Thursday, April 4, 2013

Medal Maddness

Now that March (and most of the madness) is over it's time to start thinking about spring. The weather is warmer and those of us in the north can start training outside again. Once that runners high kicks in it's time to think about which races you want to do.  There are a lot of things to consider when choosing a race. Location, course, in race features such as obstacles, swag and let’s not forget the medal.

For most distances beyond 5K! runners will usually receive a medal, and these aren’t the participant trophy that you got in little league, running longer distances is an accomplishment.  (What do you mean your little league trophy said "first place"?) Running these distances is a challenge and takes many weeks of training before you can even get to the start line.  The medal is the embodiment of that work.  Weekly training runs in pre-dawn hours or those long weekend runs in the rain aren’t glamorous and you deserve a metaphorical pat on the back.

 Rock n Roll Arizona and desert double down medals hanging out at the Grand Canyon

The makers of medals have a hard job.  They have to boil down a race, a city and a theme into something about the size of an iPhone that you can wear around your neck.  On top of all that it needs to attractive so that people actually want to wear it, because that’s kind of the point of getting a medal.  I’ve seen people wearing their medals everywhere from bars, to airplanes to concerts.  A good medal goes a long way in making a complete race.

Almost any type of medal you could think of, and some you would never, are out there.  Just google it!
-          Medals shaped like lobster claws?  Check!
-          Medals shaped like aliens?  Beam me up Scottie!
-          Medals that glow in the dark?  There is a light at the end of that tunnel!
-          Medals shaped like Pirates?  Ahoy matey!
-          Medals shaped like surfboards that double as a bottle opener?  Yes please!
-          Season medals?  Santa, Halloween and even the Easter bunny are all represented.
-          Medals made out of wood?  Is that still a medal?

You get the picture, the medal is the embodiment of the race, they can be fun, they can be showy and they can also be a good recruiting tool, which brings us to one cold evening in December 2011.
As our annual holiday party was winding down, and the discussion started to turn to my wife’s homage to her 2011 running.  She had run three halfs that year (one more than me) and the medals for those along with her rock ‘n’ roll heavy medals were hanging on the door to our china cabinet.  As we talked about each race and how much fun it would be to have some of my old high school friends run with me, we were met with the usual opposition.  “That’s too far.”  “I have to commit to running how much?” but no matter what the mouth said, the eyes kept coming back to the medals.  By the end of the discussion one of my friends was wearing a medal and that (along with some pinot grigio) was enough to reel them in, and a few months later we were all signed up. 

2011 Half Marathon Medals double as a recruiting tool

We all lived in different cities so we had to train (or not) by ourselves, but we kept each other in the loop about what we were doing (see my first post about facebook).  Nine months later everyone converged on Rode Island where we would all be running the rock ‘n’ roll Providence half marathon together.  Race day was here and as we waited for the start, there were a lot of nerves for everyone.  For the first timers it was along the lines of “If I die during the race I’m coming back to haunt you for getting me into this” which I thought very unlikely for two people in very good shape.  For me it was “what happens when these guys blow through the course and finish two hours in front of me” which seemed much more likely.

 The race started and I couldn’t find my wife.  My friends and I were still in the line port-a-potty as our corral crossed the starting line.  Had I bit off more than I could chew?  Had I pushed my friends down a path they weren’t ready for?  We made our way to the closest coral and received a text message that my wife had crossed the starting line, at lease someone made it to the right coral, and a few minutes later we were off.  At first it looked like at least half of my fear was taking hold as one of my friends sped off on his own to complete the race in just over an 8 minute per mile pace, but I knew I had to run my own race if I wanted to finish and enjoy doing it.  After a few more miles my other friend outpaced me and now everyone was on their own.

Just before mile 10 I got the first text message that one of my friends had finished, then about two miles later another text with the same message, and about 15 minutes later I crossed the finish line myself.  At the end of the day, none of our fears were realized, my friends had set out and completed their first half marathons something that seemed so foreign to them less than a year ago, and I had the joy of sharing it with them (along a new PR).

The Plainville crew tastes sweet victory...and something slightly metallic

The moral of the story is that a medal is more than a medal.  It's a pat on the back, a validation, a story in itself, and sometime even more than that. 

Looking for some races with cool medals?  Check out's list here of the best race day medals.

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