Wearing Race Gear During the Race: One Runner’s Opinion

I’ve worn the race gear during a race twice. In both cases, the weather was a lot colder than anticipated and I would have done anything to stay warm, including throwing the race shirt on over my singlet and adding the race buff to my non-race buff. Gasp.

Whether a runner chooses to break this unwritten rule (don’t wear the shirt until you finish the race) is up to that runner and literally has no effect on me, my running, or my life. But I’ll write about why I’m not a fan, anyway.

Bad Luck

I’m not superstitious, but I am a little-stitious. I cringe when I see people wearing race gear (notably, a Boston Marathon jacket before Marathon Monday) before the race. I see race gear as something you wear after you’ve crossed the finish line, and if you wear it before, you’re jeopardizing your race. But again, I’m a little stitious.


Okay, I’m sure this makes me come off as elitist. Sorry. But when you wear a race shirt before or during the race, you are screaming, “I AM A NEW RUNNER!” Not that being a new runner is bad. In fact, it’s a very good thing for our sport (and for you!). But it definitely makes you stand out to the more seasoned crowd. Again, this has literally no effect on me and my running. You do you.

Potentially Misleading

But what if you were supposed to run and didn’t (maybe you were sick, injured, or had a family crisis)? Personally, I don’t wear the race gear if I didn’t run it. I couldn’t start the BAA Half Marathon in 2012 due to an injury. I gave the shirt to my sister who didn’t care what running gear she wore. But I didn’t run the race, so I didn’t feel right wearing it.

On the flip side, pregnant me wore the 2012 New York City Marathon shirt because it fit over my growing bump (this was the year before they started making women’s shirts for women). I thought this was okay because nobody ran that race. I wasn’t misleading anybody.


As for volunteering or other weird situations: I have one friend who has a Boston Marathon media jacket. She wore it while she was pregnant because it was the only running jacket that would close. But she was very self-conscious about it. “I didn’t run this race! And it looks like the official jacket!” To which elitist me said, “But you worked the race. And that’s a media jacket. Wear it.”

If you volunteer, first, thank you. Second, there’s a good chance you get a volunteer-specific shirt. If not, I can’t say I’d mind you sporting the race gear. You may not have run, but you certainly helped make that race happen.

Or maybe I’m just getting soft.

Do you ever wear your race shirt before the race? Why or why not?

Runner's World editor by day, mom by night (and day, let's be honest). Sub-20 5K, seven-time marathoner, track-workout lover. Always in search of a great burger.

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  1. You better believe I wore my Boston celebration jacket all around starting a couple weeks before the race and then every day in Boston. It was a major effort for me to qualify and I felt it was something to celebrate. That said, I realized I was being tacky and I achnowledge that all those runners wearing jackets from past years are by default cooler. In conclusion, Life is short. Eat dessert first. Wear your race gear if you want.

  2. I rarely wear the shirts before OR after, but the only reason I worry about people wearing them on race day is the nothing-new-on-race-day rule…odds are it’s going to chafe!

  3. To each his own… but I never do it because I believe it’s kind of like wearing the t-shirt of the band you’re going to see. 😉

  4. I think for me it’s also a bit of superstition. I don’t wear them before the race, though like you mentioned about wearing during once for warmth…I have done that before.

  5. I would rather wear my own gear that I trained in and know the chafe patterns 🙂 Plus it’s tough to pick myself out of a crowd in photos when a bunch of people are wearing the same thing.

    Truly though, I am also superstitious about wearing a shirt before I’ve finished a race. I actually won’t buy anything race-specific at the race expo either.