I hate technical race shirts. No, that’s too weak. I REALLY hate technical race shirts. I don’t know when the shift happened, but it’s a dumb idea. Some race probably offered technical shirts as a “value added” to attract more runners. Then, NIKE took it to the extreme when they put the BIB numbers on the event shirt for the Run Hit Wonder series so that you HAD to wear the shirt. That may explain why it was the One Run Wonder series. Dumb.

When I started doing races, nearly 20 years ago now, you got a nice cotton t-shirt for doing the event. Most were short-sleeved. Some were long-sleeved and they all looked like sponsor stew on the back. You had everyone from big name sponsors to Ed’s Body Shop on the back. But they were NEAT shirts. The first one I got I wore out by – well – by wearing the darn thing OUT. I wore it to the mall. I wore it to parties. I wore it to OTHER runs. I was PROUD to wear the shirt.

As I did more events – and as I did what I considered IMPRESSIVE events – I really, REALLY liked the cotton shirts. I did the Muncie Endurathon Half Ironman one year and got an UGLY long sleeved t-shirt that I wore until it had holes in it. And the Marine Corps Marathon “Finishers” long sleeve mock turtlenecks? Are you KIDDING me? A FINISHERS shirt. I always wore the oldest shirt I had to pick up my bib for the current year. It was an act of pure – well – bragging.

If you think that there’s some advantage to the technical t-shirts I can tell you as a former race owner there’s not. These days you can get a technical t-shirt for about the same price as we used to pay for cotton t-shirts. But who CARES? When races cost $100 are you honestly thinking “well at least I got a $40 technical shirt?” Guess what. That shirt – if it wasn’t free as a part of a sponsorship deal – probably cost the race organizer about $5 WITH the screening.

Be honest. No one wears a technical shirt except when they’re exercising. Maybe if you’re trying to impress the folks at the gym you’ll wear it to your kick-boxing or spin class. But, come one, the truth is once you’ve worn the event technical shirt a couple of times you go back to wearing the technical stuff that you bought because a] it fits you better and b] it goes with the rest of your running gear.

So I want to start a movement to BRING BACK COTTON EVENT SHIRTS. We can do it folks. We can. Let’s put pressure on the event organizers to give us something we can actually wear. After all, you can’t keep wearing your marathon medal forever!!!

Waddle on, friends.


John “the Penguin” Bingham, Competitor Magazine columnist
Author, The Courage to Start, No Need for Speed, Marathoning for Mortals and Running for Mortals.


Have a question for John? E-mail it to thepenguin@johnbingham.com.