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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

BIB-OLOGY, An Abstract of Bib-logical Proportions

Introduction to Bib-haviour Analysis
Attention Grabber! Okay now that I have your attention let's get down to business, what is this all about? I show at a race, I pay my money, receive my bib, remember my pins and return to my safe place to attach and prepare to race. We all know, that this ritual of pinning our bib is somewhat special and rare. The bib means something, it signifies to our brain that something difficult is about to occur, something outside the daily realm of a training run... we are about to undergo a public test, we are going to race!

The bib is there to track us, the Race Director has applied this number to our race and will immortalize our performance for a given day. The bib will be a snap shot of this run. When we look back at our wall of bibs (you have one, right!) we see our entire racing history before our eyes. But not everyone's wall, not every bib, is the same. Each bib is subject to Bib-ology. The study of bibs. So pin yours on and let's get moving!

Bib Phenotypes

If you take the time to look at the bibs of others you might be surprised at what you see... there are many types of bib wearers out there and we endeavor in this abstract to discern the differences between them and place them in a neat and tidy box for our entertainment... or at least distraction.
All Natural Bibber
  1. The All Natural. Most common among bibs is the all natural, smooth bib. This bib is pinned to the front of the shirt over the navel. It is important to note that some smooth bibs are also worn on the back (incorrectly, according to certain RW gurus) or on the thigh and maybe even on a belt.
  2. The Ball of Fury. Sometime in our running career we will see a rebel runner with a wrinkled bib. At first we think, "What the hell is that guy doing?" Fast forward a few races and we might find ourselves balling up our bib too, flattening it out and becoming a wrinkled runner ourselves. We might have a good race and think we have tapped into a secret source of speed. The wrinkled bib is nearly always worn on the belly and allows a fluidity of bib not offered otherwise.
  3. The Masterpiece. Some bibs are just too big, no matter how small they begin. This is where the origami runner enters the scene. Folding the bib tightly to the edges of the printed numbers the runner then affixes the "bib". The folded bib stays out of the way allowing freed movement!
  4. The Bandit. Who needs a bib at all? The Bandit has a non-existent bib. Though "participating" in the event unofficially and possibly scorned by the others who care enough to care, the bandit does not care in the least. The bandit is there to run. Some races don't issue bibs at all. In this case, bandits may be self-required to wear a self-supplied bib to distinguish themselves from the group. More below.
Runner's Expression in the Bib Phenotype
Now that definitions are clear as to the basic bib phenotypes it is time to examine what type of runner might be utilizing a given bib type.
  1. Smooth bibbers are a wide ranging lot. Let's use an outline to examine this broad group.
    • Newbie- All newbies have a smooth bib. They are likely having a hard enough time figuring out why they are there to worry about free styling on their bib. Now, while the bib may stay smooth, there is potential for orientation issues within this group.
      • The Rodeo- on the back (Bart Yasso- RW)
      • The V8- haven't quite figured out the dynamics of safety pins & fabric. The result is a  heavily slanted bib. And looks of pity.
      • The 69- this bib is upside down. The 6s are 9s. The 3's are E's... BUT the 0s are 0s.
    • Reformed- after a certain period of freestyle bibbing many runners find that there was not a secret to the bib after all. The reformed return to tacking the bib on their belly and then go run. To the reformed the bib has lost its magical properties, they are non-believers.
  2. The Wrinklers typically are found first near campuses on grassy running courses. The guys and gals are fast, elusive and find a smooth bib to be cumbersome. The bib might catch their thumb or the wind and add resistance to their progress and so wrinkling was invented.
    • Myth holds that the first wrinkler was a nervous college sophomore who had slept in his kit the night before a big race. Waking up late, wrinkled and disheveled he toed the line and darted away from his competition. Upon finishing many were shocked to see the condition of the bib and attributed the unknown runner's success to the bib. Wrinkling was born!
  3. Origami Runners- are cousins to the wrinklers, but more orderly in their rebellion. While we have yet to see a bib crane here at In Clean Air, we do have an appreciation for the skill of folding a bib in such a precise manner as to remove all but the bib's essence, the number. Advertisers hate this tactic and have caused the outlawing of this practice at larger events. They've gone so far as to implant computer timing chips in the bibs themselves threatening a defacto disqualification for any would be folders (and wrinklers alike). Interestingly, this is often the very reason for the reformation of many former wrinklers and folders having paid large sums to participate.
  4. The Bandit- As mentioned, some races do not supply bibs at all. Bandits have difficulty with this situation and are often found blabbering incoherently and spinning in circles at these types of events. Wrinkles and folders make due with nearby garbage or old grocery receipts while newbies question the legitimacy of the event when not given a number with which to run. 
Origami Hipster

Divergent Groups
Here are a few other groups we have observed on a smaller scale which are not otherwise classified:
  • Low Safety-pin footprint: This runner uses only 3 safety pins, or in extreme cases, only 2. Amidst growing scarcity of safety pins, this runner is doing his/her part to spare up to 50% of global safety pin use for future generations of bibbers. 
    • Bib-Pockets- A highly specialized sub-group worth mentioning is the running shirt bib pocket runners. Zero safety pins are harvested in the course of this runner's racing. High incident of cross pollination within newbie populations.
  • Alternative Bibbing Styles: The bib has more variation that simply its mere appearance. Just as important is its location. While the newbie might make "errors" in bib placement, some veteran runners go out of their way to intentionally place the bib in alternative locations. Standard locations are the belly, the thigh and even the hip (for folders mainly)... but there are other locations too.
    • Head Honchos- Bib on the hat, more common on trails and ultras.
    • Below the Belt- Gear heads might affix bib to a specialized bib belt.
    • Van Gogh- This is an extremely rare, endangered runner marked by the tendency toward decorating the bib with a variety of media to embellish its inherent beauty. This includes but is in no way limited to paint, marker, crayon and general bedazzlement.

It is impossible to include all bib-havior in one blog post. If you feel I have made an egregious error omitting your alternative bib style please leave a respectful comment below. We are here to learn, not to judge, this is a safe haven for bibs of all sizes, shapes, colors, preferences, wrinkles, folds and locations. In short, we are equal opportunity bibbers.

Special thanks to Georgia Snail, Tommy B., Bart Yasso and Triple F for their inspiring this Bib-liography.


  1. This. is. HILARIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Also, I hope you don't mind but I posted in on my FB wall because it was just too hilarious not to share.

  3. This is so great. After sending you that email and getting your response, Tommy & I got a huge laugh and it even carried over into the trail discussuions the following morning at Pine Mountain 40 miler. Of course, we both were wearing crumpled bibs and while on trail commented several times that we were running so well "because we had wrinkled bibs."(we wanted to run like the Buffaloes)

    I was a "smooth bib", center ab wearer for years. I would record my race results on them and carefully preserve my smooth bib on my race wall. Then I showed up at my first ultra and everyone was wearing their bib on their thigh. WTH? I didn't get that memo. I quickly switched my bib to my thigh and it has stayed there ever since, even at road races.

    ...and now, I will be a wrinkled, thigh wearing bib runner.

    Excellent post!

  4. Wow, it seems taht I am an extremely rare Van Gogh and didn't know. The night before each race I find an insperational quote and write it on my bib with a Japanese calligraphy pen. No two races share the same quote. Those are the rules.

  5. Awesome! I intend to join the Van Gogh group, now that I am aware of it. Just need to remember to put my Sharpie pen in my race bag...

  6. So awesome! I learned so much. I love that you can tell the newbies by WHERE the put their bib. And I often have wrinkled bibs (not on purpose) but had no idea it meant I was so cool.

  7. I will never look at another bid the same.. LOL.

    Great post!

  8. Haha! Original, awesome post!

    I'd have to add to the pile of bib phenotypes, that I'm a 'slap that bib on my thigh with two pins and go' kinda gal. No nonsense please, but now I'm taking a liking to the Van Gogh one...

  9. I'm a "Bi-Quad" kinda guy myself: quad #1- four safety pins, quad #2- the right one. This phenotype allows for shirt-on/shirt-off versatility that others just don't permit if it is necessary to maintain bib exposure. Something to think about.. Great read!

  10. Another bib thought: How long did it take to get a duplicate number? Me: two duplicates in 106 races: Race #'s 23 & 30 (#283, 5k and 10k road races) and races #'s 46 & 96 (#34, 6k & 13.1 trail races). I track it all...


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