In an effort to put my purchasing level over $200 at our local running store, Dick Pond Athletics, I perused the sale rack and found a pair of running shorts at half off.
They were normally $40 shorts, and the tag bore the information: 3″ inseam.
It’s been a long time since I wore shorts that short. All through the 70s, 80s and 90s I raced in shorts that were technical and, well, short.
But thanks to the Michael Jordan phenomenon of hyper-long basketball shorts that somehow drove the more conservative meme that shorts had to be longer, running shorts extended down the leg until most runners sported shorts more suited for running the barbecue grill than running ten miles.
I suppose I’ve gotten used to the idea that men of a certain age are not supposed to expose their thighs. And then when I took up cycling it became a bit embarrassing to run with shorts any shorter than the length of the cycling shorts, because the tan lines were crisp and obvious. And then the style of cycling shorts also got longer and longer as the years went by. It was a no-win proposition.
This trend is apparently part of an accepted social construct that says flesh is bad on men. Women have not been forced to endure shrinkage in their running attire. But many women do skoot around in skorts, and frankly those little things are somehow sexier than even regular old short shorts. Go figure.
There are many women that prefer a more modest brand of shorts that covers their tush. Not every woman wants to run in gear suited for a Victoria’s Secret model. There are good reasons for that. But you still don’t see women trotting around with shorts that extend almost to their knees. They don’t put up with that sort of shit. And I don’t blame them.
Yet men do. And part of the reason may be that women simply don’t want to look at exposed male thighs. Most of them, anyway. The right man in a pair of shorts can certainly get away with it. And yet, most styles of men’s running and casual shorts are longer, leaving much more to the imagination. Again, women have restraint when looking at men. There’s a guy in our running group whose crank is always flopping around no matter what he wears. The women I know all say, “Make it go away.”
And we all get that. So normally I wear running shorts that bottom out 4″ above my knees. But I admit that I’m conflicted by that. When I run past a window and see those long shorts in the window, I feel like I look slow. Like a jogger, not a racer.
This deeply ingrained vision of myself goes back to the racing outfits I chose in the 80s, when I was actually reasonably fast, usually tanned, and not, I suppose, a middle-aged or senior man just trying to look like I am fast.
But man the world can be harsh. For example, if you run past some high school kids these days in shorts that are too short, they can be a little critical. You might even get a bit of laughter or a catcall. Heck, that happened even in my Old Guy shorts the other day. One has to wonder what one does some days to incite criticism? It may be the simple fact that you’re a handy target for bored kids in their daddy’s car, but it still hurts. I won’t lie. I yell back.
So the risk of being catcalled even more just increased with the purchase of my New Balance racing shorts. They’re not super short like my former Nike or New Balance shorts from the 1980s. Those were short. But I was also fast enough to justify them. Perhaps what I’m dealing with nowadays should be called Old Balance, not New Balance. Ha ha.
But I’m actually racing this weekend (in the same race shown at left) and the tan lines from cycling have faded enough by this time in October that I will not look like some sort of pasty Popsicle out there. Of course, if it turns out to be cold like it has in past years, I will not be sporting shorter shorts. I know from experience that is insanity.
So, I’ve tried on the new shorts and looked in the mirror. I don’t think the womenfolk of the world will be too offended by my choice in running fashion. Plus they go with my shoes and hat, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I’m taking back my legs. And I hope they take me faster where I want to go.