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