Olympians wear tight compression shorts. Speedy milers wear them. Steeplechase champions wear them. Women who qualify for the OTQs wear them. While many other people are wearing them, for most of my running career, I associated compression shorts with the pros. Whenever it came time to swap out my tights or capris with shorts, I’d always reach for a pair with built-in spandex and some soft fabric to maximize comfort.
My first marathon was NYC in 2017, so I ran through the summer heat in a variety of shorts. Spandex-lined shorts, similar to Asics’ I Move Me, were my go-to’s until I fell in love with Tracksmith’s Session shorts. Two summers later, I was training for the Berlin Marathon in similar weather, and for some reason, my body rejected the looser shorts. My thighs begged me to find something less likely to chafe. At the same time, I started going to track workouts and found myself surrounded by runners in tight shorts. The women wearing them exuded an air of confidence and speed that I craved, especially as I sent my sights on a BQ.
While I rotated through many pairs that summer (Nike’s Pro shorts were a top contender), I didn’t find the pair I loved until the days leading up to the Berlin Marathon. The night before I flew out, I semi-frantically ran around New York, trying on new tight running shorts. They couldn’t be too short and ride up, nor too long where I felt like I was in a 90s aerobics video. I texted friends for recommendations and ended up flying to Berlin with three pairs. My ideal fit ended up being the Athleta 5-inch bike shorts (now replaced by the Lightning Short). The Goldilocks of shorts had two side pockets (ideal for gels and a phone) plus a zipper back pocket, so I had enough space for body glide, earbuds, and more.
Since Berlin wasn’t my first marathon, I knew I needed to at least test the shorts out before logging 26.2. I barely noticed the shorts during the three-mile shakeout and made the game-time decision they were the right choice. Back at the hotel, I washed them, seeing as the race was in 24 hours, and I wanted them to be clean.
After spending most of the day exploring, I returned to my hotel room to start powering down and realized washing the shorts was not my smartest move. The thought of running 26.2 in new-ish shorts that were damp was enough to give me nightmares. Thank goodness for hairdryers: 10 minutes of hot air left the shorts ready for my next long run.
The morning of the race, everything was status quo. I could list off a hundred other things I noticed during the first half of the race, but the funniest part is, despite my strides to keep the shorts dry the night before, there was a downpour on race day—the type of rain that seeps into your sneakers, so you feel like you’re squishing through the mud with every step. My shorts didn’t stand a chance. It was the toughest testing run I could’ve picked to put them through. Thanks to loads of body glide and tight shorts, I didn’t have to worry about chafing throughout my entire run. And now, when I pull on the shorts, I think about crossing that finish line and realizing I ran a BQ. They sealed their fate as my favorite short.