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Operation: Running Skirt

07/08/2011

The running skirt made its debut in 2006 and I haven’t stopped sneering at it since. Although I loved my high school lacrosse kilt and I always thought tennis skirts were adorable (in a very badass sort of way), I was not a fan of this girly invasion of running gear.

When I was training on Long Island, I ran with a group on Sunday mornings that was composed of grisly old running vets. These were MAN [insert throaty “Grrrrrr!” here] runners who I would affectionately (but behind their backs) refer to as “The Pirates.” Running is a co-ed sport and on race day males and females toe the starting line together. Nevertheless, there are times women are not taken as seriously as their boy counterparts. I wanted to be considered a “real” runner in the eyes of The Pirates and I worked very hard to earn their respect. I charged up every hill stride-for-stride, and I took my fair share of turns letting the group draft behind me on blustery winter mornings. I even went out for post-run bagels with them. I was one of the gang. And there was no way in heck I was going to ruin it by showing up to run in a dress!

I hadn’t realized how popular the running skirt had become until I read Run Like a Mother and started following both the book’s blog and Facebook fan page. Skirts had, despite my incessant mocking, become mainstream running attire. Hmph!

Over the past year I’ve read more and more skirt-converts raving about their flouncy bottoms. These women have publicly denounced  shorts and vowed to never don the traditional side-split booty cutters again (ok, they have a point there). And although I still maintained that these new spandex frocks had no place in running, my curiosity was definitely piqued. Were they really as comfortable as everyone said? Could I possible wear one and not feel silly? But most importantly, would a skirt make me lose the street cred I had worked so hard to build? Little did I know a moment of weakness was about to rock my steadfast running gear beliefs to the core…

I bought a running skirt.

I mostly blame Target, the store I enter to buy Q-Tips but leave laden with $179 worth of nonsense (oh, and I forgot to buy Q-Tips). So there I was, innocently walking past the women’s workout clothes when a C9 running skort leapt off the rack and into my shopping cart! What the…?

Well, like it or not and through no fault of my own, I now owned a running skirt. And I supposed I had an obligation to at least take it for a test run. Then I would be free to pass all the judgement I wanted. The only question was “When?” I wasn’t sure if I was quite ready to be seen in a running skirt. What would these perfectly good strangers think? And what if the skirt somehow rode up around my neck when I was running? I’d fall down dead of embarrassment or at the very least trip on something. No, this test run must be done when it was mostly dark. My pre-dawn runs would suit this super secret experiment well. How many times had I heard the derogatory “Take off your skirt!!!” used in sports? And now I was willingly putting one on?

Here went nothing…

Date: Friday, July 8, 2011
Time: 5:03 AM EST
Location: Westbrook Park & Springfield, Pennsylvania
Suspect: C9 by Champion Ventilated Running Skort
Trial: 5 mile run
Verdict: Eh

Short story long: Ok, yes, the skirt is cute. This one runs a little small so buy a size up. There are boy shorts underneath (some brands have briefs but I couldn’t imagine the chub rub after wearing one those versions), and a hidden key pocket. Although the skirt did not flap or fly up as I feared, the boy shorts did creep their way north which I am sure would be uncomfortable during a long run. While I can see how the running skirt is figure-flattering hiding the parts most women like to hide (thighs, butt), for me there was too much material. I like my running clothes streamlined and felt as if the two layers made it too bulky. I also would have preferred it 1-2 inches shorter. Although it is not as long as some other running skirts, I still felt a little Laura Ingalls Wilder in it. I would feel better doing post-workout errands in the skirt than in my UA running tights, and it reminded me of the “tennis skirt moms” that used to pick their kids up from day camp when I was young. However, I felt that it made me put too much thought into my running apparel. Instead of grabbing any old shirt to go with my shorts, I felt that I needed a “nicer” top and chose a bright pink duo-dry tank. Then I thought that my beloved UA hat might be too mannish for my skirt and pink shirt and swapped it for my pink Sweaty Band. Lacing up, I realized the pink accents in my Asics made me way too matchy-matchy. Suddenly I was *that* girl–which is fine if you aren’t someone who prefers her workout outfits to put the “low” in low-maintenance. I’m just not a Fastinista.

My mixed review doesn’t mean I am ready to toss my skirt in the Goodwill pile. I will wear it again even if it does not become a staple in my running wardrobe. Occasions where I would wear my skirt include a run under 5 miles, when all my favorite running shorts are in the wash, in an all-female race or with a group of similarly dressed female friends running an event together, and running with my daughter. Oh, and definitely to the Runner’s Prom if one should pop up on my social calendar!

Kara Goucher, world-class runner and author of the new book Running for Women, has said about the skirt “I modeled one for a Nike catalog in 2007 and I really liked the skirt. I wore it a lot, even in the Olympic village! I got a lot of compliments on it. But I could never wear it for a hard serious workout, I just couldn’t.” And although I am far from elite status, I agree. Also, I’m just not a girly girl in my “non-running life” and so I don’t feel comfortable in a running skirt. But I will concede that clothes or gear is not what makes someone a “real” runner or not. A runner is defined by what is in his or her heart. It is having the passion, the fire, the total love of running (even if he or she occasionally hates running because we all go through that!). Shorts, tights, skirts, or even in the buff, if you are putting one foot in front of the other, you are a runner. Even this guy:

Today’s Workout:
Run 5 miles/46:34
Jillian Michaels 6 Week Six-Pack 35:00
P90X Ab Ripper X 15:00
Sit-ups 10:00

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. 07/08/2011 2:55 PM

    First the skirt, then the matchy-matchy tank/Sweaty Band/shoes, then this:

    http://athleta.gap.com/browse/product.do?cid=49573&pid=756440

    Can’t wait for that blog post!

    • Suzanne permalink*
      07/12/2011 6:16 PM

      I don’t think I am quite ready to make that leap!

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