Folk Belief- Runners/Race T-shirts

Belief: Runners should never wear the memorial t-shirt that they receive while registering for a race during the race that the t-shirt commemorates.

The informant stated that she acquired this belief through a friend and fellow runner about 10 years ago when she started running. The belief is to be followed in practice for any race. For the informant, wearing a race t-shirt while running the same race is something you “just don’t do if you’re a serious runner,” and doing otherwise would make you feel out of line. She also emphasized, though to a lesser extent, that wearing the race t-shirt during the actual race might make one feel uncomfortable as though it were a bad omen and that something undesirable, such as an injury, might occur during the race.

Two aspects of this runner’s belief conveyed to me by the informant seemed particularly interesting and worth noting. First, the informant understood the belief, or more specifically its manifestation in practice (i.e. not wearing the registration t-shirt during the race) as a way of determining the insiders—the seasoned or “serious” runners—from the outsiders, who are presumably novice or more casual runners. Never wearing one’s race t-shirt while participating in that same race is thus a tangible way of asserting one’s identity, or their belonging to the former class. The second thing that seemed apparent to me, but not so much to the informant who looked upon the belief as something they simply adopted and practiced without thinking too much about it, is that this specific runner’s belief may be connected to an anxiety that doing the opposite—that is, wearing the race t-shirt while participating in the same race that t-shirt commemorates—could serve as a form of jinx. On this understanding, wearing the t-shirt during the race would be a sort of premature celebrating, since the t-shirt is meant to commemorate a successful finish to its respective race, and so the t-shirt should not be worn by any runner who has not actually finished the race, lest something bad should occur while they are attempting to do so. The belief could thus be seen as serving a very practical purpose in that it prevents the runner from incurring bad luck.