In April 1966, 23 year old Bobbi Gibb, wearing her brother’s beige Bermuda shorts and a blue hoodie, snuck in to the Boston Marathon, and beat a fair number of the 540 men who were permitted to take part in this male only event. Undercover, and with the protection of many of her fellow runners, she sustained terrible blisters in a pair of size 6 boys’ running shoes, as there were none available for women. I very much doubt her sports bra was sufficient, and I’m guessing that the neighbours heard her yelping in her bath that evening due to chafe in places that she didn’t know she owned, but she did it in 3 hours, 21 minutes and 40 seconds.
Now, we find ourselves in 2016 and women’s running is a great and grand arena of keen competition, equal prize money (that took a little time but well done most of you, well done) and women’s specific kit in every colour, shape and size. Ok, still far too much pink and not EVERY shape and size. But let us unpack what is lacking, and what the ladies of trail, track and tar really want.
Friend 1: Seams, pockets and logos across my breasts… can this not be a thing, please?
She has a good point. Even with the most astoundingly technologically advanced sports bra in place, lots of women will experience some movement in that department, and hours of breast movement across a seam… well… by the end of a long run you could compare it to rubbing your breasts repetitively over loose gravel. Same amount of fun.
Friend 2: The waistband… I want waistbands that don’t cut in to my waist and don’t move up during a run. Or down, for that matter.
Yes, here’s the thing. Skinny girls might look good in just about anything and a woman with a long, lean torso can pull off a higher waist band, but MOST women do not have stomachs so firm you could bounce a coin off them and many of us have these irritating little muffin tops exacerbated by elasticised waistbands. We want slick, sleek silhouettes and shorts or tights that stay where we put them. We KNOW that the technology to create such magical garments exists because LOOK at what US women’s specific brand, Oiselle, is offering. The above Oiselle Roga shorts even boast “no poof” design, which brings me to friend number 3.
Friend 3: I want shorts that don’t explode OUT and make me look like I packed on 5kg to my upper thighs or I’m wearing a sweaty tutu. They should move with my legs and not against gravity.
Ok, so no seams on breasts, nice wide and well-fitted waistbands and no poofing in the shorts department…with me? The next one is a very, very delicate matter. Stick around.
Friend 4: Tights with a middle seam…
Stop that shit now, please. Just stop it. I don’t know if there is anything more to say here but I believe that badly designed tights have caught many of us out. Lets just say, what we see in the mirror isn’t always what is seen after 5km, 10km, 15km… Can you test your tights on multiple women, please? Over multiple distances?
Friend 5: Pockets. But not on my hips or centre of my ass which, once I’ve put a car key and emergency tampon in there, makes me look like I’ve grown a weird tail bulge. Well-placed pockets, lets get that right.
As women we also need to be armed with the right information when it comes to fitting the right running kit. A hydration pack, for example, can make or break your race. Ask for a proper fitting and get a size or back length appropriate to your shape, height and running goals. I started running with an Osprey Rev 6 around 2 years ago, and I haven’t looked back in terms of comfort, arm movement and straps-in-the-right-places. No back chafe and plenty packing space for compulsory kit and nutrition. I love this pack.
There is more, so much more to say on this. But I leave this here in the hope that there is a lot of hard work being done to right the wrongs. And I invite all the ladies of trail, track and tar to share their best kept secrets in the ladies’ running kit arena. Before I melt my credit card ordering from Oiselle.