Hey Trippers!

Am I "blue"?

Am I “blue”?

Yesterday I got all nostalgic talking about the importance of the “finisher’s medal.” Well, today I’m going to bring up a more recent development concerning “all things bling.”

Like I said before, on Saturday I’ll be running the Hollywood Half Marathon and my pavement pounding efforts will earn me a cool blue star-shaped “finisher’s medal.”

What I forgot to mention yesterday was the “other” medal I’ll also get on Saturday.

Wait. What other medal?

Note: Objects in picture may be much much bigger than they seem.

Note: Objects in picture may be much much much bigger than they seem.

Oh yes, I’ll be walking away from that race with a pair of medals, the aforementioned star medal AND the “Best of LA Challenge” medal. And let me tell you, this thing is massive, the kind of medal that would make Flavor Flav blush. If anyone ever wants to get uppity with me about the silliness of race medals, I could “literally” knock some sense into them with this bad boy… or at least cause a concussion.

Obviously to earn this “behemoth of bling” you  must be required to do something tremendous, like run the half marathon backward and blind-folded with a pair of rabid badgers stuffed down your running shorts all the while juggling flaming chainsaws.


Then obviously you must break the sound barrier during the run and finish the half marathon in less than 90 seconds.

Way off base. I could finish behind “Slowpoke Rodriguez” (“Speedy Gonzalez’s” plodding yet equally non-PC cousin) and still qualify.

So what incredible feat must you accomplish to warrant an extra piece of bling?

Woo hoo. Rock on!

Woo hoo. Rock on!

Nothing really. I just have to also have run the New Year’s Race (the Hollywood Half Marathon’s “sister race”) back in January… oh and go to the tent after the H’wood Half and have them hand over the gigantic plaque of a medal.

It seems that many races are teaming up and offering “series participation” medals (or some other kind of swag incentive) to encourage you to run multiple events in their particular series. Mind you, these are not medals given for completing a particular race, but rather an additional medal given to reward you for having participated in races you’ve received medals for already.

Yes, you heard right… BONUS BLING!

It’s kind of the “Plus if you act now” of marathon running.

“Run three races and we’ll give you an extra medal along with this set of steak knives “free” (just pay extra shipping and handling). Operators are standing by!”

And it’s a trend that’s quickly gaining momentum. How crazy is it getting, you may ask?

And no horses in sight.

And no horses in sight.

Southern California has the “Beach Cities Challenge” medal, which you qualify for by finishing Surf City Marathon, OC Marathon and Long Beach Marathon all in a row (halfs or full). I earned my first one back in February.

Rock ‘n’ Roll has their “Heavy medal” series earning you an additional medal with each race you run in their series. So, say run 7 races in their series in 2014 and you’ll accumulate an additional SIX medals without taking an extra step.

Oh, it gets crazier.

On top of that, Rock ‘n Roll also has their other “challenge medals” (which you get in addition to the “Heavy Medals”) for running multiple races in the same region in the same calendar year: “The Desert Double Down,” “Cali Combo,” “Dallas Duo,” “Pacific Peaks,”Cascadia” and so on…

It makes me wonder if they’re in collusion with the medal hanger manufacturers… hmmm.

To infinite medals... and beyond!

To infinite medals… and beyond!

Now, Disney has a seemingly infinite number of challenge races*: the Dumbo Double Dare, Dopey Challenge, Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge , Coast to Coast Challenge (regular and special pink version) and so many others I honestly can’t keep track. At this point I wouldn’t be surprised if they just give you a medal for walking from the parking lot to the starting line.

*NOTE: As an aside, I think runners at Disney races deserve an extra medal for navigating the long expo lines (perhaps name it the “Speedpass Challenge”) and for weaving in and out of the multiple packs of walkers (maybe call it the “Meandering Mater” medal). If you choose to walk a Disney half marathon “kudos” to you, but for “Walt’s” sake please start in a corral that matches your pace, keep to the right and walk no more than three abreast so you don’t block the runners coming up behind you. Do that and I’ll gladly give you an extra medal.

And there are plenty of other series that have adopted the buddy system to entice you to run additional races.

Who doesn't want an encore... of bling?

Who doesn’t want an encore… of bling?

To put it bluntly, that’s a shitload of bling.

And to be honest, it’s got me just a tad bit conflicted.

I said yesterday that what I liked about the finisher’s medal is it’s a tangible token of remembrance for a race that you “earn” by running it.

Do these bonus medals fall in the same category? My gut says “no.”

Sure, these medals are cool (some of them are quite stunning in fact) and look great hanging on the wall with your other medals, but they still feel more like a marketing tool to me and just might “water down” the significance of the individual race medals.

Now to bash these bonus medals too harshly would label me quite the hypocrite (and I do so loathe hypocrisy). I really like my 2014 Beach Cities Challenge medal and will earn the 2015 version come next February. Also, in the next month I’ll be getting both the “Best of LA Challenge” medal as well as the “Double Dog Dare” medal (for running both the Surf City Half Marathon and OC Full Marathon), not to mention that signing up for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon 3-Pack will grant me the “Rock Encore” and “Triple Crown” medals. And if I choose to run San Jose later this year (on the fence right now), I’ll also add the “Cali Combo” to my collection. And you can be sure that these medals will grace my wall.

I double dog dare you NOT to run.

I double dog dare you NOT to run.

So what does that make me? Other than a candidate for the marathon medal version of “Hoarders,” I mean.

To be honest, I’m not really sure. But until I figure it out, I guess I’ll just have to take these bonus challenge medals with a grain of salt (or perhaps a full packet of salt)… and knowing the way I sweat during a race, a little extra salt is a good thing.

Run on!

(What are your thoughts on challenge/bonus medals?)






Posted on April 3, 2014, in General. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Erika Whitney

    I think when you consider whether or not you “earned” the bonus bling, there are challenges, and then there are challenges. The Disney challenge medals, like the Glass Slipper for doing the 10k and half back to back, represent an actual additional challenge to your endurance/stamina, over and above what would be called upon for the individual events themselves. On the other hand, your Best of LA Challenge medal doesn’t seem to require any additional effort, since the races included are months apart.

    • Thanks so much for reading… a very valid point. Some of the Disney challenges do require you to run multiple races on multiple days and could certainly warrant some extra bling. I’m doing the Avengers Half Marathon and Las Vegas Half Marathon on the same day in November… unfortunately no extra bling there. The only reward I’ll get is some personal satisfaction, some tired muscles and I’m sure a very good night’s sleep afterward.

  2. I got sucked in too. I had previously participated in the (then) Pacific Shoreline, OC and Long Beach Marathons, as stand-alone events and with in a 12 month period in 06/07, yet I am running them all again this year for that “cool” Beach Cities Challenge award. And, apparently I am “overkilling” for a double-dog-down 39.3 award (a nice bottle opener for my beer, and I am a hash house harrier…but I digress… (Maybe you I should write a blog on this so ordinary runners understand who these strange folks are handing out dixie cups of beer at mile 20 of the marathon)…

    In any case all I “needed: to run for the double dog dare was 39.3 miles but I am going to run 52.4.

    As to proliferation and multiple medals for the same events through series awards, I guess I am subconsciously justifying it at this point because I probably have at least 60 marathon medals that were destroyed in a fire that will never be replaced.

    • Hey Eddie,

      Looking forward to getting my beer bottle opener at OC too. Enjoy all the medals, especially the ones that encourage (and enable) us to drink.

  3. Well, let’s be honest, the real motivation behind bonus medals is to get people to keep signing up for events. No need to kid ourselves. That said, I love my Beach Cities Challenge medal and I’m really looking forward to the “California Dreamin'” medal I’ll get for running Surf City and the SF Marathon.

  4. Yep. This is a marketing tool that I very much enjoy. Last year, I decided to run the Disney Marathon. Then I say the goofy challenge. That sucked me in (and doing a half and a full on subsequent days deserves extra bling…and is the hardest thing I have ever trained for). I figured that, if I was spending that much time to travel for a race, I was gonna get all the bling I could out of that trip. So, I signed up for the 5k as well (this was the year before the 10k and Dopey…but it was unofficially called the Dopey challenge at the time). Then I thought about Coast to Coast. Then they added a 10k and Dumbo…done. One weekend, 3 races, 22.4 miles, 5 medals. I did the TC Ultra Loony challenge before it existed (5k, 10k, Full Marathon) in 2 days. Miffed that I didn’t get the bonus bling. Not planning on running the TC marathon in the near future, but am signed up for the Loony Challenge (5k, 10k, 10 mile). Also doing the Flying Pig 4 way (5, 10, full) when they announced bonus bling this year. Route 66 full will include the 5k and 1 mile fun run just for the extra 2 medals and 2 t-shirts (and the extra medallion for the Journey to the center of the universe detour). My local series has a bonus series medal and jacket. They also had a double medal race (long story). Bottom line, I want as much bling as I can haul from an out of town trip…

  5. This year, I completed my first half marathon at the Shamrock event in Virginia Beach, VA. I also completed something called the Dolphin Challenge: running a 8k on Saturday, and the half marathon on Sunday. I received a medal for both races, and a challenge medal. I think in instances where you complete multiple events in multiple days – a challenge medal makes sense! (Especially in the Disney races!) I’m not sure how I feel about challenge medals for multiple events throughout the year – but hey, its a commitment to do those specific races, I guess. I’m always in favor of bling, so why not?!

    • Multiple events in multiple days, sounds like a good reason for bonus bling to me as you are pushing yourself beyond the norm. And yes, we all like our bling regardless (myself included).

  6. Erika Whitney

    By the way – I have a three-race series starting tomorrow night, the “thirsty 3.” The races (a 5k tomorrow night at a brewery, a 5k or half in August at a winery and a 5k or a 10k in October at a…cidery? What do you call it where they make hard cider?) are quite spread out, so the running itself does not pose any additional challenges.
    Instead of an extra medal, they offer a special medal holder (emblazoned “Thirsty 3” and just wide enough for the three events’ medals) if you complete all three races. I thought that was a pretty clever way of offering something extra for marketing purposes but not making it a medal that some might feel is unearned.

    • That is a cool idea… I’d like to see a picture of it. And do each of the races give you a drink appropriate race glass (pint, wine and I guess another pint). One of the things I’ve started buying now at races are the logo emblazoned pint glasses (I’ve got Rock ‘n’ Roll Vegas, Surf City and a few others). Sure they’re overpriced (usually $10) but it’s something I use every day and a nice reminder of the races.

      • Erika Whitney

        Yes, the glassware is alcohol-appropriate – it’s a pint glass, a wine glass, and a mason jar (with handle). Here’s the URL for this past Friday’s 5k that shows the medal hanger with the ribbons of the three medals (the medals themselves are cropped out of the picture):

      • I checked it out… that’s a pretty cool idea (and of course I love the glasses). Thanks for sharing.

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