Smile Politely

Medal or No Medal

I recently looked at the oodles of finisher medals and the smattering of age group awards I’ve received over the years and wondered if I’m a bad person. I saw a poll by Runner’s World about the importance of finisher’s medals. Granted, it’s an unscientific survey, and clearly, anyone reading Runner’s World and commenting on such a poll is probably pretty dedicated. I mean, would I go to a quilting website and argue that a rocking stitch beats out a straight stitch unless I was a hardcore quilter? Probably not.

Still, seeing the responses of some of these runners about getting medals, it seemed like most of them were insulted they were given them at all. One said, “Half marathons/10k’s are just tune up races to me and I couldn’t care less if they gave me a medal or not.”

Another wrote, “I like medals, but I’m a shallow person.” I know this person was joking, but it got me wondering if, because I like medals and wear them after a race, I am a bad person.

Recently, I ran the MO’ Cowbell Half Marathon (another PR I might add … Go me!), and I wore the medal around St. Charles, MO after the race. People looked at me kind of funny when I went in a restaurant, but I didn’t think too much about it. I wore the medal more to show the town that, “Look, see … this runner came to town to spend money.” It wasn’t that I was trying to throw my accomplishment in anyone’s face. I hoped they’d see some economic benefit to the inconvenience of having roads closed and traffic tie-ups.

Personally, I like medals. I believe they inspire me to work harder, and I think a good, high quality medal motivates me to run a race. But, when I got home and looked at all the other medals I’d earned, I thought maybe I should see what others think about the whole medal thing.

I posed some questions to my runner friends on Facebook: “What are you feelings about finisher medals? Love ’em? Hate ’em? Don’t care about ’em? What’s your take? Do medals matter to you?”

Here’s what some had to say:

  • It’s ridiculous, but I love them. I have a friend who chooses races based on the medal!
  • They’re nice, but entirely unnecessary in my opinion. I’ve been trying to keep all my bibs as mementos from the races so I don’t need anything else to prove I ran the race.
  • All my finishers medals (half and full distances) remind me not only of what races I’ve accomplished, but the cities in which the adventure took place 🙂 I recently got a finisher’s medal for a local 10K. It has a nice design, but for a 10K?
  • I’ve run races where I got nothing, not even a lousy T-shirt, and I felt sad about it, but I have to admit, even though I keep all my medals, I never look at the darn things, ever … Races that give something other than a medal (keychain, cowbell, cheesy plastic trophy) are cool, but there comes a point where you don’t need any more cowbell, thank you very much.
  • I also keep my bibs, and recently started writing the race and date on them! I do like medals and trophies! I think they are a good reminder. The homemade ones are the best, for instance the ones at The Women’s Fitness are awesome! But if the race is for charity and the money is best used elsewhere I can forgo the medal/trophy and just enjoy my bib!
  • I like to give them away to young kids. I might keep a trophy for winning age group, etc., but that hasn’t happened yet 🙂

I suppose sweaty race bibs are a step up from nothing, but I’d prefer a medal over bibs. They’re shiny and clean and, in some cases, well designed.

But, I agree, there comes a point where medals and all the other tchotchkes for finishing a 10k, or even worse — a 5k — kind of cheapens the experience. I understand it’s an accomplishment, especially if you’re new to running, but a 5k just doesn’t compare to a half marathon, and the medal should reflect that.

For those looking to clear out the medal chest, you can donate your hardware to Medals 4 Mettle. Your medal will then go to children and adults fighting real battles against illness, something really worthy of recognition.

Whatever you do with your medals, be it putting them in a shoe box under your bed or displaying them proudly on your dresser, you earned them. Be proud!

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