Medals

Céline’s post about medals the other day got me thinking about the subject.

(1) I have kept medals from all the events which gave them out. For a while they were being held on the wee, stubby arms of Melvin the Dinosaur. Alas, they were tipping him over. We had to move most of his Mardi Gras beads to his tail to keep him from falling over. (Yes, he’s a very popular dinosaur on Fat Tuesday.) So we decided to move them somewhere. But where . . . and how? Eventually we settled on coat hooks on a spot behind the door in the office.

As you can see, I’ve kept my medals and there’s room for more. Some of them—such as the NYC Triathlon, Rev3 Maine, and Around the Bay medals—are quite handsome.

(2) I’ve only “won” one of these medals. It was for a second-place age-group “podium” at a local 5K. It was given to me by one of the Special Olympics kids, who were benefiting from the race entry fees. It’s one of the least branded and simplest medals I have, but it meant a lot, as it’s my only top-three age-group placing ever. Another of the medals: for the B.A.A. 10K came at the end of a very difficult race (diabetically speaking) where I knew I could have easily run several minutes faster. I almost didn’t accept that medal, and I’ve never worn it. As soon as it was handed to me, I wadded it up and stuffed it in my shorts pocket. In fact, it took me a long to decide whether I was going to keep it at all.

(3) The only event I’ve ever done where I knew there would be a finisher’s medal was the Timberman Ironman 70.3. It was also my toughest race (diabetically speaking) and I wanted that finisher’s medal so badly. I would probably have finished the event without the prospect of a trinket, but it was a very tangible motivator. I could see myself getting it, feeling its weight around my neck. When I was running out of things to hold on to, it was something real to keep me going.

(4) I’ve received finisher medals at events where I didn’t expect to get one. I was 37 years old when I received my first medal of any kind, and the majority of the triathlons and smaller running races I do won’t give them out unless you’re “good enough.” Even when I was younger and better at running, the most I could hope for was a colorful ribbon. The aforementioned B.A.A. 10K gave out thousands of medals as if we had just finished running the Boston Marathon. I was surprised. I’ve also received medals for finishing century rides. Nowadays a 10K or century is just another thing I can do. When I think about what constitutes a “big deal” for me, I have to go for something a bit bigger.


When it comes right down to it, I think there are a lot of medals given, but that doesn’t mean there are too many handed out. My medal for completing a noncompetitive event is another person’s major accomplishment. The Timberman medal that I aspired to achieve is just another bit of race swag for somebody with loftier ambitions. So who am I to say whether getting or giving medals is done too often or for too many people?

Of course, if it has a number on it, that’s a different matter altogether. If I’m lucky, I’ll get a few more of those in the coming years. But then again, as with any other medal, I’m not going to expect one or take it for granted.

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4 Responses to Medals

  1. Céline says:

    Nice collection! I like how we both hang our medals on coat hooks. And I particularly liked seeing your Around the Bay medal in there. Memories…

  2. mary! says:

    interesting that you felt the exact opposite about receiving the two (diabetically) difficult race medals – what about those experiences made you feel that way? reading about the first one, i figured that you were just pissed off at your body for slowing you down, but since the 70.3 race was even tougher, diabetically, i assumed you would’ve felt the same way. was it because of the distance? or just your mood that day?

  3. Jeff Mather says:

    I wasn’t expecting to get a medal from the 10K, so when I got it at the end of the race (when I was still not doing well) I was still a bit pissed off. And then a volunteer put a medal in my hands.

    On the other hand, I knew that Ironman races (and most 70.3s) give out medals, so I had it as a motivator. And it was a lot earlier in the race, and I was able to turn it around by the end.

    So, maybe I’m not super-consistent in my thinking, but that’s my prerogative, right?

  4. mary! says:

    no, that makes sense – especially because it sounds like you finished the 70.3 race feeling non-pissed. i definitely understand, now.

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