Kim Cowart: Reasons to Run: Running skort sparks controversy

Published: Wednesday, July 13 2011 7:00 a.m. MDT

Believe it or not, the running world is fraught with controversy.

Do you wave to other runners while you run or focus on the road ahead? Do you join the barefoot running craze or run with the shoe with the most stability? Do you listen to music on the run or the sound of your own footfalls?

Yes, we runners like a good debate.

Over recent months, however, I have been surprised to find myself at the center of an issue that seems to have raised the ire of many runners. Sweet, unassuming me has sparked a flame that seems to be getting bigger for reasons I don’t understand.

I run in a skort.

No, that is not a misspelling. I said skort. Confused? It’s really not that complicated.

A skort is simply a marriage between a boy short and a skirt. It’s really not that different from your average running short. The boy short, or compression short as it is often called, acts as the inner lining while the skirt portion covers the bum and part of the leg.

Skorts made their first appearance in the 1960s, but their popularity amongst the running community has surged in recent years. In fact, Runner’s World Magazine devoted an entire section to women’s fashion in its August 2011 issue and much of that was dedicated to the skort.

So what’s the big deal? Good question.

I’ve been wearing a skort for the last three years and have thought nothing of it. I didn’t intend to make a fashion statement. Please, anyone who knows me would never associate the word “fashion” with me. Ninety percent of my summer wardrobe consists of free race shirts.

No, I like skorts because they are comfortable. I tend to wear the shorter versions because I am not so tall and the shorter the skirt, the longer my legs appear. Chaffing problems have disappeared since I made the switch from regular shorts and I get lots of compliments whether I’m teaching class or running a marathon.

I am fairly oblivious to what others around me do, wear or say, so imagine my surprise at the abundance of negativity my skorts have generated from both male and female naysayers. I’ve been told that serious runners don’t wear skorts. One woman on the Runner’s World forum said only sissies wear skorts. Another male critic said I belonged on a tennis court rather than a road race wearing a skort.

First, I’m not sure what the term “serious” is intended to mean. Does it mean fast? Does it mean focused? Does it mean elite?

I’ll be the first to admit that I never took up running with the intention of being good at it. I took it up for fun and, and along the way, found that I have a little natural ability lingering in my legs. I’m far from elite. Nike’s not calling me anytime soon with endorsement deals, not that I would object, but I have worked hard to sharpen what skills I do have, learning everything I can about the sport and putting it into play out on the race course. Nobody can claim that I don’t put my heart and soul into my training. Isn’t that serious?

I’ve been told that those who run with a skort don’t run anything faster than a 10-minute mile. Well, in my purple skort, I ran a 5 minute, 52 second-minute mile at my last half marathon. My 5K split was 18:45. My overall pace was a 6:45-minute mile. I won that race with a finish time of 1:29:14, and was told afterward that the course measured long at 13.3 miles.

I may not be elite, but I’m not running in the back of the pack.

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