Walking Event T-Shirt Etiquette Rules

Race T-shirts
Race T-shirts. Wendy Bumgardner ©

You get a t-shirt for registering for a walk. Are you supposed to wear it on the walk or not? It depends on whether it is a charity event or if it's a walker-friendly running event. The traditions are different. You may find runners rolling their eyes at you for wearing the wrong t-shirt and breaking their unwritten rules. But if you don't wear it to a charity walk, you may be the only one "out of uniform."

Charity Walks/Runs

  • Wear Shirts to Publicize the Charity: Many charity walks encourage the walkers to wear the event t-shirt during the walk to publicize the cause. With lots of walkers and runners wearing the same t-shirt, onlookers take notice. You earned the shirt with your donation and registration fee, whether you set foot on the walking route or not. As you post selfies, the shirt gets seen by your friends and family and the charity may garner more support.
  • What If the Shirt is Cotton? I recommend avoiding cotton shirts for fitness walking as they don't wick away sweat. But many charity walks give participants cotton t-shirts as they are less expensive. If the charity walk is short enough, just wear it and don't worry. If it is warmer weather or of a long distance, you should wear a shirt of technical fabric that will wick sweat. Then put the cotton event shirt on at the end to take photos. You may also want to wear a technical fabric t-shirt as a base layer and wear the cotton shirt over it.
  • What About "Nothing New on Race Day?" You should only wear items for long distance walks that you have worn in training. That new event shirt probably won't cause you much irritation for a short charity walk. But if your charity walk is a longer distance, you should wear a shirt you have worn in training and just put on the new shirt for finish photos.
  • Wash Before You Wear When Possible: If the charity walk hands out the t-shirts at the expo the day before the event, launder it before you wear it. That will remove dust and other potential irritants.

Race T-Shirts at Walker-Friendly Runs

Runners have a different set of etiquette rules for wearing the race t-shirts. If you've registered for a race that allows walkers, you should be aware of the different traditions they follow. One runners' forum had a complete set of rules about when it was cool or gauche to wear race shirts.

  • Don't wear the race shirt for the current race during the actual race -- it's considered bad luck. Plus, you are violating the "nothing new on race day" rule and may discover it isn't the best racing gear.
  • Do wear a race shirt from a past year of the race, both while traveling to the race and during the race. You will draw conversation and support from others on the way to the race. During the race everyone will know you have what it takes to finish.
  • Do wear your race shirt to work the next workday after the race.
  • Don't wear shirts for events you didn't personally race, unless you are the long-suffering spouse, partner or progeny of the finisher.  It's awesome to have little Jill say, "My grandma earned this marathon shirt!"
  • Do wear a race shirt you earned as volunteer. All volunteers are heroes, too. Some suffer more standing out in the rain or heat than the actual racers!
  • Do wear your race shirt when traveling, to take awesome selfies in front of exotic destinations and send to the race organizers to post on their web sites and social media.

Follow the Crowd

The best way to prevent a fashion faux pas is to ask the organizers via their social media or email links. Ask whether they encourage the participants to wear the shirt during the walk. Look at photos from past races to see what people were wearing. You may discover that you want to wear sparkles and bling or a race costume.

What Do You Do With Old Race T-Shirts?

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