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Decked Out in Dresses

Anne's new running dress

Maybe I’ve gone too far this time. A few years back, I wrote a column extolling the virtues of running skirts. I loved the freedom and the playful feeling that came with slipping out of shorts and into something…more comfortable. I received mixed responses from women and men alike, ranging from those who those who find it difficult to take seriously a lady trotting by in a flowery miniskirt to those who find skirts a liberating testament to their femininity.

Regardless of your view on running skirts, it appears that they are here to stay. Over the past few years I’ve spotted them at competitive road races as well as low-key trail ultras. I’ve won a national championship wearing one and by now my drawer of running gear probably holds as many skirts as it does shorts. It’s not uncommon at all to see another skirt-wearer on the trail.

Seeing how far we’ve come with running skirts, it’s not surprising that the next logical step would be the running dress. I had always thought of this as territory into which I would not venture. A skirt, okay – from a distance these look like shorts, and many have compression shorties underneath anyway. But a dress – is that taking this whole girlie thing just a bit too far? Will I be taken seriously if I show up for my next race or group run looking like I’m dressed for a cocktail party? Can I take myself seriously? Is this a step forward for women, or a step back? Having just read about Gloria Steinem’s visit to Asheville, I find myself wondering what she would wear.

I finally decided to take the plunge the other day when I saw that a local outfitter had the cutest running dress on sale at a price I just couldn’t resist. As a bonus, it just happened to match my favorite pair of lightweight trail running shoes. Mark looked a little taken aback when I slipped on the outfit in preparation for a several-hour run across rugged terrain but was gracious enough not to comment. At first, I felt a little girlie, especially when we passed a group of seasoned-looking hikers who were no doubt wondering how long I’d make it in the woods, yet once I got moving I was sold. This frock was the most comfortable garment I’d ever worn on the trail. I felt light, free, fast and, okay, I’ll admit it – pretty.

I know that appearance should be the furthest thing from my mind when I’m running, and for the most part, it is. Yet there is something appealing about being able to be both feminine and badass. Sure, I was muddy, sweaty and probably stinky, but I am still a girl. So from now on, I won’t feel ambivalent about having it both ways. Don’t view me as a sissy when you see me heading towards you on the trail, decked out in a flowery pink dress, and I won’t regard you as a wimp when I leave you in my dust.

Now that you know what to wear, do one of these fun events!

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