tees need to be advertisements. Get that. Still, you can have fun with it, like the ZOOMA letters on this women's specific tee.

So in case any race directors are listening, here's my manifesto for race tees:

1. If you have women in your race, you must have a women's-specific shirt. Sound too demanding? Flip it the other way: can you imagine, male race directors, going to a race where the only shirts they offer are ones that flatter people who need a sports bra and have curvy hips? How would you feel about running around town in that? Not so much, right?

Females make up more than half of the racers in every distance but the marathon—and we're gaining serious ground there—so there is no excuse not to address your whole race field.

Just in case you need reminding, we have boobs. We have curvy hips. We have collarbones, often with necklaces around them, that we'd like to display. I don't care if you're size 2 or 20, a unisex, crew-neck tee does nothing to fit or flatter the bodies we've honed through many miles.

Plus, we're all paying the same entry fee. I realize life fundamentally isn't fair, but if I pay $90 for a half-marathon, I deserve a shirt that makes me feel like the male racers when they wear it: accomplished and proud.

I shouldn't be standing in the tee pick-up line, and wondering if I should get a extra-small so I could give it to Ben for pjs, or a small, so Amelia can wear it to bed. I should be picturing myself in it. When it's a unisex tee, I never do.

2. You must have a range of sizes: XS to at least 2XL, and women's only races should consider going up to 3 or 4XL. These days, runners come in all sizes, and not respecting that is just not cool. (Again, we're all paying the same thing, and every runner deserves the same treatment.)

3. What makes a good women's shirt? A minor V-neck is nice. So is a slight scoop neck. It should have a torso that doesn't just fit petite frames. Err on the longer side, since some of us have bellies that have a little roundness, and would prefer not to display them with a cropped top. Flattering seams will get you everywhere.

3. Tech is best; cotton is acceptable if—say it with me—it's a flattering shape and cute design.

This tee, from the Happy Girls half, is cotton—and adorable. Thoughtful graphics, cute seaming. (And goes TK high.)
This tee, from the Happy Girls half, is a cottong/poly—and adorable. Thoughtful graphics, cute seaming.

About that design: runners who have participated in your race are some of the best advertisements for it. I don't think it's shocking to say that women notice what other women wear. If a former runner is wearing a cool race tee at school pick-up, that might just be the entry another runner, considering the race, needs to enter.

4. Finally, if you don't want to put thought into the design and respect the female racers who are paying the for the same race course and tee, offer a reduced fee option for runners to not get a tee. The world doesn't need more ugly, unisexed tees.

Is all this possible? I don't know. I realize we women are still fighting for equal pay, so improving race tees is understandably low on the totem pole.

Still, as SBS always says, if you don't ask for it, how do you expect you'll get it?

What's your take on race tees? Do you keep them all? Which are your favorites? What suggestions for improvements do you have--if you think the situation needs improving? 

86 responses to “Sound Off: Race Shirts Manifesto

  1. I agree with you! Thank you for wording it so nicely 🙂
    I usually put them in my drawer and then to the Goodwill a month later. I have very few race shirts that I keep and wear because they are men’s cut.

  2. Thank you Dimity for this great blog. I’m a larger gal and it’s so difficult to find running clothes that fit especially at race expos. And the race shirts always seem to run small, like two sizes too small. I usually wear a 1x but race shirts in a 2x usually barely fit if at all. Just like the 2x sweat shirt I bought from you in Spokane after my fist half 🙁 unfortunately it doesn’t even fit over my chest….

  3. I love it when there is a women’s fit T, but I wish that the women specific were sized a little more realistically. I wear a women’s medium (10) in just about everything, but some of the “women’s fit T’s” are so TINY. I have learned to just put down XL if I want it to not be snug as a sausage wrap. The “smalls” do not even fit my 12 year old 100 lb daughter (and she likes snug).

  4. As a race director of a small trail run series in Chicago, I want to thank you for voicing your opinion. How are RDs supposed to learn except by listening to runners!

    We switched from doing the unisex sizing at a few of our races, like our Nearly Sane Trail Half Marathon and our Chicago themed Four Stars Four Mile Trail Run, because we wanted to do cool shirts that ALL of our runners would proudly wear.

    However, we stick with either unisex long sleeve shirts for a few of or fall races (Thriller 5k in October and Dirty Turkey 15k in Nov) for a few reasons.

    We are a grassroots company. My wife and I work full time and do trail runs on the side as a passion project. We have yet to break even on a race because we a) don’t accept sponsorship money, b) give away free, locally crafted beer at each race, c) have free food trucks at each race, and d) give away various styles of pint glasses as finisher’s awards at each race. With giving all of that to our runners, we simply don’t have the budget for gender specific tech shirts, especially since our races are small (under 250 runners) and cheap ($25 for a 5k).

    I honestly wish we could do gender specific tech shirts at all of our races, and we try to for as many as possible without taking out a second mortgage! Outside of raising our prices or going corporate (both which are against our philosophy), then we have to stick with what we do now, unfortunately!

  5. YES! I just got a much worked-for PR in the half, and yet again, another unisex circus tent to show for it. (I got the smallest size, which was Small, but unisex small is Not Small At All when you are a thing who is more of an XS in Women’s sizes). Granted, it is a very nice quality tech shirt, but I doubt I’ll ever wear it.

    At least I have my upcoming marathon to look forward too (Detroit). They do a FANTASTIC job with shirts– separate cut for women, great fit, nice New Balance tech shirts, and each year the designs keep getting cuter. I wear them all the time, in fact last year I picked up some spares from previous years at the expo cause they were selling them for $5!

  6. I have mixed feelings about this. I prefer a man’s size shirt because they are consistent. With a woman’s size, I don’t know if it is intended to be “fitted” or loose. I have a DD+ bust size and in a fitted woman’s shirt I look like I’m ready for a shift working at Hooters. And yes, a modest v-neck might be flattering, but a generous scoop neck? NO thanks.

  7. The shirts DO motivate others. I signed up for the Hot Chocolate race based on someone’s great sweatshirt. And I was crushed twice this year at races where the shirt was unisex and there was no option to swap out for a different size. Lost opportunity, and I won’t sign up for those races again. I know it’s hard to please everyone but races can at least try!

  8. As a female runner I wholeheartedly agree with so many of the comments about the boxy, unisex shirts. As a race director (who offers women’s cut/long sleeve/tech shirts)…I wish it was as easy as it sounds to offer great designs, the perfect color, perfect length, etc. year after year, that will please everyone. We change up our design each year so our participants don’t get bored but that means some years are just flat out cuter than others. We also change up the colors each year (for men, women and kids), sometimes a pink or yellow comes up for rotation to keep things fresh, we aren’t trying to make anyone look less tough. Please know that some of us RD’s really put a lot of time, thought and energy into the design, color, and so forth:) Happy Running!

  9. I agree 100%. The number of race shirts I actually keep & wear are few and far between. Most of the time, my kids don’t even want them either. I would love the option NOT to get a shirt, especially when it is a boxy, unisex cotton t-shirt. I would rather they a) reduce my registration OR b) donate the difference!

  10. Well, well said– this should be read by EVERY race director. I have a truckload of race shirts, some even with really great graphic designs, that I will NEVER wear. Cotton, men’s cut, pink–can’t seem to throw them out, and I feel a bit like a hoarder because of it. But I digress.
    I agree with every point you make. And add: either offer a reduced fee for opting out of the ugly shirt, or offer something else–useful, such as knuckle lights or reflective vests with the race name–something unisex that we could use.

  11. I agree with you 100%. However, I would like to add something that irks me about some races. Sometimes t-shirts are offered in one color for men and another color for women. More often than not, this does include a women’s specific t-shirt. Okay, bravo…BUT DOES IT HAVE TO BE PINK!?!?! I am not, nor will I ever be a pink and flowery kind of girl. I am a Badass chick. I have dirt on my knees and sweat on my brow. I’d rather have the men’s cut tee than a pink women’s tee. If the men don’t get the pink, why do I have to? Oh, and this goes for gender-specific swim caps…Dimity, you know what I mean 😉

  12. Here Here!! I agree!! If it’s a unisex shirt I never wear it , it goes to my boys for pjs. My favorite came from the Heroes Half in Everett, WA. Soft baby blue with a nice scooped neck and fitted. I wear the heck out of that shirt & have 3 new runners signed up for 2015 because they saw the shirt!

  13. Scoring a cute and functional race t-shirt almost makes me feel like I won the race! I have so many bad ones, and think from now on that I’ll just order the XXL if it’s going to be an ugly unisex shirt so that my 16-year-old can wear it to football practice instead of having it take up space in my drawer.

  14. I totally agree with everything you said! My worst race shirt was from the Marine Corps Marathon 2 years ago – not only was it unisex, it was thick cotton with a mock turtleneck. That went straight to the Goodwill. Sometimes I think they make ugly race t-shirts just so you will BUY cute race t-shirts at the expo!

  15. I 100% agree with this however I would love to see a long sleeve shirt that has sleeves that fit and a longer length for the torso. I end up ordering a guys shirt if they are long sleeve because I have very long arms and the only way it fits. Also I have a long torso so all my racing shirts have to be worn with a tank top or they are too short. I really don’t know who decided that all women that run have short arms, short torsos and long legs.

  16. Yes!!! Ugh to the unisex race dress, oh I mean shirt. But really, I’m only 5′ tall. I don’t want another night gown. I love the races that offer the ladies cut shirt. The Portland Rock and Roll Brooks shirts are some of my favorites!

  17. Hear hear!

    Love the better size range (and maybe labels during registration saying SM = 4, M = 6 etc). Is their large a ‘real’ large or a ‘tiny runner’ large?

    And while I am wishing….NOT transparent please,I don’t need to flash my bra.

    Ooh, and maybe no ‘blue is for boys, pink is for girls’. My Army Run shirt rocked…serious, cammo sleeves, awesome.


  18. Amen, amen, sister! My race tees are my kids pjs….upcycling. They actually figure out who gets it before I get home. I love my shirt from the Slacker 13.1. It is unisex but it fits great and is cozy for those chilly nights.

  19. I have only gotten one race tee that has left me speechless, and that was for the Garden Spot Marathon/Half Marathon in PA. I could write a love letter to this shirt. It’s tech material, v-neck, and in a flattering cut much like a cyclist-type jersey. I’ve worn it to the grocery store with jeans. How hard can it be to make more like this? I have only three race tees that I actually use and I have run A LOT of races. Now I run for a buddy through and I always order the smallest size and send them to him. 😉

  20. So agree. I have a LOT of pretty ugly shirts and I hate to say this but surprizingly one of the worst was a Disney race. My girlfriend and I were covinced that they got a great deal on them. Olive green and all unisex and a 5k we paid over $120 to do. A big dissapointment.

  21. I, like you, have way too many shirts to associate any emotional attachment to with the exception of my Boston one and the only marathon I was first overall female in (Charlottesville, VA). Gender specific shirts should be MANDATORY at all races where you are spending over $50.00 to race. I think saving a few momentos is great….all of them is excessive..
    .. I will depart from my soapbox now…….Happy Tuesday to you!

  22. Very much agree with all points! That said – does anyone have a way to take in a too big man sized shirt and make it woman sized? I did the Tucson marathon last year and ended up with a men’s small…. it’s quite large to say the least – much bigger than a normal men’s small which usually I can get to work – and I really really want to wear it – because dang it, doing a marathon is a ton of work and I think I deserve to wear the shirt – I just don’t have any desire to wear it as a dress!

  23. Fellow small person here (though maybe not as strong) — if I don’t see an XS option, I’ll ask for the biggest size for kids. Because I definitely have plenty of sleep shirts already.

  24. Thank you!! Couldn’t agree more. I am a baby runner and so far have saved all my shirts. But it is out of control as I believe I can actually wear maybe 10% of them.

  25. Spot on — on all points! I just completed a half marathon this past weekend and the all-cotton, unisex (i.e. men’s) t-shirt that I ordered in an XL (because there was no indication as to what the shirts were like) is headed for the Goodwill bag. A waste on many levels, not to mention a marketing fail since I won’t be wearing the shirt to advertise the race, which is a newer event. And children’s swag is equally important when there are family or kid runs — they’re probably more motivated by the shirt than the grownups! 🙂

    Bottom line: A shirt is always a nice bonus, but options would be greatly appreciated.

  26. YES YES YES….thank you so much I have strong opinions on this. I am a VERY small, very strong runner, I always need an women’s XS. Before you roll your eyes and say ‘lucky you’ or whatever, understand that I too pay the race fee, and walk away frequently with shirts big enough to be nightgowns. It sucks. I was thrilled to run Boston last year and unbeleivably, they ‘ran out’ of women’s XS shirts-even though I pre-ordered mine. Can you imagine how disappointing that was?? I was outraged (especially after my $175 fee). In general, it is very hard to find athletic gear that is tough, and flattering-thank goodness for catalogues like title 9 and Athleta, but honeslty, get a clue race directors!!!!
    THANKS for letting me vent

  27. Yes, on all counts! (Much love for IronGirl shirts)

    I just signed up for a race that had options for no shirt, cotton shirt, and tech shirt, at different pricing, with men’s and women’s sizing. Perfect.

    My favorite shirts are all women’s cut. My absolute fave is a women’s cut long sleeve so I can slow down on using ALL the Sunblock to save my tattoos. Bonus, it’s bracelet length, so it sits perfectly when my arms a little bent while running.

  28. AMEN! This is a reason why I won’t sign up a second time for a race if it’s expensive to run, I won’t be back if the cost is high and the shirt is crap.

    And if you charge children to run in your race, or advertise the race to families, have some kids sizes too. My little boy was none to happy with his bright pink scooped neck t shirt he got when he ran a women’s race family version with me recently. (his little sister is wearing it as a nightgown).

  29. Agree 100%. Our local marathon offered women’s specific last year and I wear that thing a lot. Plus, it helps that it’s a tech shirt and it has a pretty cool design. What I don’t understand is the tacky, horrible graphics, poor color choice, etc., that you’re ‘forced’ to take. Please give me an option as to whether I really want another cotton tee! What would be nice is if there was a mock-up on the registration site so you could see what you’re going to get. If I like it, I’ll get one and happily provide you with some free advertising when I wear it out and about. Otherwise, give me a few bucks off my registration.

  30. So true, Dimity!

    This weekend was the only time a unisex t worked out in my favor….I transferred my bib to my husband, and they had the bags prelabeled, so “ya get what ya get”. It actually fit him!

    I don’t usually have chaffing issues with run tops, so I like to wear my race shirts for workouts when they fit! I was especially disappointed when my PR half last year gave me a giant unisex top at packet pick up and a bumper sticker in place of a medal at the finish.

  31. I could not agree more!! 90% of my marathon shirts aren’t wearable because they are boxy, unflattering men’s cuts. I think the first race shirt I ever wore was from an IronGirl event – my shortest event, but the first cute shirt I ever got from a race. And yes, I actually ran the event just for the shirt. Race organizers should take notice and listen.

  32. I have way too many race shirts!! I’d love an option for a lower cost for no shirt. I do keep about half of the shirts that I get and my favorites come from The North Face Endurance Challenge, their shirts have been the most comfortable. One thing that I completely dislike are white race shirts. Uh, doesn’t anyone take into account that a white shirt becomes see-through when you sweat??? Those go straight into the bag for Goodwill. I’ve found more races offer the women’s cut lately. YAY!!!

  33. DEFINITELY agree on womens-specific shirts, as well as reduced race fee for no shirt. My most fav shirts are both tech, both women-specific and both have a body flattering shape (from Athleta Iron Girl Half and the Covered Bridges half Marathon in Vermont)

  34. Two things: If more race directors used a runner /designer for their graphic designer, the shirts would be more to the liking of runners everywhere. Sadly most race directors tend to use which ever graphic design company they can afford. Maybe there needs to be a “minted” style runner designer company where folks could order different style shirts like cafe press has shirts. As an artist and runner, I get frustrated with the designs and colors of shirts. I wish I could design shirts and screenprint them myself. However, I use cafepress to order shirts for things I design.

  35. Oh my goodness, could not agree more. I made a quilt and am working on the second one, but would be happy if I never got to finish it because I couldn’t bear to cut up tje shirts because they were that (fill in the blank) ________ cute, comfortable, well fitting, stylish. Race directors of the world please listen!

  36. As a Vikings fan, I love that Pikes Peak Ascent shirt! 🙂

    I keep all of my race shirts and I use them all the time rather than buying other shirts. I do prefer the women’s fit, although my pet peeve is when they’re too small. I generally get a womens XL (I wear a size 14) but many times even that seems too small. Like womens sizing, hate that I need to get a XXL in order to make it not be super tight. If the womens’ stuff seems too small, I’ll sometimes get a mens’ L.

    Having said that, I did a race series this year and the thing that pulled me in was the set of commemorative pint glasses that I got for running. 🙂 (The fancy Brooks 1/4 zip shirt that I got is great, but again… XL is way too tight and I’ll never wear it.)

  37. Race tees – ugh! I probably have one tee from a race that I would wear again- a cute one from the Iron Girl Duathlon that Athleta sponsors – clearly Athleta knows how to make a tee. Team Ortho races here in MN give you a women’s cut hoodie sweatshirt or zip up tech jacket that is cute – but their races are expensive – you’re paying for the goods for sure. When I don’t see ladies cut as an option when picking my size as I register I get it bigger so I can sleep in it.
    Earlier this summer I used an old race tee as a rag to clean up a dog mess on the floor and had a flash to a fond memory of the race and then went on my cleaning up the puke. 🙂 I love the option to opt out of the tee entirely at a lower race price.

  38. Totally agree! I just ran the Newport Liberty Half Marathon and there were unisex cotton L/S tees and NO MEDAL!!! Come on! Please send this to those race directors!

  39. I don’t even mind if it’s a unisex tee, but how about always buying from a reputable shirt company so sizing is true? I have a medium tech tee that fits me like a men’s XL and an XL tech tee that is super tight and barely fits me at all(I feel really sorry for all of the true XLs I saw running and walking that half marathon who never get to wear their shirt). I’m a pretty true medium. It’s hard to know what size to stipulate when registering, especially if you like the design, because it could run super small or really big. Stick with quality shirt companies!

  40. I am just desperate to find a seamstress in the Green Bay, Wis., area to fix the collars of several of my race shirts to the deep V of my Zooma Great Lakes shirt from 2012. It is by far my favorite shirt (along with my Badass Mother Runner tank!) because of the deep V. The neck on most, including the more recent Zooma Chicago shirt, is too tight for me. We spend so much on our sports bras — why not flaunt them, just a little?

  41. Yes, yes, yes! 100% agree. My number one wish would be that you could pay a reduced entry fee for no shirt – even just $5 or $10 off. I would think that would be a boon to small races. Second, women’s fit shirts are a must – but then provide the option for women to order the unisex if they prefer that. Tired of ordering the youth large option – even that is sometimes too big for me.

  42. well put!! very well put!! can I add: consistent sizing??? I sign up for a race and feel like I am throwing a dart blindfolded. I have actually had 2 events back to back weekends and gotten an XL at one race and a S at the next. and no, I didn’t go on some crazy super diet between the two!

  43. Great article every race committee needs to read this. I have that Spokane happy girl tshirt and love it. It’s soft and curves and cute. Worn it twice and get tons of complements. No tech for me. Why? Well I have my tech running gear don’t need more especially since most of the tech at races is cheap tech. It snags just from the finisher metal Cotten is best but true to size Cotten. Good lord I am small but some races I have ended up with a kid shirt. I want to be proud of the race I finished and wear my shirt. I do have a pile that is getting bigger that will some day be a wuilt of many if my shirts but until then I want to enjoy them.

  44. I can take or leave race shirts in general. Most trail races I do either don’t do shirts or have the option to not get one. Agree absolutely on the women’s fit! I also enjoy when races do something other than a shirt; socks are always fun and one hometown girls race the RD hand-makes the finisher necklaces. My biggest disappointment with finisher shirts was last summer at a historic, famous, difficult, bucket-list race I was super stoked to run. We had notated on registration size and gender for shirts. On finishing, no ladies xl were available, so was given a large instead. Reason no xl left? The med and lg folks were taking them. The cut was so incredibly small, the large fit my 11yo string bean kiddo! Need the xl for my “nice tee-tees” as a patient told me recently… No option to trade/take a mens. Bummer! Ended up purchasing a generic, non-dated, non-finisher shirt so I had something.

  45. I am a plus size runner- and race shirts are almost always too small (ladies) or too big (mens) I so wish they would make bigger sizes for women’s shirts.. and “real” sizes- even if it comes in a 2x, it is usually a narrow cut and short- unfortunately I do not get to wear many of my race shirts because they don’t fit-

  46. Totally agree! Was excited to receive a women’s tech tee with a cool race design earlier this year, only to discover that the only sizes they had at pre-race day pickup were L and XL, and the L was still too short (but boxy and much too big in the shoulders.) I normally wear a 4/6 — how is a L too short?! And my half marathon last weekend had a nice design, but was a cotton men’s shirt, and the smallest size was M, so too big for kiddo nightshirt. I realize that I’m more disappointed than I should be about both of these, but when I’m only doing a few races per year, I want wearable race shirts.

  47. Amen, sister!! I can’t tell you how many race shirts I have donated for all of the reasons you listed. I also shop at thrift stores, and see many ugly race shirts for sale. Obviously other women feel the same. Race Directors, listen up!

  48. Well, things have certainly come a long way since I ran high school XC, where the only option was ever a large. A large. For a women’s HS XC team. Funny enough, I just parted with those long-sleeved tees. 15 years later. I’m a sucker for a free tee. That being said, I was almost knocked off my feet when I was offered a women’s cut tee at a marathon two years ago. It hasn’t happened since, so I’m with you! (but I actually prefer a cotton tee).

  49. I agree that there should be a no-shirt option, or they should offer things other than shirts. My very first race was a 5k to raise money for colon cancer research, and they gave out boxers (like sleep shorts) to encourage people to run in their undies!

  50. Yes! Yes! Yes!!!
    We have a local “witches” run every October that ends up being 98% women in the race and we still get ugly unisex shirts!!!! Come on! Any woman in the race would be glad to design the shirt for free just so we could wear it once!

  51. Preach on sister Dimity! I plan on making a quilt out of my most favorite shirts, but what to do with the others? Donate them I guess. I hope more races start giving the opt-out option. Less wasted resources all the way around.

  52. LOVE THIS!!! I keep some, not all, of my race tees. I actually wish more people would make them in a cotton blend, rather than tech. I don’t usually wear my tech shirts out and about, especially if they’ve been through the ringer on a hot run (even if they’re washed!). Plus…it’s almost always DARK when I’m running so nobody sees what I’m wearing anyhow. I would love to have some cotton shirts that I can feel comfortable wearing during others’ normal waking hours.

  53. I can’t say HEAR HEAR loud enough! I especially love the pay extra to get a shirt option, so the default assumption is that you don’t get one. Show a picture of the shirt — color, cut and design — and if I want one, I’ll buy one. As you say, the world does not need more cheap clothing.

  54. HAHAHA… this is so funny to me. How about the shirts with the arms that are way to short? Who is that suppose to fit? My child? I have started wearing my potato sack shirts to bed. I have seen some younger runners cutting them up, adding ties and wearing them—they look cute.

  55. A recent run I did provided an option of not getting a shirt – the entry fee was $10 less. I went for the t-shirtless option! I was thrilled about not getting a shirt!

  56. I used to keep all my tees, now I will keep some and work out in them at home if they’re not that nice looking (tech.) I can’t remember the last time I got a cotton tee, and more and more I see women’s sizes available, but I agree they need to offer a larger range of sizes. A bit of progress?

  57. Thank you for the post! I have been to three events this year that advertised women specific tech t’s as a perk of the race, but only offered small – large. If I wanted an XL shirt I had to take the men’s XL, which is definitely not the same as a women’s XL. At the last race, I just said “no thank-you” and didn’t take a shirt because it was really ugly.

    I would actually like it if more races offered the poly/cotton “lifestyle” ts. I have way too many tech shirts now. Or, if they offered socks, luggage tags, a bag or some other memento.

  58. Agree! Agree! Agree! I hope race directors everywhere are reading this. I love having the t shirts (still dreaming I will get around to that quilt idea…though I doubt it) but hate when I can’t wear them!

  59. I used to keep them, but how many race for the cure short sleeves do I need? Definitely not more than 2, to sleep in. I save tech ones, though I don’t usually run in them. I love the discount for no shirt, but they should let you opt our at race pickup. Then they would be stuck with hundreds of shirts and have to rethink their strategy. I also want new designs,. I love you RockNRoll series, but I can’t tell any of my Arizona or Denver shirts apart. I love hoody sweatshirts like hot chocolate 5k offers, just wish they didn’t cost so much to register for.

  60. I used to keep them all. Now I will donate the tshirts and keep the long sleeves for throwaways at cold weather races. The no shirt cheaper race fee option is BRILLIANT!

  61. Totally agree. And here’s an added detail that maybe is just me, but if a race is going to go unisex, I’d rather just have a cotton tee than a tech tee. My most easily forgotten race shirts are men’s cut (let’s not even dignify the concept of “unisex” here – they are *men’s* shirts!) tech shirts, because (a) I chafe mostly under my arms, and ill-fitting sleeves are the worst! and (b) I live in Georgia where it’s hot and a zillion percent humidity 6 months out of the year, and the last thing I need is loose sweaty fabric clinging weirdly to my body (and yet snug around the hips, so unflattering!). At least a cotton tee I can throw on after a workout or to drop the kids off or to the garden workday at my kid’s school.

  62. Thank you for addressing this, being over 50, I have seen shirt sizes change over the years, a small is no longer a small it is what a medium used to be. VERY FEW races will offer an extra small and so I swim in almost every shirt I get at a race. Also, you have to sign up for races on-line and they never offer XS, then sometimes you get to pick up and they have XS and they say well you didn’t sign up for XS, well look at me . . . don’t you think I would have if it was offered? Convinced them at a race in May to give me an XS, it was a unisex, was still too big!

  63. Amen, sistah! Half the the race shirts that I get end up at Goodwill never worn. It is a pity, but we might have to live with it. I would almost rather get a cotton tee like the old days as at least I can sleep in it!

  64. Right on Dim! I agree with having female shirts for female racers. The only unisex shrits that pass the ok from me are the really, really softie ones, otherwise mine go to my son as well.

    Let’s help those race directors think thru this again and again so we get some good duds.

  65. Now that most races have tech, not cotton, shirts, I do wear many of them. As a petite runner, it is very frustrating to have unisex sizing. I have some shirts that were from special races that I barely wear b/c they are too big and too long.
    And I generally decline shirts if I am participating in a small local event. I don’t need another L or XL sleep shirt.

  66. Sing it, sister! I have so many horrible race tees but I can’t bear to part with them so I am having a quilt made (but just the lap size for the couch with my favorite races). The rest will have to go Goodwill. I especially love the part about the sizing not just for petittes. I have boobs but wear a medium tee from JCrew. Often, even a size XL technical shirt from a race is too tight and narrow. A medium in the “real world” should equate to nothing bigger than a large in the running world, IMHO! Oh,and I saw the shirts from Philly last year: ugly. Here is hoping they improve for us this year.

  67. YES! So many good points. I just ran the big race in my city (Fort4Fitness in Fort Wayne), and the shirt for the half marathon was a unisex half-zip. I love the half-zip, and it’s something I can use. BUT, it’s a unisex small and I drown it – even with my 12-week preggo belly starting to protrude. Every year, inevitably, my husband steals my half-zip and has two and I have zero. At least with cotton tees – I got a horrifically ugly one recently – can be worn to bed. I might sweat a bit in bed (TMI) but I don’t need to wear a tech shirt.

  68. I only keep those that have a lot of meaning and I really love. So I’ve got my Prove It shirt, my first Peachtree shirt (with my sub-hour PR), my Princess Half shirt (my first half), and a couple others that are really cute or actual running shirts. Any others go straight to my kids for sleep shirts.

  69. Love the designs of the Ragnar shirts… Hate that they run a size too small.

    I wish the Marine Corps Marathon would give out women’s shirts. 30,000 runners and you can’t order 10,000 shirts that have a cut flattering to women?!

  70. I hope RDs everywhere read this!
    I’m not overly invested in what kind of shirt I get, but I end up rarely wearing them other than training – especially the MASSIVE Size M Unisex shirts I’ve gotten from one particular race series!
    On the other hand though, sometimes the womens’ cut are cut too close – if I can try it on there and switch out I don’t mind, but the womens’ cut I will be more likely to wear.
    At my event this weekend, when I picked up my bib I was pleasantly surprised by the comment “When you registered we only offered unisex but now we have womens sizes so do you still want an M?” Yes! Yes I do!!

  71. I only keep a few race shirts, most are too big and shapeless or just so ugly. The worst shirts I have are from volunteering at races. I know the organizers wan the crew to be easy to spot but neon yellow unisex shirts are hideous. They look to me like they wanted to spend no money and bought whatever shirt was in the clearance bin.
    I organize a team for a local run and we get our own shirts made, after last year’s crazy tight shirts I made the printer call the t shirt manufacturer and ask about the fit.

  72. Women’s sizing drives me nuts, actually. My advice to race directors is this: just tell us how the shirts fit (tight, semi-relaxed, relaxed) and even better, provide measurements (width, length) so I can make an educated guess at which size might actually fit.

    I’m tiny–like 4’11” and 101 pounds. And despite being tiny, I have signed up for a race offering women’s-specific tech shirts in sizes from XS to XL, chosen the S size, and discovered that I’ll only wear if it I find value in showing the neighbors every last curve (or lack thereof) in graphic detail. I’ve received size M race shirts that were too small, apparently cut for models or 10-year-old girls. And on the flip side, when our elementary school orders basic cotton t-shirts, I can fit into a kid’s size L.

    Sizing is clearly all over the board, so measurements (width, length, maybe also whatever the measurement is around the sleeve/armpit area) would be great. Ditto for labeling if it’s men’s or women’s sizing. Bonus points for naming the company making the shirts so we can check a size chart (or old race shirts) for a reasonable guess.

    That’s especially true if the race shirts err on the extra-long size. I respect that it works well for our dear mother runner leaders, but why I end up with is a shirt that has inches and inches of extra fabric. Tucking the extra fabric under doesn’t really work when shirts are fitted (or semi-relaxed) because now I have this shirt that looks great until you get to my middle/hips region, at which point there’s a bunch of extra fabric kind of balled up like I’m a planet with a ring…or I have a fitted shirt that looks great on top but continues downward over my behind, kind of like a very thing and not-so-stylish sweater dress/race shirt that hugs my behind too tightly for anyone’s good. (Not exaggerating–I have a very cute charity 5K shirt that literally goes past my behind but is tight even in the medium size). If a race shirt is relaxed and hangs down, tunic-style, that’s all good. I’m happy with that option, which works well with capris or shorts.

    I’d welcome the option to be able to decline a shirt and save a few bucks. Most of the time I want the shirt, but not always. I’d really, REALLY welcome the opportunity to easily swap out sizes if the shirt size I ordered won’t work. It’s frustrating to get shirts that are too small and it’s equally frustrating to order a shirt that’s entirely too big.

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