My two pairs of race shorts include the Nordstrom International Road Race in Clackamas and the No Excuses Run For Cystic Fibrosis. The former are a nice pair of Asics/Tiger shorts with a unique asymmetrical design. The latter are a little more generic. The nice things about race shorts are they are a change from race shirts (a bit of a welcome novelty), and shorts are often slightly more expensive than shirts so most runners have an abundance of shirts but a much smaller rotation of shorts. So a new pair of shorts included in a race fee is a nice perk.
Unfortunately, there are some drawbacks to race shorts, and it’s no surprise that this particular garment isn’t a more common sight in race packets. For one thing, shorts are smaller than shirts and have a less obvious place to put a logo or race name. Shirts can have the graphics emblazoned front and center (literally) in a large format, while shorts require smaller images or text placed off center on the thigh. A T-shirt can be read from a reasonable distance in many social contexts, but it can be awkward to try to read someone’s shorts (“Did you run Nordstrom, or are you just happy to see me?”)
Also, T-shirts are a simple and standard shape, and most runners have a pretty good idea about their sizes. Running shorts, on the other hand, come in a wide variety of styles, each with their own sizing quirks. It’s hard to tell from a photo on a website or entry form how a particular style of shorts will fit, so runners take their chances when they sign up (my No Excuses Run shorts turned out to be too small).
And maybe it’s just me, but running shorts don’t evoke memories of the race itself the way a T-shirt can. You may have noticed I haven’t said anything about these two races. That’s because I don’t really remember much at all about them! Somehow a good T-shirt will imprint something about the race in my mind, while these shorts just didn’t have the same effect on me.
Finally, a shirt is an easy way to show off your participation in a race. You can wear it to work the next day, to the supermarket, or in any relatively informal context. But wearing skimpy, lightweight running shorts anywhere but to your next race or group run is problematic. And running shorts don’t make very good quilts!
So while a change of pace from the typical race shirt is nice once in awhile, I’d have to say two pairs of race shorts in 30+ years of running seems about right.