Saturday, July 4, 2009

Can a bad tee spoil a good race?

I've run 19 races in the last nine months, and consequently, have been handed 19 "free" T-shirts on packet pickup days.

Unfortunately, I can count on one hand the ones that I actually wear.

This morning, when I checked in for the 10K at the Lenexa Freedom Run in Lenexa, Kan., I was discouraged to receive yet another ill-fitting white tee made of cheap cotton.

Shirt size has always been a problem for me. I'm a small guy, a little over 5-7 and barely 145 pounds. So I used to always request small shirts. But after getting like three small race tees that were so small the collar snapped, crackled and almost popped as I tried to get my big head through it ... I started asking for mediums. Didn't solve the problem: I put on more than one medium that drew a "Do you need some heels to go with that dress?"-type response from my wife.

A poor fit is particularly disappointing when the shirt is made of a coveted "technical" material (although after getting a small Dri-Fit tee at Tri-Latta in June that was so tight it made me look like I was about to go clubbing, I e-mailed Run For Your Life and they set up an exchange).

And could we get a little more color up in here? I know white is cheap from an economic standpoint, but it's also cheap (and tends to be cheap-looking) from virtually every other standpoint. White and technical? OK. But from where I'm sitting, if it's gotta be cotton, it's gotta be blue. Or green. Or red. Heck, make it taupe. Still better than white.

By the way, ladies -- I can't even imagine how y'all feel about the T-shirt situation. When's the last time you got a race tee that was cut specifically with a woman's figure in mind? (Fortunately, if you're running RFYL's 4-Miler on Saturday, you're in luck. Click here and go to the T-shirt question/answer to find out why.)

Hey, I know the world's not perfect. I understand that in the grand scheme of things, yet another ill-fitting white tee made of cheap cotton isn't worth getting too worked up about. But unless you earn a medal or a trophy, a race shirt is the one memento that lets you announce to the world, "I ran a race, and it was This One."

Have you had tee issues, too? What do you do with ones that don't fit or that are too cheap or boring for you? Would you pay a little more if you knew you were getting a better-quality garment? Would you prefer some other type of race bag swag? Or would you rather have race directors skip the shirt altogether, and lower the registration fee?


Anonymous said...

Man, you love talking about the t-shirts. My question is, are you willing to pay more for the race in order to get a better t-shirt? Are the majority of people willing to do so? I'm no experts, but I imagine staging a race isn't cheap, with cops, timing equipment, planning, post race festivities, etc, all in the cards. And most if not all races are trying to also raise money for charity.

Why are you asking race organizers to take more money out of preperations, or charity, so you can have a better shirt?

Anonymous said...

it doesnt spoil the race. i would rather pay $5.00 less to enter the race and not recieve the shirt! i have donated almost all mine to the good will or wear them to the gym...
i do like the races that offer the discount if you dont want a shirt.. few and far in between!!
i would rather recieve a medal or something then another t-shirt!

kate said...

I love my race shirts, but I sympathize with you about getting the right size. Especially when the race offers shirts in a womens cut. I'm generally a medium, but often in a womens cut shirt a medium is tighter than I like for running (but large looks ridiculous)!

It would be great if all races offered the option to pay more to get a shirt (or hat, or socks, or whatever). And hopefully this would prompt them to post a picture of the shirt on their website - it would be nice to have a preview!

I would also be really happy to get a big coupon for running shoes (like 25% off) instead of a shirt!

Anonymous said...

OK, I'm a chick and I love the T-shirts. I used to work out in them until I started wearing the technical stuff. Now, if I don't wear them out on errands, I sleep in them. I don't do races on a regular basis, so I would pay a couple extra dollars for a colored one, sure. It's a nice reminder of what I accomplished, even if it was just 5k.

Grace said...

I've never worn a race t-shirt in public. I'd much rather have a lower entry fee; even a towel or wristband would be better.

Jason said...

I wouldn't mind paying a little more (like $5) for a better Tee. I do like the idea of a 25% savings on shoes though.

Anonymous said...

I sympathize as I am between a M and L. Back when I ran a lot of races here and my brother was running a lot of them in Delaware, I would send him the ones that were too small and he'd send me the ones that were too large. My suggestion is to talk to your running group and do your own exchanges.

Anonymous said...

Agree, the t's suck, but I'm sure the people shopping at Goodwill aren't as picky and would love them. I've also heard of people making quilts out of them using the logos.

I'd like to see more socks, hats or tech gear given out instead. I think these give-aways are usually donated as your race fee doesn't cover them at all. If you get something that you're excited about, I suggest you contact the race sponsor and let them know about it. If they get enough positive responses maybe they'll continue the trend!

Anonymous said...

I expect the t-shirts to be bad so it doesn't ruin the race. Disorganization, lack of water, poorly marked course, etc. ruin a race! And don't you dare mess up my time!

Anonymous said...

I am a small female, so most of the race t-shirts are too large for me. I still wear them around the house and to walk the dog, etc. but wouldn't put one on if I want to look nice. I also get some in larger sizes to give to my husband to wear.

I wish more races offered lower entry fee and not get the shirt. I don't think I would pay extra for a nicer shirt.

I wouldn't say a bad t-shirt ruins a race. The only thing that can really ruin a race for me is if the course is obviously not marked right or is not the right distance.

Anonymous said...

A bad t-shirt won't turn me off to the race, but it makes it can make me question about the organizer and what they think of the event. After running raced for over 20 years, I have seen more than my share of VERY badly designed running event logos on shirts. How tough would it be to have a t-shirt contest to design a better looking t-shirt? I ran the Charlotte Observer marathon in the 1980's and they gave out a towel instead of a t-shirt. It was such a cheap towel, that it faded and almost fell apart after a few washes. Guess you can't please everyone.

Anonymous said...

There is a performance apparel company in Concord, NC called Sport Science that does event shirts. I saw some of their shirts out at 24 Hrs of Booty and at a few other road races (they have yellow labels on the left sleeves). They also manufacture them locally in the Carolinas. They feel soft like cotton, but are technical polyester. These are some of the best I have seen or received.