This year's model will be wearing "blue."

This year’s model will be wearing “blue.”

I had a non-running friend recently tell me that they thought “finisher’s medals” were getting out of hand and did we even really need ’em in the first place?

I tried not to get huffy. After all, everyone is entitled to their opinion. Of course if I had had a finisher’s medal handy I might have clubbed them to death with it (some of them are rather large).

But I wanted to give their opinion some thought.

Saturday morning I’ll be pounding the pavement for 13.1 miles down and back along the “Avenue of the Stars” at the Hollywood Half Marathon. And once I cross the finish line and stop my GPS, one of the wonderful race volunteers will hang a blue star-shaped medal around my neck.

Because you won the race, right?


Second place then?

Oh, hell no.

Surely third place?

Not even close.

Let me know when you get to around 1,800th place, then you’ll be in the ballpark.

As we know, every single finisher of the race will get their own personal bit o’ bling in the form of a finisher’s medal, regardless of whether they break the tape or barely beat the road sweepers.

But do we need ’em?

I didn't know "purple" was for 7th place, did you?

I didn’t know “purple” was for 7th place, did you?

Let’s face it, everyone loves a little recognition. When we were kids we got participation ribbons or trophies for our sports teams and school projects. Even if our team put up a “Goose Egg” in the win column, at the end of the season pizza dinner we’d all get that little trophy in recognition for showing up and giving it the “old college try”… or since we were kids, wouldn’t it be the “old grade school try?”

And medals are sweet. Olympians currently get ’em for finishing in the top three spots of their event. Even Luke Skywalker got a cool medal for blowing up the Death Star.

But again, do we need ’em?

No, I don’t think we need them.

But I think we deserve them.

Now before you worry I might hurt my arm patting myself on the back, let me explain.

Running a race is a choice. We’re not forced to run (at least I don’t think we are). As runners, we decide that we are going to do a race and willingly commit to it.

Seaside bling.

Seaside bling.

Elite runners do it for the competition, the chance to win and to enjoy the spoils of victory.

For the rest of us, our reasons are varied… and very personal.

  • Some do it just for fun.
  • Some do it as a way to raise money for charity or in memory of someone else.
  • Some do it because they used running as a way to be healthier or get in shape.
  • Some do it to join a friend or family member.
  • Some do it as a personal challenge, just to see if they can finish and do something they thought impossible.
  • Some do it for reasons known only to them…

But whatever your rationale, running a 10K, half marathon or marathon typically doesn’t come without dedication and sacrifice, including: early morning runs, watching what you eat, sore muscles/other assorted aches and on and on.

LA Marathon '09 medal. Kinda "Meh" and "Wonderful" at the same time.

LA Marathon ’09 medal. Kinda “Meh” and “Wonderful” at the same time.

The finisher’s medal is symbolic of the obstacles faced and overcome. It’s why we get medals at the end of the race, when we’re tired, sweaty, sore and most likely in a bit of pain.

That colorful bit of bling hanging from a ribbon signifies a tangible and permanent reminder that we stared doubt in the face and did it anyway.

When I was given the finisher’s medal at the end of my first marathon, I couldn’t stop staring at it. It wasn’t the prettiest medal I’d ever seen, but in that moment it was perfect. It glowed. I’ve heard similar stories from many people after their first race.

I had been given (let me restate that… I had “earned”) an everlasting token of a moment in time when I pushed my body and spirit. While it doesn’t have any inherent monetary value, it’s priceless to me.

Did I need that medal (and those that have followed)?

No. I’d still have the memory of the accomplishment even if I went away empty-handed.

But I think I deserved a little gift as a way to remember it, kind of like how we tend to pick up souvenirs from a memorable trip or past moment in our lives.

So many medals, so much "clubbing" to do.

So many medals, so much “clubbing” to do.

And whether you put it on the mantle, place it on a shelf, stick it in a drawer or hang it on the wall (like I do with my medals), it’s there for you to enjoy whenever you (or your friends, if you force them) want.

So back to my friend. I don’t begrudge them for doubting the need for medals. In fact I should just show them my medal hanger and explain what they mean to me.

I think then they’ll understand.

And if not, I can just snatch a medal off of the wall and club them to death with it. As I mentioned, some of them are rather large.

Run on!

(I’m not done with bling yet… check in tomorrow for more on medals).
















Posted on April 2, 2014, in General and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 14 Comments.

  1. I run for fitness. I sign up for events to motivate me to keep running. I sign up for specific events for the experience and the bling. Bling serve as a momento of my experience and as a marker of how far I have come on my journey. No bling…no run.

    • Thanks for reading. I enjoy the bling too, as my souvenir of the race and personal memory of the moment. I’d be disappointed if they stopped giving them out. I’d be curious to see how you feel about “challenge medals.” I’ve got a post on that coming out tomorrow (kind of a follow-up) and it’ll be interesting to see how people respond.

  2. Great post. I agree with your rationale 100%. It is nice to receive something as a reward for your hard work. I did a similar post on my blog a few months ago. Bling makes all the difference for an event for me.

    • Thanks for the read and comment. I’ll check out your blog as well. Oh, and tomorrow I’ve got a follow-up on bling where I talk about the “runaway” number of bonus/challenge medals out there. Curious to hear people’s thoughts on those.

  3. Bling-a-ding-ding. My only comment? I hope you used wall anchors when you put up your medal rack…

  4. As a newcomer, I have one medal. Just one. But it is a very tangible reminder of what I (and 10,000 other people, most much faster than me), did, and while there may currently be only one medal on it, I, too, have a wall rack for my bling. Trinkets that will mark my progress from late blooming beginner to, (hopefully), somewhat competitive runner!

  5. I lost most of my first 100 (marathon finishers medals) to a house fire in May 2008. (A few were salvageable.) That was a wake-up call. I had to reconsider how important they were. I wrote (semi)-form letters to all the race-directors whose addresses I could establish, and experienced about a 25-30% recovery rate. (Nominally for the races that had occurred in the 5-10 years prior.) (I had been marathoning for 24 years up to then.)

    So, as you can tell, the medals were important to me. Each one represents a different memory. Which made it a bit awkward when I was “re-issued” a medal for marathons from some event organizers for a few years in which I had NOT participated since none were left from the year I had, or race management had changed.

    I have participated in a few marathons that had no finishers award of any kind (Elma, Washington St Patricks Day 2003) and Pacific Coast Trails, Skyline to the Sea come to mind), which put receiving a finishers award for completing 5 Kilometers in context. I also have a cowbell and a candle finisher award.

    I will also review the series medal article-maybe a 3 part blog, and cover virtual bling next.

    • I’m sorry you lost those medals (aka memories); I equate it to losing family photo albums. You have the snapshot in your mind, but there’s something about holding that memory in your hand. Glad you were able to get some replacements.

  6. I feel the same way. Running does not come easy to me – and I worked HARD to get to the races that I complete! Bling is not 100% necessary for me to chose a race, but it definitely helps. One pet peeve I have is race series that don’t give medals for each event. I do a 5k every year that also has a half marathon and a kid’s fun run. The 5k event does not get a medal and the others do. I worked hard for my 5k! 🙂

    • Congrats on the hard work you’ve put into your running. I’m sure it’s paid off for you in countless ways. I do enjoy my bling as well. Some events give medals for 5Ks and 10Ks, some don’t. It’s just the way it is and there’s not set logic behind why or why not. I suggest you write to the race organizers, believe it or not, many do listen and will take suggestions to heart. But whether you get a medal or not, it doesn’t detract from your success. Keep on running… and thanks for reading.

  1. Pingback: BONUS BLING! | Tripping The Kenyans

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