Project runway

Some people, tied to convention, may think a skirt belongs in a boardroom, in a classroom or at a party, but not on a runner. Those people would be wrong. Running skirts are on track because there are two (highly unscientific) rules that apply to the clothes you wear for competition: First, the better you look, the better you'll perform. Pull on an athletic skirt, which flatter nearly every figure, and your body and mind automatically go into kick-ass mode. Second -- and more important -- the last thing you want to worry about when you're gunning for the podium, the goal or third base is how much skin your uniform is potentially exposing.

When the Dunbar Crimson Tide track team in Washington D.C. debuted a skort -- compression shorts under a short, semi-fitted skirt -- this spring, their reason fell mainly under category No. 2. They were tired of the unwanted attention their bunhuggers -- a typical uniform in track -- were getting. At a meet last year, a group of boys were making not-so-flattering remarks as they stood behind a line of girls, who crouched in the blocks right before the 55-meter dash. One girl false-started, and then walked away in tears, simply to get away from the disparaging comments. "I started paying attention for the rest of the meet and a lot of the girls were uncomfortable with bending over," their coach Marvin Parker told the Washington Post. "I decided that we've got to do something different for girls."

Although Parker got his inspiration for the skort from tennis great Althea Gibson, he could've just checked the latest trend at any running road race. It all started when Nicole DeBoom, a former Ironman champion who realized that looking both feminine and strong isn't an oxymoron, crossed the finish line of 2004 Ironman Wisconsin wearing a self-made running skirt. From there, the trend took off, you can spot them anywhere from a local 5K to a huge marathon. And with good reason: skirts are fashionable, swishy and create a bold, sophisticated statement. "I feel classy in it. I feel like a woman," Crimson Tide runner Manzia Kelley told the Post.

Far from being too girly, an athletic skirt aptly declares you are a female athlete -- emphasis on the athlete. Skirts keep you appropriately covered, but showcase what matters: your quads bulging out from underneath the hem, your speed, your strength, your dignity, confidence and pride.

Above all, though, skirts allow you to put your focus where it should be: on the race ahead.

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