Right or wrong? It’s OK to wear a race shirt you didn’t earn.

The Race to Wrigley 5K is on April 24. I worked out in the race shirt on April 20.

I’m hurt. I’ve been hurt since December, and before that it was for more than a year.

When I signed up for this year’s 5th annual Race to Wrigley 5K, I didn’t know I was hurt. And since I’ve been diagnosed with two stress fractures, I forgot that I had signed up for the race.

Until, that is, I received my packet in the mail on Monday.

Inside the stuffed manila envelope was my bib (No. 740) and my medium-sized performance “Race to Wrigley” race shirt.

I frowned for a couple of minutes. I even tweeted about it:

  1. Kirsten Miller
    fmyinjury http://twitpic.com/1gydjo – Just when this hurt #runner forgot she had signed up for the Race to Wrigley, she got her packet in the mail. Bo

Then I put the damn thing on. I wore it to bed. And when I woke up the next morning, I wore it to the gym to work out in.

Maybe I shouldn’t have.

You see, there’s this unwritten rule among runners that you shouldn’t wear a race shirt you didn’t earn.

A completerunning.com blog post on “Race Shirt Etiquette” by a runner named Ian sums the sentiment up quite nicely:

“A race shirt is not a gift that you’re given, it’s an honor that you earn by finishing the race. The idea of a race giving away finisher’s shirts to nonparticipants is akin to the golf pro at your local course handing you a scorecard, a pencil and an air horn before directing you to the first tee box.”

On an ultra-running blog, Back of the Pack, a blogger answers questions in one post Dear Abby-style under the guise of “Mr. Know-it-All.” One of those questions deals with race shirt etiquette. A runner wanted to know if his friend was correct on insisting he writes, “DNF” (did not finish), on his shirt if he didn’t finish the race. The know-it-all had this to say:

“Since the shirt came in a swag bag, which you get for entering and showing up, you are entitled to wear it. It’s just a promotional shirt. You don’t have to finish to get one. I’ve bought such shirts for pacers, crew, and friends who wanted to come to races but couldn’t. Wear the shirt, and let it remind of you of the fun parts of the race which you enjoyed. And let it encourage you to come back and finish the race. And let it advertise the race to other people.”

Sounds good to me! My shirt could definitely be viewed as promotional swag.

But even if it weren’t, I’ve had a change of heart on this issue. I think hobbling around in a walking cast for months, doing physical therapy and keeping up my intense workout routine has definitely earned me the privilege of wearing a race shirt for a race I couldn’t do, let alone finish.

But I promise not to lie and respond in the affimative to questions of, “Hey, did you run the Race to Wrigley?”

Instead I’ll use it as an opportunity to talk about sports injuries and prevention.

What do you think? Am I wrong? Tell me in the comments; let’s discuss.


Filed under Injuries, Race shirts, Race to Wrigley, Races, Stress fracture

11 responses to “Right or wrong? It’s OK to wear a race shirt you didn’t earn.

  1. I go both ways on this one (haha). For the most part, I do NOT think it is a big deal at all…especially since you are a runner and athelte and have done countless races…so I say, NO BIGGIE. I guess it would make me a little nuts if someone who never has run 1 mile or 1/2 mile wore the shirt. I don’t know why..? Hmmm….anyway, good thinking! HOPE YOUR FOOT/feet heal fast! :(

  2. kris

    Um. how many people are wearing BlackHawks jerseys? do they actually play pro hockey? Do you like it and does it make you feel good? As long as the conversation goes, “great event, great cause… didn’t make this one, hoping for next year..” and you’re rocking it…that makes you a fan and supporter. I have a tshirt with french writing, doesn’t make me French, or remotely fluent! lol. My Cubs shirt doesn’t mean I can throw. (But if you just feel awful when you put it on.. pass it on, donate it. someone will appreciate it). Do what feels right.

  3. Kristel

    I say wear it! It’s out of good intentions. Besides, the race orangizers would be thrilled to have you advertising about it.

    I’m only picky about the ones that say “finisher” on them, simply because I have one and I had to run the 26 miles to get the damn thing so when I wear it, it comes along with a lot of hoopla.

    • I can get on board with that… and I imagine I’ll feel the same WHEN i do the Chicago Marathon on 10-10-10. (If I believe I will be well, then it will be.)

      I hope you’ll be in town then to help me with the hoopla!

  4. If it comes in yours swag bag, wear it.

    I plan on proudly wearing my Soldier Field 10-mile shirt even though I can’t toe the line. Same goes for the North Shore Half-marathon.

    • I will wear mine too!!!
      And you know what I signed up for today, instead of being sad about not being able to do either of those races either? Bike the Drive (30 miles; the day after #SF10) and Tour de Cure (61 miles; the day of the half).

  5. Tal

    Considering most of the time races support a good cause, I think you can wear the shirt. I’ve signed up for races as a donation to a cause even when I couldn’t run it, and worn the shirt in proud support of the event.

  6. I agree. It’s not a big deal. Longer races usually have “finisher” shirts. You only get them when you cross the finish line. Also, it’s just a 5K. Maybe that’s snobby to say, I don’t intend it that way. But it’s not like you are wearing a marathon shirt or… say an ultra-marathon like the Western States 100….