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10 tips for choosing race tees

What are the features of the best (and worst) race tee shirts?
What are the features of the best (and worst) race tee shirts?10 tips for choosing race tees - created by this user with public domain clipart

Runners may pound the pavement to become fit and reach personal exercise goals. We enter races, hoping to motivate ourselves to run faster, record personal best times, and perhaps even earn medals and age-group or overall awards.

At the same time, many of us enjoy collecting commemorative event tee shirts. We tend to wear such tops in subsequent races and all over town, as these tees become veritable badges of honor for repeat racers.

Are race tees bonuses or booby prizes?

Running race tees can be delightful or drab. These logo-sporting garments may be wonderful or altogether unwearable. Seasoned racers know the drill.

How many times have we anted up big bucks to enter fun runs, charity races, full marathons, or triathlons – only to donate the hard-earned tee shirts soon afterwards, simply because we could not (or would not) wear them?

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What are the features of the best (and worst) race tee shirts?

Here’s a basic checklist of commemorative race apparel features, so event planners and participants may evaluate choices.

1. Fabric

The best race tees usually are constructed in today’s high-tech athletic textiles. These lightweight fabrics are comfortable to wear, layer well, and actually wick moisture away from the skin. Traditional jerseys and knits are fine for casual wear, but not nearly as popular for actual runs and workouts as tech gear.

2. Fit

Well-tailored running tees are a blessing. Poorly constructed ones are a drag. How many avid runners eagerly pick up race packets, only to find the event tops are not true to size? For example, a popular national night light run was recently flooded with return requests, when its adult-sized tee shirts turned out to be too small for young kids.

3. Color

Color selection is key, when it comes to race tees. This spring, a Midwest charity run presented participants with pastel-colored tops that proved to be see-through and looked more like underwear or pajamas than actual garments. Plenty of entrants complained about the choice.

4. Style

Race organizers choose to offer tanks, short-sleeve tees, long-sleeve tops, or even warm-up jackets to participants. Design is critical, as some runners may appreciate more coverage than others. A midriff or singlet, for example, may not be universally popular. A more traditional tee top might be.

5. Gender/age designs

Increasingly, running events offer a wide selection of tee shirt sizes for men, women, and kids. These may even be constructed in different styles to suit these divisions.

6. Fashionability

A dowdy race top is unlikely to win rave reviews. Savvy race organizers track current styles from top athletic apparel makers for ideas.

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7. Logo/emblem

Race tops invariably feature their event logos, often accompanied by those of the event sponsors. Frequently, the race date and location are included as well.

Race logo design can add interest and appeal, or it can fall flat. A few weeks ago, a 5K fun run to raise awareness of sexual violence against women featured a rather suggestive woman’s silhouette in its event logo. More than a few participants and spectators suggested the racy graphic may have been too graphic for the cause.

8. Race-specific options

Plenty of running events include kids runs, 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons, or other multiple distance options. Race planners then must consider whether they will offer different tee shirt designs for each event or one for all.

9. Seasonal applicability

Although veteran runners often do not wear same-day event tees, saving them instead for later, a fair amount do don them immediately. For this reason, these garments should be seasonally relevant. A lightweight tank might not work for a Thanksgiving Turkey Trot or Santa Shuffle, when a race jacket or half-zip fleece might be just the ticket.

10. Price/value

Race tees may be tagged as event swag, but runners tend to expect fair value for their entries. Racers appreciate quality garments. Experienced runners are clued in, fully aware that large race organizers and charity run planners generally are able to enjoy significant discounts for their bulk orders. Cheaply made, poorly constructed, flimsy tees may send participants running to other events in the future.

Will race tees make it into the closet or the clothing donation bag?

A month ago, close to 1,000 runners paid $30 apiece for a local running event. The race tees were made of cheap nylon fabric in faint sea foam blue and light pink with crooked side seams. The logo printing on these nearly transparent garments were flawed and positioned unevenly on the front of each shirt. The product labels, representing a well-known sports apparel manufacturer, could be clearly read through the back of each tee. The trim on the v-neck openings in the front of the shirts would not lay flat. Even most fit women runners sported some bra bulge in the back.

Although runners said they were pleased to donate to the worthy cause this event represented, many expressed their disappointment to find they would probably never wear the tees. Onlookers have to wonder how this race tee choices may affect the popularity of next year’s race.

Commemorative race tees become active advertisements, long after runners have crossed the finish lines. Attractive, well-made tops will enjoy multiple wearings (perhaps even at other running events), offering a promotional bonus to those who have provided them. Quality race tees are well worth the investment.