by Carrie Adams

[Author's Note: This post is a tongue-in-cheek editorial on a topic very near and dear to my heart: shorty shorts on male endurance athletes.  Well, males in general. Take it with a grain of salt, but if it leaves you wondering as to the appropriateness of your shorts, you may want to go shopping for a new pair.]

You show up on race day, ready to run.  You signed up for the Spartan WODs, logged hours of training, gotten yourself out of bed at 5:30a.m. to get your long runs in before work, you’ve said no to donuts even as they have called out to you from the conference room and instead nibbled dejectedly on your small bag of almonds and apple slices.  You’ve gotten to the track twice, maybe three times a week to run sprints to tear down your times.  Your neighbors sneak peeks of you out their windows and watch in stunned silence as you haul your Spartan pancake sandbag all over the neighborhood. You watch your splits go negative, your body fat percentage shrink, your lungs expand and your endurance grow.  While everyone else was out drinking you were hitting trails or pounding pavement.  While everyone else was chugging Guinness you were adding Chia seeds and flaxseed to your protein shake.

You ran in the rain, in the wind, up any hill you could find and then you did it again just because you could.  You’ve worn out two pairs of shoes in five months, lost a toenail or two, climbed into your bed at 8 PM the night before to be here on fresh legs and well rested.  You’re ready…

And approaching the start line the wind blows and it’s suddenly clear that you’re smack dab in the middle of a wardrobe malfunction. Your Prefontaine length shorty shorts are assaulting the eyes of every Spartan in a one block radius.  And despite the fact that your quads are stone-like and your glutes are rocking, they’re just a few inches from getting you arrested.  But it’s not your fault.  Shorty shorts were made famous in the 60’s and 70’s by the aforementioned Steve Prefontaine and his running counterparts… oh and did you watch basketball in the 80’s?  Magic Johnson and Larry Bird made quite a long legged pair on the basketball court, not to mention every rugby player on the planet that’s ever lived.  It’s not just something from our past either, this past weekend, Lance Armstrong went old school wearing a speedo in the 2012 SuperFrog Triathlon that he ultimately won.  They just won’t die.    

They’re not new to Spartan Race, either.  I’ve been around Spartan races since February 2011, so I’ve seen my fair share of Spartan shorty shorts (Gladiators at the finish line included).   I’ve also seen gorilla costumes, capes, wedding dresses, and tuxedos, a few Sponge Bob’s and even a team of Fruit of the Loom fruit men.   Shorty shorts just happen to be my pet peeve.  And ironically when it comes to shorty shorts, Spartan may have given birth to the movement.  Remember the movie?  Those 300 were wearing very little in the heat of battle.

Before all the Spartan elites and Speedy McSpeedies out there freak out and starts throwing things like goo packets and Gatorade bottles at me… let me clarify a few things.  And I know what you are going to say… that shorter shorts can have an impact on “performance,” “speed,” and “comfort.”  Blah, blah, blah I know the reasons…I get that.  Admittedly, not all shorty shorts are created equal and our Spartans do a pretty good job of keeping it in check.  At the end of the day, it is a game of inches (of wicking fabric.)  Most Spartan shorty rockers aren’t about showing it off, they are focused on performance and by all means, that’s important.  Gear is an important part of the performance equation and you deserve to be comfortable… But so do my eyes. 

Now that I’ve effectively beaten, shamed, and angered about 25% of the male running population I will offer a ray of hope and an olive branch and a few tips for anyone in doubt about the shortness of their shorts:

I’m not saying that you need to wear basketball shorts but there is a possibility that a new pair of shorts (‘Cause maybe you’ve gained a few pounds since you bought the shorts in ‘99 or the shorts you wore in middle school have had their day in the sun) might be in order.

Simple test… when you do a lunge, whatever skin feels the breeze is skin we can see while you’re running.  Maybe you don’t care, but, well, everyone else on the planet does.

An inch of fabric goes a long way.  When in doubt, add one… or four.  If an inch is the difference between you winning or losing a race, then either it wasn’t your day or you just aren’t training hard enough.  There, I’ve said it.

Quick reminder – we have fire jumping… marinate on that for a second.

The Spartan elites have the formula down.  The likes of Hobie Call, Junyong Pak, and Marco Bedard (among others) have found the balance and so check them out at the start line.  You can’t argue with results.  These guys are getting it done and the short length is respectable.

That said… If you’re a fast guy and think you or your running crew might be legit ‘Shorty Rockers’ and proud of it send me your pictures at


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7 Responses

  1. avatar

    Quick reminder – we have fire jumping… marinate on that for a second.


  2. avatar

    As i was reading this I knew it was a woman who wrote it. Its all about preference and fun. As a runner its fun to stick out of the crowd while running, fast or not. Short shorts do that as well as the added benefits of comfort, and so forth. A fun read, but i plan to continue proudly wearing my “shorty” shorts for every race I run. Ill send you a picture after the carolinas spartan in 2 weeks

  3. avatar

    There is a fine line between ‘performance enhancing’ short and ‘obnoxiously’ short. It is often a tan line. I admit I’ve sometimes been guilty of crossing into the realm obnoxiously short, but it’s purely for laughs, as it should be.

  4. avatar

    hilarious … but good reading

  5. avatar

    My soccer shorts are as short as I’ll go…and they make me feel uncomfortable just above the knee

    Fire jumping + short shorts = Brazilian Singe ;-)

  6. avatar

    Real runners wear short shorts. That’s just the way it is. Weekend hobby joggers wear long shorts. If you see a guy in short shorts in a spartan race, he is most likely in the lead. The ones wearing long shorts look awesome, all the way in the back.

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