Are Running Catalogs the New Cosmo?

I might need to go cold turkey with these too.

There’s something exciting about finding a running catalogue in the mailbox. These days, my catalogues are the closest I get to reading Cosmo. I gave up all my magazine subscriptions at 20. I had to after I realized they made me feel pale, flabby, non-orgasmic, and boring. Good choice, 20-year-old Pimento! Break up with that dropout boyfriend while you’re at it and stop with the tanning beds! Ahh, hindsight… 

As a full-fledged 36-year-old educated woman, mom, runner, and feminist (rawr), however, I feel like I might need to break up with the running catalogues, too. But in this case, it’s not the flabby feeling they evoke that’s got me down.

On the one hand, I love that the women-runner-focused brands exist. They forward women entrepreneurs, bring attention to women’s issues, highlight and sponsor women athletes, promote healthiness and balance in women’s lives, and inspire women to be active and athletic.

On the other hand, though, after looking through a catalog I am rarely inspired to do more than roll my eyes and feel that the target audience is not me. Why? It’s not because the models are all tan, healthy, lovely women who look like they have nothing better to do on a given day than paddle board or jog alongside a clear mountain stream with a group of like-minded, yoga-practicing BFF’s. I can get over all that.

The prices of the clothes they are wearing, however, I cannot.

It’s not that I can’t afford the $69 size AA sports bra, it’s that the message is that running is for people with unlimited leisure time and money. It’s that they make it yet another destructive competition between women, the winner being she who stays up on the newest trends, colors, and what running celebs are wearing right now! It’s the thought that women runners have nothing better to do than shop and run and then walk around with our “breezy” $80 hoody tied around our wrinkle-free “effortless” dress while sipping a latte. And worst of all it’s that women runners must dress a part or we’re not doing it right.

This isn’t the sport of running that I know … at all. Running is not about worrying about how I look or whether I am wearing the latest style. The beauty of running is that all you need are some shoes, and some tech-fabric shorts, bra, and tank and you’re good to go. And that might even be more than necessary! 

Case in point, adding up the total for the running ensemble in the latest catalogue I got:

$52 tank + $45 bra + $90 shorts + $30 hat + $69 sunglasses + $130 shoes = $416.

Throw in that $80 “breezy” hoodie and the $119 “effortless” dress for the after-run coffee jaunt around town and you’re quickly up to $600 to run and then cover up to get home from your workout. Hell to the No.

An empowered cheapskate in action.

What did I wear on my run today? An outfit, including a hat, sunglasses, shorts, bra, shirt and shoes that cost me a grand total of $123.99. This outfit performed perfectly well: no chaffing issues, my copious amounts of sweat siphoned away from my body, glasses felt comfortable, and I hope that all this running makes my ass look good enough to make up for last season’s color scheme. I’m not saying I don’t own any expensive gear, but come on!? Do people really spend over $400 on every one of their running outfits? More importantly, is that consistent with the spirit of running at all? 

Those glossy ladies magazines, like Cosmo or Glamour, say they’re there to empower us. Maybe they have an empowering article or two in them, but that message is drowned out when they actually make us feel bad about our thigh-circumference or that we’re boring in bed and will never ever land a hot, tan, bodyhairless man.

These catalogs from women’s running brands say they’re all about empowering us to be strong and to normalize the sport for women. Yeah! And while they do this to a certain extent and I could overlook the fact that none of the stuff will look like it does on models as it does on me, the real problem with them is that their empowering message is drowned out when they actually just make us feel like the way we dress ourselves to run matters that much.

I run because it actually empowers me and makes me feel good about myself and anything that interferes with that needs to go the way of my old Cosmo subscription.

How about you? Do you have a love/hate relationship with running catalogs?

I'm an elementary P.E. teacher with a long-term, ongoing marathon addiction.The next big goal? Keeping up my BQ streak while aiming for a 3:10! I write about the not-so-glamorous side of running and fitting in serious training with a family while staying sane(ish).

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  1. I always feel dirty after looking at them, but I never quite pinned it down.But yeah, I HATE when marketers characterize women runners as superficial (running just to get SEXY ABS!) or to be able to wear such cute Lulu ruffles on our asses. At the same time, I’m not sure what the alternative should be. I think that stuff is so overpriced and just not worth paying so much for outside of an occasional splurge or a gift, but then again maybe we performance-focused runners are just too pragmatic for the marketers? I don’t know.

  2. holy crap YES! This is hilarious, because I had ALL of these thoughts last week as I browsed my latest Athleta catalog! I mean, I always pine after the “breezy” hoodies and tiny running skirts, but then I toss it away in disgust knowing that I’ll NEVER look that good or have that much money! Also I have zero scenic beaches upon which to run, nor do I spend my leisure time hanging out on a paddleboard. SIGH.

    1. And the weird yoga clothes with strange drapes and straps and all the runners wear capris with just bras. Capris and BRAS? It’s an oxymoron of outfits!

  3. Great post! I often look at them and think maybe I’ll treat myself… Then I throw them in the trash and throw on a combination of some target and some name brand and something I’m not sure where it came from . The result: I look like I got into a fight with rainbow bright, but I’m comfortable!

    1. Target all the way! Although I hate the removable pad is the bras (and swim suits). I will splurge on good sports bras. But the rest of it all comes from Target.

  4. I laughed so hard over “fight with rainbow bright.” I do spend a lot of money on running clothes, because I have more money than time to do laundry and buy replacements when the old ones wear out, yet I still look like I got in a fight with rainbow bright, because on any given day I choose what to wear based on comfort. I completely agree with the sentiment, Pimento, and love that my college aged son will run in anything he has around, including pajama pants.

  5. i always end up reading the magazines aimed at all sexes, because any of the women-focused magazines and catalogs are STILL so focused on getting in shape to look a certain way, eating to look a certain way, clothes to look a certain way… no, i want to get in shape to get FASTER not to be skinny! I don’t know, the way things are worded in those magazines is so dang frustrating. and yeah, i have to shop at target for my workout clothes bc man i can NOT be spending alllllll my money on rent and workout clothes.

  6. I love this post! I pine away at all of it and then feel sad, assuming that somewhere there is a runner who is spending the money on this and looking so cute. But, alas, it isn’t me and I’m glad I’m not the only one!

  7. It really doesn’t matter what you look like at 5 am on a dark street. No one can see you anyway. So, no, I don’t really care what I look like. It’s all about function. But, I have managed to purchase an amazing running wardrobe that look cute for great prices. In the interest of full disclosure, I do own a Lulu jacket and an Athleta skirt and I don’t regret the purchase.

  8. I used to hate having AA boobies, but now I am grateful that my bras cost me less than $5 at my local consignment store. I don’t need to pay for extra support that I do not need. Score one for the small tatas!