“Pick it up, Anne. You run like you’re wearing a skirt!” Such words, shouted to me as I neared the finish of my most recent marathon, could be considered an insult…if, in fact, I had not been wearing a skirt. The truth be told, however, I was running in a skirt. Does this represent a step forward in women’s rights—the right to be feminine and flirty, even while kicking butt? Or is it a throwback to the day when women were supposed to glow rather than sweat, when a woman would rather be caught dead than without perfectly applied lipstick?
I first heard about running skirts a couple of years ago, but at that point, they seemed to be a left coast fad, not the sort of thing that sensible women of the Southeast would wear. Or maybe they were acceptable if you were a mom, half jogging behind a baby stroller. But for a serious competitor? How would it feel to run a grueling interval workout in a skirt? Would it be possible to be taken seriously at the start line of a race in a skirt? I decided to try it out.
My first venture into the world of running skirts was tentative and covert. I chose a skirt in a subdued shade of lavender and ran deep in the woods, where I was unlikely to be spotted. As awkward and foolish as I felt, none of the squirrels I encountered gave me a second glance. My self-consciousness disappeared and I began to enjoy myself. I felt free and unencumbered by extra fabric between my legs. The built-in brief provided plenty of coverage. And pit stops became that much easier.
“Run Like a Girl,” Montrail advised us in an advertising campaign a few years ago. Many of us remember this as a cruel taunt back in elementary school (like when my daughter tells me that I “throw like a girl” in our cutthroat backyard wiffle ball games). The advertising geniuses at Montrail, however, might be on to something. Maybe it’s possible to be tough and feminine at the same time. After several more backwoods runs in my quickly-becoming-beloved skirt, I decided it was time to go public. I chose one of the most grueling 10Ks around, the Springmaid Splash, where I would have to cross a river multiple times, climb punishing hills, and descend gnarly singletrack in a skirt. Would I feel tough enough? Would my competitors take me seriously? Would my day-glo skirt get dirty? Yes, yes, a resounding YES!