Community Look Ma, No Shirt!

    Look Ma, No Shirt!


    Sean Kennedy is known around town for running shirtless. But he’s not stopping there. Soon, the 40-year-old will be known worldwide for his tarps off approach to our sport. 

    “The plan is to run all the world majors without a shirt,” Kennedy told iRun, “I did Chicago and London and next up is Berlin and Boston. Why not do them all with no shirt?” 

    There are a few reasons why running shirtless—or in a sports bra—present problems. The first one is our own societal fear. My running partner once told me you could be chatty or shirtless, but not both. Does running with your shirt off intrude on other people’s good times? 

    When I first started running, I only wore singlets in the summer. I just didn’t feel comfortable running in only a sports bra and had never really mustered the courage to try it,” says Kathleen Lawrence, whose journey from middle-of-the-pack hoofer to race-star elite we’ve documented before. “However, I remember one particularly hot summer race on the island (circa summer 2019) where it was just too humid for a singlet. I tested out how I felt running in a sports bra and it was more comfortable and I felt my body cleared the sweat easier. It also felt different to run in my bra and I liked the feeling—I felt stronger and fitter.”

    I also feel stronger and fitter when I run with my shirt off, but Kennedy, who feels the same way, also mentioned that the extra oomph of a shirtless run can be a double-edged sword. At the London Marathon, jammed with spectators, Kennedy was a fan favourite. 

    “Go, topless, man!” screamed the British fans. But Kennedy’s marathon got off-track and as his ankle pain spread up his knee, he was ultimately reduced to walking. When he wished he could disappear at 34K, he still held the audience’s attention. 

    “The thing with #tapsaff off, you get a lot of attention and it’s nice when it’s good attention, but it’s hard when you’re walking and you’re the only guy with no shirt,” says Kennedy, adding that the experience nevertheless leaves him undeterred in his war against shirts. “At the end of the Marathon, I kind of wished I was wearing a shirt, but it worked out fine and it’s still better than bad chafing on your nipple.” 

    Nick Walker launched Frontrunners in British Columbia in 2005 and now has four running stores. He says shirtless running mirrors those old ads for Caesars—once somebody starts it, the idea seems to spread. On hot days there will be some males shirtless and females in sports bras and typically everyone will start with shirts on for warm up, but then during the workout remove layers,” he says. “Most runners will be clothed when gathered as a collective, but then when they separate in a small group they feel comfortable showing more skin.”

    Like all runs, shirtless runs are hardest at the start. I live in the city and it’s crowded until I get to the MGT (where no one cares if I’m not wearing a shirt). On College Street, still probably no one cares, but it’s more in-the-face of the general population. Richard Kuchinsky is the King of Running With No Shirt On, recognizable for his long beard, svelte build and no shirt. When he started running, he was uncomfortable in a singlet. Now, the true sign of summer is Kuchinsky running in no shirt. 

    “I can’t be shirtless on my daycare drop-off run,” reports Kuchinsky of Directive Collective, adding that laundry reduction was part of his decision to forego his shirts, “Plus, you have to worry about sunburns and cat calling, but it helps my performance with cooling and prevents chafing—even if you can’t go into a store or take the TTC post-run.” 

    With everything running, it comes down to personal choices. Are you negatively impacting those around you? Or are you getting more out of the experience you love without bothering anyone? In New York, I was blown away by the number of topless runners. What do you think, is society ready for running’s fourth wave going tarps off?


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