The Right To Wear A Race T-Shirt

Print page

By Taryn Townsend

I’m not sure about other runner’s, but generally, my philosophy is that you shouldn’t wear any race shirt that you did not complete or at least start.  I’ve never NOT completed a race, so my philosophy is any race that I have not started.

With me not running Comrades this year, I was not going to fuss too much about the goody bag and the contents thereof, besides, I’m not going to wear the shirt anyway, I didn’t even START.  After speaking to my cousin though, who is running, she suggested that I get my goody bag anyway, besides, that is a very expensive t-shirt not to claim.  True.

Needless to say, my cousin will collect my goody bag at the race expo (if she is able to) and I have decided that if I do ever wear the shirt, it will be to bed and nowhere else.  I will also use the goody bag and unused race number as my reminder of what I have been through this year, the strength that I have managed to build and the stronger path that lies ahead of me for NOT running the race and preparing myself better for next year and the years to come.

At times, I think it is harder to make the decision not to do a big race, than it is to line up on the day.  It is the most heart breaking decision to make after you have put your mind to completing a task.  But, as I’ve said, I’m looking forward to an even stronger run next year and I’m looking forward to running with my cousin as she will complete her 10th Comrades next year.

Good luck to everyone participating!  Enjoy wearing and showing off your Comrades 2011 race t-shirt and be sure to purchase a Comrades supporters t-shirt at the expo for your loyal supporter/s, they will really appreciate it, besides, they have also had to endure your early mornings, leaving parties early, your long hours on the road and the pasta they have had to eat so often!

What do you think? To wear the shirt, or not to wear the shirt? Add your comment below!

Avatar of Runners World

About Runners World

Online Editor for Runner's World magazine

43 Responses to The Right To Wear A Race T-Shirt

  1. Johnson May 25, 2011 at 3:14 pm #

    I do agree with you with the fact that if you have not started the race, don’t wear the shirt. BUT, Comrades has become so commercialised that it is a money spinner. Create a finishers shirt for the runner that crosses the line, to be unique and to boast.

    • Chris Whitaker February 10, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

      @ Johnson I agree, but my philosophy was you ran you wear it, but know it is more like you paid for it wear it, are you gonna buy a T – Shirt or what eva shirt from Edgars or were eva and not wear it……haha…..common people…’s 2012…..not 1912……heheheh….ja….

    • anneline Peters February 10, 2012 at 2:06 pm #

      Yes! What a brilliant idea….

  2. Taryn May 25, 2011 at 4:37 pm #

    Good point Johnson, I agree. The entry fee is quite substantial and considering you enter a number of months before, for myself, obviously I had every intention of running, so I didn’t mind the fee, however now that I’m not, yes, it is quite a lot of money just to “forget” about.

    Anyway, if you are running on Sunday, best of luck! Enjoy it!!

  3. Craig Pheiffer May 26, 2011 at 2:06 pm #

    If you haven’t run it, you can’t wear it. Generic shirts (like those with a Comrades logo) are OK if you’ve run it before. I fetched my goody bag for Korkie in 1993 but couldn’t run it. The shirt was very handy for polishing the car.

  4. Taryn May 26, 2011 at 5:07 pm #

    Hey Craig, glad I’ve got some people on the same page as me… thought I was just being ultra sensitive. But yes, like I said, if my cousin does manage to get my goody bag… I’ll be wearing it to bed ; ) If you are running on Sunday, good luck!!

  5. Kevin welman May 27, 2011 at 9:50 am #

    He’ll no. You have to had run the race. That’s like saying you are entitled to a medal because you’ve entered.


    • Zulpha March 15, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

      I agree! Run/start the race and you can wear the t-shirt.
      How does the saying go, ” been there, DONE THAT, bought the T-SHIRT”!

  6. Martin May 27, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

    I think one should not take it that serious. If I want my wife to wear the shirt because she supported me in the preparation, why not?

    • Zulpha March 15, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

      I agree with that Martin, if your wife is not a runner.

  7. Jimmy May 28, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    Get a life…it’s a T-shirt…who cares.

    • Marius February 12, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

      It’s obvious that your’e not a (REAL??) RUNNER !!!!!!! REAL RUNNERS CARE and respect all the Great Runs in South Africa , of which the Comrades is the greatest. The unwritten Code of Honour is simple :- One EARNS the right to wear a Comrades T-shirt ; if you don’t run, you don’t wear the shirt; if you bail, you don’t wear the shirt. The mere fact that you entered for Comrades, prepared and qualified to run, is irrelevent………. It’s not about the money, Its all about HONOUR, something only a REAL RUNNER will understand

      • Steven Morrison February 13, 2012 at 9:11 am #


        you are right it is all about the HONOUR

      • Zulpha March 15, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

        well said!

      • Michelle March 22, 2012 at 4:36 pm #

        Honestly, Marius, I have a 2010 Cape Town marathon shirt that I train in from time to time, I did not run the 2010 Cape Town marathon. It was given to me when I volunteered at the African Cross Country Championships 2011. If anyone asks me I will tell them that I never ran it, to me it matters little which races I have or haven’t run, but that I get up every morning and lace up my tekkies…I am not going to stop wearing it.

        I do sincerely suggest you get off your ‘REAL RUNNER’ high horse for a second and you will realise that:
        1. REAL RUNNERS prioritise people above clothing.
        2. REAL RUNNERS don’t dare judge the other runners around them, because they know that all too easily the runners they look down on on the start are the runners who beat them hands down at the finish.
        3. REAL RUNNERS don’t dare tell other runners that they couldn’t possibly be REAL RUNNERS over little pieces of cloth.

        But most importantly:
        4. REAL RUNNERS carry their triumphs, honour and their pride in their hearts and heads, not their trophy cabinets and wardrobes.

        The greatness of the races we run is NOT diminished by the errant wearing of a shirt…

        • Chris Whitaker March 23, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

          I LIKE you Michelle……..Well said…..maybe that will let them get off there RUNNERS HIgh Horse..hahaha..

        • Marius March 23, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

          Michelle, your points are well noted BUT my remark was aimed at the RIGHT to wear a COMRADES race t-shirt.

          Over the 86-year history of the Comrades it is conservatively estimated there must be ± 500 000 Comrades finishers who will disagree with you that a Comrades t-shirt is merely ” a little piece of cloth”.

          Do I consider myself being a ” REAL RUNNER” ? After competing in and finishing some 80-odd races over a 6-year period my honest and truthful answer is…. NO.

          At your next race look around you and you will see the runners in faded club vests covered in equally faded race patches. Then, look carefully, you will notice their permanent numbers, some patches with single laurel and others with double laurel wreaths. These are the REAL RUNNERS, the runners that encourages us and pulls us through when the going gets tough……….

          Running is not about ” beating another runner hands down at the finish” – it’s about beating our common enemy …… THE CLOCK

        • Pete May 1, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

          You got it. A REAL RUNNER anyone who put on a paid of tekkies, makes it out the door and enjoys the experience so much they do it again the next day and the next … any other claim is simple BS.

      • Kwesi June 6, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

        Well said!!!I’m learning a lot here

      • Mike March 31, 2014 at 3:47 am #

        Explain to me what is a “real runner”?

    • Dave April 2, 2012 at 12:57 pm #

      “It’s a shirt, who cares!”
      Gave my shirt to my twin brother as it was orange…what am I gonna do with an orange shirt?
      I think he uses it to clean his car.

  8. Peter May 28, 2011 at 10:10 am #

    Why all the superstition. If the shirt fits wear it. It’s a high quality shirt that proudly signifies that you have trained and qualified to run Comrades. If you did not qualify you will not receive a shirt. The medal, badge and flash with the ultimate green number are those rewards that only a finisher can earn.

    PS: If it doesn’t fit give it to your partner or child. It may just enspire them to complete this epic race one day.

  9. Nicole June 8, 2011 at 1:54 pm #

    I couldn’t run my fourth Comrades this year as I broke my ankle in mid April. I decided not to collect my goody bag.

    I felt I didn’t need any more reminders of the disappointment!!

    Surgeon says I should be able to run next year though – hold thumbs for me!!

  10. Steven Morrison February 10, 2012 at 1:26 pm #


    I think i’ve you did not run the race even if it is from a 10km to 89km it does not feel right to wear the shirt. You did not sweat for it. It is anly my thought as i did not complete the comrades last year due to injury in my lower back. I got the shirt but are not wearing it.

  11. Andrea Swartz February 10, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

    Only active particpants in the race,should wear tshirt even though they have not finished.I bought Comrades apparel from Reebok at their outlets months after the race in CT at a better price.I am not a Reebok fan but ran in Reeboks once,never again.I know I can always buy the same garments in CT at a better price.

  12. Dreamdoc February 10, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    There is a substitution rule for the first time this year at Comrades.
    If you are not going to run it, why don’t you give up your place so others that may want to do it can do it?
    There are many people who didn’t think they would be able to run it, so didn’t enter in time, but now have been training hard and want to do it afterall.

    If you let your number be substituted,
    1) you will get your money back so you can save it for next year
    2) you allow another person the chance to run it
    3) you won’t have this dilemma with the shirt……

    All good deeds.

  13. James February 10, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

    I entered 2010 Comrades and qualified but then incurred a stress fracture in my right tibia. I did not even look at the tshirt and white and green cap until I finished the 2011 race. Now I wear the cap at every race I run:).

  14. Naasief February 18, 2012 at 11:52 pm #

    It all comes down to personal opinion.
    My view is that you are only entitled to wear the t-shirt/cap if you complete the race – anybody can enter a race. Which is why I was completely against the Comrades 2010 caps being *sold* at the Comrades 2011 expo. It just “devalued” the cap for all us Comrades runners who had successfully completed the race.

  15. val March 6, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    this will be my first comrades and I think that the t-shirts should only be given out at the end, receive the goodie bag when entering, and do as Ironman does, medal and shirt at finish…and you can’t buy that shirt anywhere else!

    • Marius March 6, 2012 at 7:33 pm #

      Val , I could not agree more with you. I EARNED the right to wear my 2010 shirt and even though I coul’ve collected my 2011 goody bag, with shirt and all, because I automatically qualified by virtue of the fact that I completed the 2011 Comrades, I chose NOT to. It would be like sticking a M3 badge on a BMW 318…… or a GTI badge on a 1,4 VW Polo ( heaven forbids……)
      Unfortunately the bean-counters at Reebok does not share our sentiments and will sell off old stock to whoever wants to buy it……….. I even saw Reebok Comrades shirts in stores that sells name-brands , but old stock, from the from major stores WITHOUT even removing the original labels….

  16. simphiwe May 9, 2012 at 12:21 pm #

    Gee man, I was one of the disappointed ones llast year after they refused completely to give only the t-shirt (didn’t want the goodie bag).

    Here’s the story: With all flights booked I only managed to get the last flight to King Shaka and made it to the expo at 16:50. With the security denying access at first when he eventually let me through it was 17:00. The staff inside refused to give the goodie bag and told me I can only get my number at the start in the morning.

    In the morning got my number, did the race and FINISHED !!! Slept overnight in PMB, in the morning went to the comrades house to plead my case.

    I was first told about the rules,which I respected, but there was stack high of t-shirt boxes that were not collected.

    When I questioned that and what are they gonna do with all the t-shirts printed 2011, the answer was “probably donate them”. “If I’m seen giving it to you I might be fired so i can’t help you”.

    Disappointed as I was, I just left. But now all the undeserving people will get the t-shirt from some donation. God knows which.

    Surely I think there should be an exception to those that finish the race but could not collect in time. The t-shirt was gonna be more of an honour of all the things I went through just to get to the finish line, especially as a novice.

  17. Craig Pheiffer June 6, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

    Hmmmm. Didn’t finish the 2011 Comrades and the blue shirt is still in the plastic in my cupboard. I finished on Sunday and wore my bright yellow shirt with pride on Monday. Should I take the 2011 one out of the plastic now? :)

  18. Pamela June 6, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    Does it say finisher on it? If not then it is a brand shirt not a finishers shirt. I however woud not wear it.

  19. Andy June 6, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    Ok, what about this scenario……….I ran Comrades 2011 and finished and then I trained my backside off for Comrades 2012, ran another qualifier and everything. I picked up a chronic injury a few weeks before and had to withdraw from the race.

    I was so devastated, but in order for me to feel part of the race, I offered to be the personal seconder for all 5 of my training partners. I woke up at 2.30am, called them all to make sure they were awake, drove them up to the start, sat in the freezing cold at Lion Park waiting for them to make their first pit stop and then after that proceeded to make another 5 stops along the route throughout the day and then finally meeting and collecting them all at the finish.

    I kinda feel that I earned my T-shirt on the day! Am I wrong??

  20. charl June 6, 2012 at 5:15 pm #

    I feel it’s down to each individual how you see this situation. You get a medal when you cross the line and earn your time which is the proof of completing any race. You effectively buy the shirt, which changes colour each year. It’s reminder of your adventure or failure, not in anyway a means to prove you ran in the Comrades, at best it is a conversation starter. Some people may assume, and some people may even ask you if you did run in the Comrades. So to those who find themselves in this position I say don’t let pride or ego, superstition, or the opinion of someone else stop you from wearing a really nice top, make up your own mind. I don’t personally walk around judging people based on the running t-shirts they wear, or hold them in high regard based on an assumption that the top they are wearing is proof of a feat they have accomplished. If I want to know about their sporting achievements I will ask them. I didn’t run this year due a injury a week before Comrades. I wore my Comrades 2012 top and cap proudly, knowing deep down I wanted nothing more than to run Comrades, but instead I was supporting my friend who was doing his first Comrades, and yes I wandered if it raised eyebrows, but amongst all the Comrades runners on the road I knew I couldn’t be more honest with myself. If you feel strongly about the unwritten rule then it’s your prerogative. It’s unwritten for a reason.

  21. Bianca June 7, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    Here’s a question: I ran the 2012 Comrades, I ran all the way to the stadium, but I missed the cut off by 3 minutes…..then why do I feel guilty wearing the shirt? Still sucks that they don’t let you cross the finish line tho….

  22. Pete July 18, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

    I’m wearing my Knysna 2012 shirt with pride. It would have been my first marathon, but was cancelled because of diabolical weather and serious, very legitimate, safety concerns.

    I certainly sweated for that shiirt in the months before the race. I joined the thousands of others who made their way through trecherous conditions to get to the start at 4am.

    I would never have worn it if I had not finished within the time, but I’ve no qualms about wearing it now. Hell, I ran that race at least three times in my head the night of the run listening to the rain belting down and it was rough, very rough.

    • Devils advocate July 18, 2012 at 3:12 pm #

      Ever notice how many people are wearing sprinbok rugby jerseys these days? Surely you should not wear the jersey unless you’ve run stepped on the field for the Boks.

  23. Maserole February 7, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    Failed to run both the Knysna and New York marathons in 2012. I wear both T-shirts without guilt.

  24. D March 1, 2013 at 5:08 pm #

    Wow, what a big deal to make out of a shirt!!
    While I do, to a degree, support the fact that the shirt does have meaning to a lot of runners, it is not the shirt that counts. It is the medal that shows who the finishers are!

    You do all realise that t-shirts are marketing tactics that’s all? The more people who wear them the more exposure the brand/event/organisation gets. The T-shirt is a celebration of the event. if you support it, have run it, tried to run it but got injured, or really appreciate what the event is about then I think its fine to wear the t-shirt to show your appreciation of the event.
    The medal is what you have to show for your efforts. if someone walks around with a medal he picked up then yes that is a problem. Its a shirt, and its nice to wear it because you earned it, but its not your finishers medal!!
    If you really need validation from strangers by wearing a shirt in public and shun those who don’t then the issue runs deeper than whether or not you earned the shirt.

    if you want people to know you ran the race so badly, wear your medal every day??

    When my shirts get old I give them away to my gardener or domestic who gives them to her children. Am I now supposed to stop that as well… Please….

    To the people who are giving scenarios about whether they can wear their shirts…
    You trained, you tried, you put your heart and soul into it, you PAID for the shirt, WEAR it. in my eyes, you earned it with the training and effort, and heartache for not being able to line up at the start or just missed cut-off..

    PS… see you all out there this year. I will be collecting my 4th medal and 4th shirt! The medal will go into the safe for now. The T-shirt goes wherever its needed.

    Lets remember why we’re out there, I’m sure its not for the t-shirt!

  25. brigid June 5, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

    I have never worn a t shirt from a race that I did not take part in. However I have never had a DNF so I wear each t shirt with pride . 2013 was my first Comrades and although I did get across the finish line I was 10 min 2 late – so Its my first official DNF. Aw hell man I am going to wear the t shirt – I think I earned it – I may have failed as far as CMA are concerned but I did go the distance and I will be back next year and I will get my medal next year. And my dad thinks I am the greatest – he is so proud – so next year the medal will go to him

  26. Spanny June 12, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    Its your race t-shirt , and u can do with it what u want to…..I persinally wouldnt wear a t-shirt for a race that i didnt complete ……but would never be a critic to anyone that did ……
    I didnt get a “race cap” in my goodie bag this year …and if anyone has one that they feel that they cannot wear for whatever reason ….please feel free to donate to a proud finisher (I s’posethat te traditionalists out the re would not consider a +11h a real finish , but I am proud to have completed my 13th in 11h51)

  27. CanuckAbroad May 18, 2015 at 8:00 am #

    I suppose the question is really “did you BUY the Finisher Shirt, or did you EARN the Finisher Shirt?”. If you cross the finish line, even after the 12 hour cut-off, you earn the right to wear the shirt. There are 3 events that I did not finish, even though I started them, and I gave the finisher shirt away,

Leave a Reply to Johnson Click here to cancel reply.