When I was a 10 year old whippet on the road race scene, I amassed a massive collection of cotton race t-shirts. They were my prized possessions. Each featured an artfully designed logo that ranged from dancing avocados to giant frogs leaping over the golden gate bridge and apples running down a paved road. The backs of the shirts were dotted with not-so-subtle sponsor logos.
Every Monday, after a weekend race with my family, I proudly wore my oversized “dress shirt” to school with cut-off jean shorts. The kids in my 6th grade class picked up on this unusual fashion ritual—after all NONE of them had any shirts quite like these—and they called me the nerdy runner girl. It made me proud and I gleefully went on to crush everyone (including the boys) in the mile in PE class each week.
Eventually, though, cotton faded from the race day goody bag and gave way to technical tees. These were much lighter, often long-sleeved and more generic than the cotton shirts of the glory days. While most runners were jazzed about receiving a “real” running shirt, I always met these tech tees with disappointment.
A simple black Carlsbad 5000 logo on a thin, white long-sleeve that somehow attracts stink like no other does not work well with jean cut-off shorts. After a few runs in these shirts I would inevitably give them to the goodwill or throw them away, depending on the level of accumulated stink.
Did these less-thoughtful, cheap shirts leave something to be desired? Or had I finally outgrown the stage in my life where I needed to announce to the world that I ran a 5K this weekend via dressing myself as a walking billboard?
Different sports, different swag
In my nearly eight-year career as a post-collegiate elite track racer, t-shirts and swag were removed completely from the equation. Typically, racers pay a $20 entry fee with no guarantee of anything—not even getting in to the race. Track is a sport of gambling: submit your best race times and cross your fingers that you are accepted into a quality heat, rather than getting bumped out by someone who is faster or knows someone who knows the race director.
If you do get into the race, you are only given a sticky number that is
bigger than your bikini-sized racing bottoms (it almost always falls off mid race). Afterwards you get your race time and nothing more, not even a medal if you win. Track conditioned me to not accumulate any race-related gear, which made sense in a sport focused on running half naked in circles.
Last summer, I switched to trails and instantly found myself with a collection of no less than 20 trucker hats. It started with one from a brewery down the road. The owner thought it was cool that a serious athlete at the Trail National Championships actually drank beer (duh).
Then a collective of trail runners known as “Dirtbag Runners” sent me some hats because my lifestyle reflected their “run free, get dirty, sleep outside” philosophy. The collection has since grown to include favorites such as a beer mile hat with a PBR can graphic, a Patagonia hat with a lone wolf and a full moon given to me to wear while running the Tour Du Mont Blanc and a custom hot pink “Run Bum” trucker hat with a cut-out in the back for my high ponytail.
“HOW MANY HATS CAN ONE RUNNER WEAR?”
As my wardrobe accumulated more running-related trucker hats than t-shirts I wondered, how many hats can one runner wear?
In fact, in my more than 20 years as a racer, I have worn many hats—newbie walking in the middle of the race, kid’s road mile champion (I always beat the boys), Collegiate All-American (10,000 meters), post-collegiate road whore (running multiple races weekly to score extra cash), middle distance track diva (focused on the 1500m and 5K), professional altitude athlete (for the Mammoth Track Club) and now trail runner (2016 was my first season on the scene).
The t-shirts, and now hats, always eventually get left in my dust. They get lost, or I spill ketchup on them, or I simply give them away to make room for the new collections that inevitably pile up in this sport that wants you to have a closet full of semi-non-essential items commemorating your participation. Most days I still grab the same hat as I head out the door for my morning run (the wolf one of course), because regardless of what hat I choose to wear today, or where my next run or race takes place, I am simply a runner. And I will always wear that with pride.
Meet the many (actual) hats of Mo
These days you can pick up a generic trucker hat just about anywhere, but hats do more than keep sweat out of your eyes and shield your face from ultraviolet rays. The right hat can help set your intentions for each run and even give you a boost of inspiration.
Here are some favorites from my collection:
Lone Wolf and The Full Moon
I got this Patagonia hat when I started trail running last fall. It’s my metaphor hat—reminding me to be strong like a lone wolf when I’m out on the trails, and to seek inspiration from nature.
It’s no secret that I love beer, but I must confess that I do drink a substantial amount of PBR, which is why this Dirtbag Runners hat is one of my favorites. I actually grabbed a beer and drank it during the last mile of the 2016 Moab Marathon/U.S. Trail Championships. It was fun, but I won’t make that mistake again.
Trukette Hats made me this custom pink gem that makes me feel like a “dirt Barbie.” The hat actually has the back cut out so you can still wear a high ponytail. Ladies rejoice!
“I’m currently altitude training in a tiny town in Southwest Colorado, and staying with the founders of Alpacka Raft. I’m still learning about this sport, but already dreaming up ways to use their 2.5 Scout raft to use waterways to link up remote trails for some amazing runventures.
Morgan Sjogren runs wild with words anywhere she can get to with her running shoes and a pen! Follow her adventures, writing and trail racing on Instagram @running_bum_ and her blog: therunningbum.com.