Race Shirts: Should Races Make You Earn Them?


My friend and running coach, Jake Gillette asked this question on Twitter earlier this week:  

The question of race shirt etiquette has a,ways been a little bit of a hot topic among runners.  Take for instance, the coveted Boston Marathon Jacket. 

  Hey look, it’s me with Bart Yasso at the Indinapolis Monumental Marathon on the 2015 Boston jacket. 
People have long debated on if you should wear the Boston a Jacket before you actually complete that years Boston Marathon.  I take the side that you should not.  Finish the race to earn the jacket.  What if you don’t finish?  I don’t think personally I could ever wear the jacket.  Same goes for race shirts.  I don’t wear a shirt unless I actually run and finish a race.  

So should races hold off on handing shirts out until you cross the finish line?  Let’s look at the pros and cons.


  • As stated earlier, you have earned it.  Who wants to wear a race shirt of a race that they did not actually finish or run? It’s kind of like a false advertisement. 
  • Maybe there will be some leftover shirts for those who registered past the shirt cut off?


  • As a race director, I could see this as a hassle. Like I mentioned earlier, ensuring those who registering on time for a shirt get first priorities would be hard to do.  Also then you have everyone, all at once, coming to get their shirt rather than before the race when the wave of people is a little more spread out. Plus after a race, the race director wants to move on to awards and get people going home. In the words of  Semisonic: “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.”
  • People did pay the money to be given a shirt. 
  • Any advertisement for your race (false or not) is good advertisement.  Who cares if you ran or finished? You are helping that race organizers get the message out for next years race.

So what are your thoughts? Have you ever been to a race where you had to wait to get your shirt until after you finished?  I haven’t seen too many races do it and it has been years since I have? Would you get mad at a race that did it? 


2 thoughts on “Race Shirts: Should Races Make You Earn Them?

  1. Personally, I would wear the shirt regardless. In my mind, the shirt is part of the registration fee; I paid for it, and I’m wearing it even if I have to DNF. Obviously it’s a bit different if it actually says “finisher” on it, in which case, I’m not sure. Medals are for finishers, t-shirts are for participants.


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