Athleta Frontrunner Jacket: 20+ Years of Evolution
In the beginning, there was the navy blue Columbia half zip rain hoody, circa early 90s and purchased not for running, but for general purpose use in high school and college. Jump to 1995 when I started running. It, of course, got cold. Also, it would rain or be windy. So, I pulled out this sucker and went at it. And kept it and used it for YEARS folks. YEARS.
So, yes, I used to run looking like a Jawa.
Now jump to 2001/02, and our local running store’s (John’s Run Walk Shop) Winter Gambler’s Sale (Items go on sale in increasing percentages over a weekend, and you “gamble” on whether to buy at an earlier discount, or wait for a higher one, at the risk that your item will be gone. Super concept!).
I purchased my first “real” running jacket – a navy (apparently I had a thing for navy) Brooks jacket. It has reflectivity and weighed less than 10 pounds. But, when training for my first marathon in 2003, I had to do a number of training runs at 4:30 a.m. While this jacket had some reflectivity, I started to understand the need for brighter colors when running in the dark.
So, back to the John’s Gambler’s sale, where I got another half price jacket, a silver and red Hind with super cool reflectivity on the back.
I gambled a bit for this purchase, and had to buy a size large. But thought I could make it work. And I did, for a number of years. I loved the color and the reflectivity, but began to tire of the excessive bagginess and the way it made that incessant “swish” “swish” sound because of all the extra material (you know, that like when you were a kid wearing a snowsuit).
So . . . BACK TO THE JOHN’S GAMBLER’S SALE! Where, I finally purchased a jacket that fit – a Pearl Izumi dark red and black number with a slash chest pocket and full length pocket across the back (great for storing “snot socks,” yes, socks I use to blow my nose).
This jacket fit, was breathable, did OK in rain, was great in wind. BUT (yes, there always seems to be a but), the reflectivity was all at the top of the jacket, and my pony tail covered it up entirely (meaning on dark mornings I had to pull the silver Hind back out), it was a bit short, and worst of all for me, it still “swished.”
And by the way, along this winding jacket road, I also tried a “waterproof” jacket. (Yes, from the John’s Gambler’s Sale.) A pink Nike deal that was super bright and I hoped would keep me dry. Yeah, that didn’t happen. What they don’t tell you about waterproof jackets is that while they keep water OUT, they also keep any water IN. So, sweat, water that runs down your neck, into the sleeves, etc., stays in. And for me, collected in the sleeves. I’d have a cup of water sloshing around in each sleeve after about 15 minutes of rain that I could actually DUMP OUT. That was truly a misplaced investment that I wish I could get back. I went back to the Pearl Izumi almost immediately.
I started seriously looking for a replacement jacket this year. Definitely not waterproof, but the musts were: light (not a winter-type), water and wind resistant, bright color, good reflectivity, pockets, correct fit (preferably that covered my bum), and less “swish.”I searched on the Internet for a new Pearl Izumi, but none seemed to have pockets. I perused the Nike selection, especially the Flash. And looked, of course, at the John’s Gamber’s Sale. But nothing was just right. I would have to pay return shipping for trying any Nike jacket, and the Flash was $495. Yes, you read that correctly. $495. For one jacket. And while super cool and reflective, it was not a bright color for when you need that more than reflectivity (gray days, in the snow, etc.). I had not branched out into Athleta jackets, but decided to try now – what with free shipping and free returns, AND the give it a workout guarantee (meaning you can actually wear the thing for real and not worry about tags etc.) there was nothing to lose. I tried the Stripe Jammin’ jacket in blue and the Frontrunner in orange. (I passed on the $298 Start jacket for the same reasons as the Nike Flash.)
After some serious test runs, including a ten miler, one in solid 19 mph winds, and one in the pitch black of the evening with my husband following by car, I’ve decided on the Frontrunner. I love the bright orange color (a la a traffic cone), the reflective stripes that go all the way to the bottom on the front and back, the grippy material at the hem, the close-cut fit, the chest pocket, the large back pocket, the pit zips, and (drum roll please), the material is ALMOST NON SWISHY!! And, almost as good, it packs into that back pocket and turns into a nifty little fanny pack, so no tying around the waist if you end up not needing it!
A number of the Skortaholics are also on the lookout for jackets, we will let you know how those quests work out! In the meantime, take a look at the jacket chart, which also has my comments on the Stripe Jammin’ jacket, and let us know what you have found in the jacket department that may help the other gals in their search. (And yes, I still have all of my jackets, even the Columbia, except for the Brooks, which I gave to my best friend. I promise I’m not a hoarder. You just never know when you may need to look like a Jawa!)