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Would You Wear a Race Shirt For a Race You Didn’t Run? [Am I a Fraud or Just Frugal?]

Posted Mar 22 2013 2:01am




Sitting at the gym, minding everybody’s business but my own, I got into a conversation about a recent road race. I didn’t run it but several of the Gym Buddies did and as everyone knows, one of the best parts of running a race is getting to swagger around in your race jacket (or tee or sweatshirt or medal or beanie or pink diamond necklace or – if you’re a real super star – all of the above) for weeks afterward. Except this day, the Big Day After the Race, oddly no one was sporting their swag. What was going on? Everyone get a case of the humble virus?

Allison explained that it was because her new sweatshirt had been upgraded to her “nice clothing” category and therefore was too good to be sweated upon at the gym. (And really it is a super cute hoodie!) Another Gym Buddy explained that while she loved hers and it was super comfy, the slogan – “Get Lucky” (it was a St. Patrick’s day run, get it?) – felt too risque to wear in public. Especially when she is surrounded by her kids; naifs, yes, but also walking, talking proof of her ability to, ahem, get lucky. (Side note: Anyone remember Lucky Brand jeans in the 90′s with their “Lucky you!” printed on the inside of the fly? I wore those all through college and blushed every time I peed. Needless to say, I was the only person who ever saw it.)

But it was the third response that surprised me. “I didn’t earn it,” she explained succinctly. See, she’d gotten sick the day of the race and that added to the fact that it was -10 degrees F at the starting line and the course was the Ice Capades minus the talent, made her decide to sit this one out.

“But you paid for it!” I exclaimed. And for those of you who’ve never run a race, that swag ain’t cheap. That was basically a $75 sweatshirt. (Also, in case you aren’t familiar with typical race protocol, most races have a “packet pickup” in the days before the race where you get your race bib, timing chip, shirt and other goodies so quite often you never have to cross a finish line to get your “finisher’s” shirt.)

“But I didn’t run it,” she answered. “So I didn’t earn it. I’d feel like a fraud if I wore it. Would you wear a shirt for a race you didn’t run?”

I was about to answer when I looked down and realized what I was wearing, right at that very moment. This:


I run to get strong! Yes!!

It’s my favorite gym sweatshirt. It’s super soft, fits me perfectly, is my favorite color and is high-quality Nike.


And look at that adorbs detailing on the hood! Unfortunately it’s also this:


The finisher’s sweatshirt for the Nike Women’s 2011 Marathon. Which I didn’t run. And I wasn’t even going to run it. Pretty sure I wasn’t even in the same state where it was held. Yep. I snapped this beauty up at a thrift store in 2012, brand new and still with the sizing sticker on it! And while I’ll admit to some initial angst about wearing it – I considered putting duct tape over the words on the front or adding “non” in front of “finisher” with a Sharpie – I just loved it so much I even wore it in a photo shoot! (Which is what these pics were from – It was the self-defense piece with Sensei Don, Gym Buddy Megan and my adorable Intern Brittney. Obviously I am the bad example of what not to do. Story of my life.) Plus, I have run a marathon distance so it’s not like I’m faking the athletic part. Right? Maybe?

“Why, yes. Yes, I would,” I answered. It’s just SO PRETTY!!

“But what do you say when someone asks you about the race?” she asked.

I was momentarily stymied. I honestly don’t think anyone has ever seen me wearing one of my race jackets (of which I have many and I will say that all the rest of them I did actually run the race for) and asked me about the race. A few times I’ve had people comment something like “Oh I ran that race! It was awesome!” More often it’s along the lines of “You run? I keep thinking I should start running…” But I’m pretty sure I’ve never had anyone ask me what the race was like, if I liked it or what my bib number was so they could check online to see if I finished.

“Well I’d certainly be honest and tell them I didn’t run it and just bought the jacket second hand,” I said finally, wondering why I’ve never actually had to do so. It got me thinking. I imagine that when people see me wearing it at the grocery store (I wear my sweaty workout clothes everywhere because of course I do) that they assume I ran the Nike Women’s Marathon. Either that or I imagine they’re not as into reading my clothing as I am and don’t give me a second thought. I would never intentionally lie to someone, especially about something that’s so easily verified online (amiright Paul Ryan?) And yet, just wearing the shirt is kind of a lie, yes?

So is it fraudulent to wear a race shirt you didn’t run? What about if you bought the race entry, paid for the shirt and then got sick or stuck in traffic or whatever and couldn’t run it? Would you ever pick up a race shirt second hand like me? What do people say to you when you wear your race swag (if anything)? And – be honest – should I stop wearing my sweatshirt?

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