As awesome as a well-organized run event can be, there’s one little thing that bums me out almost every time. I’ll give you one guess.
No I won’t. It’s the damn t-shirt.
A couple weeks ago, Mike and I ran in an event that was new to the area. We steeled ourselves to be patient. By which I mean we did our normal bitching and moaning getting up and ready, and then sank into silence on the ride to the park, lost in our respective head games until we got to the starting line.
Usually, new events take a couple of years to shake out the kinks. Kinks come with the territory, considering the complexity of organizing a 13.1-mile event that sprawls over congested city streets and public pathways where clever adolescents like to rearrange mile markers and directional signs.
Then there’s the starting line chaos caused by people who zoom into the parking lot minutes before the start (ahem), and complain about long lines for the bathrooms (er … ahem again). After it’s all over, there’s chaos again with sweaty people jostling for a stale half bagel or cold baked potato, squinting to find their names printed on results sheets stapled to bulletin boards.
This recent event was surprisingly kink-free. The course was well marked, there were people carrying signs as run pacers – something I don’t ever remember seeing in a small event. Bathrooms along the course were plentiful, as were volunteers handing out water and sports drinks and snacks at aid stations every mile and a half. The food afterward was elaborate by race standards: barbecued pulled pork or chicken sandwiches and potato salad.
This was a franchise thing. Multi-city. These people had their program down. ‘Cept for the shirt.
For this event there were shirts with nice looking logos on technical fabric. We tried them on at home. It made Mike look like Iron Man.
I looked rather like a box turtle.
So the dang thing went right in the t-shirt drawer with all the other running shirts I never wear. Fail.
Had the thing been made even remotely to fit someone of my shape, I would have worn the crap out of it all over town. I would have been asked about the run and I would have talked it up all year long. I’m an influencer. I get around.
… And by “get around,” I mean I have to go to the grocery store almost every day.
But, seriously, race organizers, what is the point of handing out a t-shirt that will never be worn by more than half your participants? And by “more than half” I actually mean the sixty-freaking percent of all half-marathon finishers last year who were women?
I didn’t make that up, people. That’s a Running USA statistic. And the number is growing every year in size and in relation to the total number of people overall.
I’ve worked pretty hard to be able to regularly finish events of this length, and I’ve done it now more than a couple dozen times. I have a handful of race shirts in which I look far more like a grown ass woman who runs than a box turtle, and, guess what? I wear them. And then people ask about the event and I tell them.
That’s good for the event, as well as the sponsors whose logos take up valuable real estate all over my back.
I’ve organized runs before. I know the number of variables race organizers have to contend with. It’s no picnic. And runners are grouchy SOBs almost all the time, insanely hard to please. And whatever you’re doing, it’s usually in their way.
Regardless, here’s my call to race organizers: If you’re going to offer shirts, I want one made for a woman.
“But there’s a price point difference between men’s shirts and women’s,” you say. No, honey, there is not. In five seconds on the internet I found seven different suppliers offering up an infinite number and styles of t-shirts in cotton or technical fabric that were exactly the same price point in men’s and women’s styles. Learn to shop.
“But it’s a big pain in the tuckus to have an extra three sizes of shirt to sort through and hand out at packet pickup,” you say. Fine. How about cutting down on all the other swag in favor of putting a shirt out there that people want to wear? Race posters? Stickers? Logo socks? Envelopes full of coupons and brochures? Get rid of the crap. Streamline things so you can have the bandwidth to offer up a shirt I don’t have to give my kid or shove in a drawer, pretending I’ll use it some day as a pajama shirt.
“But some of our women runners like wearing shirts that make them look like box turtles,” you say. Fine. Have them check the box next to the men’s size (otherwise known as unisex) of their choice.
Speaking of which, I’d like to give a piece of my mind to the guy who came up with the euphemistic term “unisex,” for t-shirt sizing on race forms. The things aren’t unisex, mister. Whether they’re fitted, technical fabric, or big, boxy Haines Beefy-Tees, the shirts are most definitely designed for men.
“But we’re just a small run, we can’t accommodate all your special needs.” Oh shut up. Out of the seven race shirts I have that were made to fit me, two were from teensy runs. The kinds of runs in which someone of my running ability may very well find herself coming in dead last and still win an award for her age group. You know what? I’ll run them again and next time I’ll bring friends.
The sport of running is changing, as are the people who participate. The number of women who run in events is exploding. Your sponsors know this, race organizers. They’re accommodating women in their retail stores. Their customers know that they don’t have to settle for looking like a box turtle when shopping for running gear.
For your next run, your sponsors would probably appreciate their logo on a shirt that actually gets worn, and therefore seen, don’tcha think? I know I would.
End of gripe session. Your vote is mucho appreciated.