Race Supplies - Finding Quality and Value

closeup of hanged shirts on rack


Finding good quality but value race items can be a challenge, but if you get it right and you find some good suppliers that you can rely on, it can help your budget AND your race swag. In this guide, we’re going to talk about what to look out for when ordering a couple of race essentials.

Finisher T-shirts 

If you give out T-shirts to all of your runners, there are a couple of questions you should be asking:

  1. What style t-shirts do I want? 
  2. What type of material should I choose for my shirts?
  3. What type of T-shirt customization is best for me?
  4. What size split do I need and how many should I order?
  5. How early do I need to order them?

The style of the shirts you choose will be dependant on the race you are putting on. Most running events have short sleeve shirts, which are the most popular. If you’re putting on a females only event, you might want to consider women's sleeveless tops, to give your event a more personalized and stylish touch. You could also consider sleeveless tops for warmer summer races, although they’re not always as popular. Long sleeve tops. If a race is held during the winter months in the more northerly regions, or if a trail run will have runners brushing up against foliage and exposed to high-altitude sun, then long sleeves may be your best bet for your runners’ wellbeing and safety if they are likely to wear them before the race starts. If going long-sleeve is something you’re thinking about, and you are willing to stretch a bit on price, you can also consider quarter-zip pullovers or fleeces as an upgrade to your regular finisher shirt. That is also a very popular choice that is much appreciated by runners.

The material of your finisher shirts is an important consideration, as it will impact the price and the suppliers you can approach. Here are some options to consider:

  1. Cotton T-shirts are by far the cheapest option available, stocked by almost all t-shirt providers. If you have a small event, and/or ambiguity around how many participants might turn up, this is a safe option to stay within budget. 
  2. Technical tees are the most popular amongst races, available in 100% polyester and are typically offered in many colour options. Seasoned runners seem to prefer technical shirts over other types for their lightweight, breathable quality. These are a good option to get some marketing for your race too, as participants are more likely to wear them in the future to the gym and on their runs. 
  3. Bamboo or recycled polyester are the most environmental options you can get. Unfortunately, this comes at a price, but they are a good in-between option for breathability for exercise and everyday softness. Participants will certainly appreciate the eco-friendly efforts too if you make it known to them! 

Timing your order is the next thing to focus on for your race t-shirts. As a race director, you can set yourself up for successful ordering by asking participants to specify their shirt size during online race registration.

Registration should also include a clearly posted deadline that runners must meet to be guaranteed a shirt. The deadline you set should be around 3-weeks before your event date. For covering stragglers, you can add on 15-25% to your final order.

In order to allow time for artwork adjustments and last-minute sponsor additions, it is recommended that you start your apparel order 4 to 6 weeks prior to your event date.

Sizing variations will depend on the type of race you are hosting. For example, events that attract less experienced runners may skew toward larger sizes, while events that primarily attract seasoned runners or are geared toward women’s themes, may skew toward smaller sizes.

We recommend gathering size information from your participants to avoid guesswork, which is easily done from your Eventrac platform. Simply add a ‘custom question’ to your entry form, where runners answer S, M or L to a question like ‘What T-Shirt Size would you like?’ 

If you do not have this information, the best practice is to order all shirts in a unisex style and to consider the following approximate percentages when ordering:

If your event is expected to attract a high number of less-active or recreational runners, go for:

-Small: 15%

-Medium: 30%

-Large: 30%

-Extra Large: 15%

If you know your event participants will be mostly seasoned runners, use:

-Small: 30%

-Medium: 30%

-Large: 15%

-Extra Large: 15%

Race BIB Numbers 

There's a lot you can do with a race BIB depending on how you design it and what kind of material you go for. So let's start with just that, what materials could your race BIBs be made from?

  1. Tyvek is by far the most popular material used for race bibs. It’s waterproof, tear-proof and can take a ton of punishment, making Tyvek race bibs the perfect choice for most races, from road and trail races of any distance to OCR/mud runs and multi-sport events. Although Tyvek is considerably hardier than normal paper, it can still be printed on (on one or both sides) and even written on using regular pen and marker inks. Which is convenient as the back of Tyvek race bibs is often used for participant emergency contact info (see our Anatomy of a race bib section below). Cost: £0.15 – £0.50 per bib
  2. Adhesive. Self-adhesive race numbers are suitable for high-speed events or occasions where using a loosely pinned race bib may be an issue. Adhesive numbers are quite popular in skiing and cycling events, such as road races, sportives, time trials and cyclocross. They can be as hardy as Tyvek, but also much more expensive depending on size and quality. Cost: £0.20 – £1.00 per bib or race number
  3. Pretex is another synthetic paper similar to Tyvek but less strong. Pretex race bibs are fairly popular in the UK and Europe as a slightly cheaper alternative to Tyvek. A Pretex bib will probably comfortably survive a 5k road race, but will struggle to hold together beyond that. One notable advantage of Pretex, being finer that Tyvek, is that it is quite good for printing hi-definition images, making it a popular choice for custom orienteering maps. Cost: 10% – 20% cheaper than the equivalent Tyvek race bib
  4. Paper/card. It’s not difficult to imagine the kinds of trouble paper or card race numbers may run into during an endurance race. Still, the cost is often appealing to make card bibs a viable choice for kids runs, small fun runs and other events where the race number may not necessarily be worn on the body. Cost: £0.05 – £0.15 per bib
  5. Other materials. If you get excited by synthetic materials ending in “-ex” there’s a whole zoo of exotic printable papers out there that are occasionally used for race numbers. Most are proprietary designs exclusive to particular race bib manufacturers, usually providing either slightly cheaper or considerably stronger variations on Tyvek. If your race number supplier offers to print your race numbers on a material you are not familiar with, make sure you understand where it falls on the materials spectrum and whether you wouldn’t be just fine using Tyvek.

Plain or pretty?

How you want your race bibs to look is next up on the list when deciding what to buy and how you want your racers to represent your race. Most plain race bibs out there come in Tyvek, so going plain doesn’t have to mean compromising on durability. But by not customizing it you won’t have peoples names, sponsor branding, colour or your race logo to make your bib memorable. 

Most times you’ll be able to buy plain bibs off the shelf in sequences of 100 – in fact, you can even buy them on Amazon, saving you the trouble of shopping around for suppliers. But, if you need double-sided bibs where people can print their emergency contact info etc, it may still make sense to turn to a specialist race bib supplier. They can go for around 10p per bib.  

If you want to add your own colours, race logo, sponsor branding or any other image on your race bib, or use different colours to designate different age groups, categories or start waves, you need to go custom. You can use the whole area to print on, but you don’t want to overload your bib with too much information at risk of it looking messy and important information like not being clear. Here you can get creative and play with some designs

And you can use the whole area to print on, so the designs can only be limited by your imagination (and practicality – make sure the participant number remains visible!)

Custom race bibs can not only be customized in colour but also personalized with individual participant names (“Hi, Steve!”) and even a short message. This is a very popular choice with larger events and a great investment for the extra 5c that pays for itself in a much more enjoyable race experience for your participants.

The more of the design which is the same across all bibs, the less it should be. For example, if you have 3 lines of text on each bib that are going to be different on each bib such as name, last name and team name, it might be an extra 5p per line which needs to be printed individually and not in bulk. The number of colours and size of the bib itself will also be price increasing factors to take in. 

Additional tags can also be added to your race number to help solve bag logistics and wristband necessities. Removable strips can be added to the top or bottom to aid this, with a perforated line to make it easier to remove. Depending on what is included with the bib company you’re ordering with, they may be able to include this as a one-off cost to your final price rather than a ‘per bib’ cost.

Medals, Inflatable arches, cups and more

There is an array of different variations for each of these items that you could choose for your race. The biggest bit of advice that we would give you, is to make it unique to your event. If you’re planning on growing your event or increasing the number of races you put on, you’ll need to grow your brand even more to keep up. If you have a themed race, the likelihood is that the theme is one of your biggest marketing points. So make sure this is reflected in all of your branding across medals, and if you can afford to, on your race arch, on cups and on finisher bags if you have them too.

Not only will it make your stuff look awesome, but people will walk away with these things displaying your logo and spreading branded love. Mass-produced generic items won’t help you grow your profile, so if you have a buck to spare make sure you’re investing it in making your race stand out, look unique and be memorable. It will pay off!


On Hand To Help

The team at Eventrac are on hand to assist with all components of your event. From advice on promoting your event through low cost channels such as social media, to a guided tutorial on a specific feature of Eventrac. We are here to help.

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