“Does she know her butt is hanging out?” I thought to myself as I began the first mile of my first race. The girl in front of me was wearing spandex shorts that didn’t quite cover her cheeks when she began running. I didn’t grow up in any part of the running world so I wore a racing outfit similar to what I trained in, except I made sure the tank top and shorts matched. I didn’t really care what that girl or anyone else was wearing (or not wearing) but it did strike me as a bit strange. There were several people that didn’t mind the “bun bounce.”
For the next 25 miles my mind moved on to other things that day, but marathon after marathon I started experimenting with different kinds of bottoms and tops. Eventually I left the shirt at home (or in the starting corral). The shirt was only convenient for pinning on a bib, but as long as your number shows and you don’t bend the timing tag I learned you could get away with just wearing the average sports bra. Even at 50 degrees I realized it was much more comfortable without and I was only cold for the first few minutes. Shirts also get heavy when you dump water on them, or sweat so much.
Back to the bottoms, I decided to try those tight “booty” shorts after all. I was racing much more often with shorter races and I wanted to find out if they were that much better. I liked not having a swish or getting chafed by lining. It also made me feel faster and smoother on the course. Now I understood. But I couldn’t find the right size to keep them from riding up past my belly button. It gave me a double wedgie (front and back). It seemed like my waist was one size smaller than my butt and legs. I thought about the racing briefs, but I figured they were only for elites and that I wasn’t fast enough to pull them off. It sounds silly, I know, but a lot of people think that way. Maybe it was also the fact that you couldn’t really find them anywhere to purchase.
Then I found a brand online that offered the racing briefs or “runderwear” and bought a pair. I decided for my next marathon I would try them out. I went for a training run with them under a pair of unlined baggy shorts and they seemed to end up with the same coverage as the booty shorts that always rode up anyway, so I was ready to try racing in them.
Within the first few miles I thought to myself, “Oh sweet lordy, THIS is why people wear these and don’t care about their cheeks.” Because my thighs were completely free of fabric I could get the correct size for my waist. They didn’t ride up. They were the most comfortable bottoms I’d ever raced in – there was no going back.
Except for shorter, smaller races, I generally stick to the running briefs. I try to gauge how other runners and spectators might feel if it’s a super tiny race. I know my race outfit doesn’t cover much more than a typical swim suit. But at the same time, if it’s socially acceptable to wear at the beach why can’t it be socially acceptable to wear at a race?! It’s certainly not about trying to be sexy – I have accumulated many unflattering race photos. Besides, no matter what you’re wearing, running is not a sexy sport.
The point is that you should wear what’s most comfortable (and legal…I’d race naked if I could) to YOU. Choose your comfort level and go for it, whether that’s pants or briefs. And if you are/were like me who sees us ladies with our cheeks out and wonders if we realize it….