The Great Race Shirt Debate!

Disclaimer: We want to preface this post by saying that this is just for fun. You may or may not agree with the opinions we have posted and we are not saying any of them or right or wrong.


My sister and I were in discussion the other day about Race Shirts and what we’ve heard other people say about wearing them to races.

In any organized race (many of them anyway or at least all the ones that we’ve participated in) you get a race shirt. Sometimes is a cotton t-shirt, sometimes it’s long sleeved, and when we’re lucky, it’s a tech performance shirt!
Everybody has their opinion on whether or not this “race shirt” should be worn the day of the race and in some of the online running groups we frequent people have even asked what the protocol is on that.

Here are some opinions that we’ve heard online and from other runners we know in person.

You can tell who the newbie runners are because they are the ones that are wearing that day’s race shirt.

Don’t wear the shirt until you’ve completed the race.

The shirt is for finishers, you didn’t finish yet, therefore you shouldn’t wear the shirt. ( similar to the above comment I know)

With that being said, there are also plenty of people who think it is okay to wear the t-shirt on race day.

Personally, we feel people should wear whatever they feel comfortable in.  With that being said, Yes, we are those people that have worn the given race shirt on race day!  And it wasn’t just when we were “new” runners.

Just for fun, here are some of our opinions

We agree that if the shirt actually says “finisher” on it, then maybe you should wait till you finish the race to wear it, but keep in mind that if you are picking up your race shirt at packet pick up, you have been given the shirt for “registering” not “finishing”.  The medals are for finishing.

Most races are themed, and are for some type of charity or organization. When we wear our given race shirt on race day, we feel that we are doing it in support of the race, the charity, the organization, and the sponsors on the back of the shirt.  Plus it’s nice to look “uniform” with each other and what a great picture op, wearing the race shirt during that particular race.

If we don’t wear the race shirt during the race, we have very little opportunity to wear it again. We don’t go to the store, the bank, or to work in our race shirts. We rarely work out or do training runs in T-shirts either. We prefer tanks.

If we are given a cotton t-shirt for our race shirt, then we will probably not wear it since it is not moisture wicking.  However, we have always worn the cotton t-shirts that we were given for the Disney 5K races.  Our reasoning is that  1)it is only a 5K and at Disney it’s not like we are speeding for time 2) as adults, where else are we going to wear a t-shirt with Disney characters on it?

If we are given a tech shirt then yea, we may wear it to that race.  But of course there are always exceptions. Sometimes it’s just more comfortable to run in a tank.  I doubt you will be seeing us at Rock N Roll VA Beach next month in our tech shirts ( because it will be so hot) and we probably won’t be wearing the race shirts at Disney either for the Glass Slipper Challenge next year.  But the wonderful thing about not wearing the shirt on race day is that you can wear it later on in the day ( to the parks, the beach, around town, etc) and proudly show off your accomplishment!

So there you have it. Moral of the story is ( in our humble opinion) it’s okay to wear the race shirt if you want to. We’ve done it!

Now all in good fun, what’s your opinion on wearing or not wearing the race shirt on race day?



  1. I completely agree. I have a post about this as well that I wrote a few months ago. I'm not sure why this noob idea started, but they give you the shirts (especially charity events) so that you WILL wear them. I don't normally b/c I prefer tanks when I run, but I think it's silly to judge people for wearing them. It's NOT A FINISHER tshirt. It's NOT A MEDAL. Doesn't jinx you, doesn't matter if you break your leg and don't finish. It's just a freakin' shirt! LOL (I'll jump off my soapbox now!) ;)

    1. Hey Karen, I'd be interested in reading your post. Seems we have some opinions in common! I'll come over to your blog and see if I can find it! Thanks for reading!

  2. I totally agree with y'all. If I want to wear the race shirt, I will! Nobody should ever have to feel judged while doing something they love and something that helps them stay healthy. It's just RUDE to think less of someone if they wear the race shirt!

  3. There's no law against it, and people can wear whatever they want, but I don't do it because I haven't trained in that shirt. I do wear tech race shirts when I'm at the gym, but not during races. I have no idea if/where the new shirt is going to chafe, and I've already chosen an outfit for the race. I prefer UA shirts when I run, and so far, no race tech tee I've gotten is UA. It's been Champion or Nike.

  4. I like to save my race shirt and wear it on my travel day because I won't be able to wear my medal through the airport security.

    I used to have a strong opinion on this (and a couple of other hot button issues) but now I just say to each his own! Who am I to judge? I will admit I'm still baffled at people who wear cotton for anything over 5k, but whatever works for them, right?

  5. You know, I agree and I don't do it, but when I ran the Charleston Marathon, which gave out a VERY nice tech shirt, I saw tons of people wearing the race shirt that day! If the race is a 5K or benefits a charity, you will see a lot of people wearing the shirt that day. Sometimes it's the first race and they feel like they have to, and other times they just want to wear it to show support. But training for a marathon or half marathon, we're always taught to have our clothes picked out and tested a couple weeks in advance... so I was surprised to see so many people running 13.1 or 26.2 when wearing the race shirt.

    I won't even try on the shirt until I'm done with the race. I am so superstitious! I wore my Charleston Marathon shirt the night before and ate dinner in it and I think it cursed me!

    Amy Lauren

  6. i've been running and racing for over 20 years...the only time I wear the race shirt during a race is if it's for a specific charity...the old school thinking was you shouldn't wear the shirt if you didn't complete the race...yes, you get the shirt for registering, but did you register just to get a new shirt?? I have several shirts that to this day have never been worn because I didn't run the race {I know it's weird, but so be it! :)}

    and to address the " you never wear the shirt after the race" issue...I sure as heck do! I an wearing on e right now and wear them all the time..I wear them proudly and smile every time I'm out and someone comments "oh, wow! you're a runner"...and "you did that cool was it"?? I LOVE that!!

    So, wear your shirts after the race and be proud of your achievement...{it's not quite as cocky as walking around with a medal around your neck!!}


    1. What? I'm always sportin one of my medals LOL j/k I agree, I wear my race shirts too, especially the tech T's.

  7. Also agree. Here in South Africa there is a very naerow divide between the charity or NGO and sponsors. Noone really cares whether uou wear the shirt during the race or not. What is bad runners etiquette is if you register, collect your goodie bag, don't run the race but wear the shirt. Yuck. As bad as runner's who spit to show off.

  8. I just have to say that I totally, totally, totally appreciated a few 1/2 marathoners who wore their tech race shirts during the race and I'll tell you why. The course was mapped out on the back of the shirt; it was my first race and what kept me going was being behind that shirt, knowing exactly where I was and how much further till I finished. A year later and I may not need that map, but I really appreciated it for my 1st!

  9. Gotta earn the shirt! Plus, I wear my club running tank when I race. Cotton shirts are for sleeping; tech shirts are for weekly runs.

  10. Wow,
    Great to see so many opinions and reasons for them. Nicely put all. Thanks for your responses!

  11. I had to explain to my mother who wanted to buy a Brooklyn 1/2 marathon shirt for herself that you don't buy and wear a shirt for a race if you don't actually register for let alone run the race. My statement was met with blank stares and confusion. But I do enjoy wearing my marathon shirt food shopping, as if to say, "Yeah, that's right, I did a MARATHON. I earned walking around in yoga pants and elastic waistbands and that's why I'm buying 6 boxes of cookies."