The finish line is in sight. Despite being exhausted, you tighten up your form as well as you can and do your best to get there as soon as possible. As soon as you cross, you slow to a stumbling walk and lean over to catch your breath. As you look up, a race volunteer places a medal over your head. It feels good; like you were just knighted for your valiant race effort. You walk through the chutes and take a good gander at the round medallion, rubbing it over with your fingers and reading the inscription. When you get home, you carefully place it on the counter—where it will remain untouched for weeks until you finally need the counter space, so you toss it somewhere out of sight where it will be lost or forgotten, or you place it on your rack proudly displaying your other race medals thick with dust.
This is a conundrum most runners face. We all look forward to the race medal because it’s a symbol of our accomplishment. But…beyond that, they are pretty pointless. You get to wear it around for a few hours (at best) after a race, and then…never again.
Why is this archaic practice still the norm? Why haven’t we updating the finish line swag to something more…practical? Something we can enjoy longer or more fully? I know the answer is probably as simple as “tradition,” but I’d like to suggest a few ideas for alternative finish line swag just in case there is a race director out there reading this who is courageous enough to go against the grain…
Folding Camping Chairs
In all honesty, I didn’t come up with this one my own. I won a 50K once, and this was my prize. As I plopped my tired ass down in it about two seconds after receiving it, all I could think was, “Wow. What better gift could you possibly give a tired runner than a chair? This is ingenious!”
This may be the next best thing to a chair. Or better yet, enjoy a free cup of steaming joe while sitting in your new chair. Race directors, please consider this! Hell, it could be made even easier by just handing out a $5 coffee card—many coffee companies would probably donate these for free just for the publicity and potential return customers.
If the point of the medal is to make us feel important and have a way to brag about our accomplishment, why not give the gift that keeps on bragging? It’s customary to only wear the race medal the rest of the day you raced—no one (let’s hope) wears it to work or to their next cocktail party. However, most runners drive somewhere every day, so anyone behind them will be informed via bumper of his or her running exploit.
Perhaps this is the all-too-practical side of me coming out, but running socks is a staple on my wish list. It’s always my first answer when asked what I want for my birthday, Christmas, Mother’s Day, etc. They are such a simple thing, yet indispensible for runners. They are not too expensive for races to offer (I’m sure they could score a contract deal with some sock manufacturer)—at least not much more than a medal must cost—but are just expensive enough that it’s hard to convince yourself that you’re worth a $15 pair of socks. Hang a pair of new running socks around my neck next time I cross a finish line, and I guarantee I’ll be happy. Anyone else?
Am I the only one who thinks a few more people might muster up the gumption to run a PR (personal record) if a free race entry were on the line? Why not offer this incentive to the first x number of people who finish?
Sure, everyone who completes a race they started is a winner in some sense, but we don’t all need a medal just for finishing. Why not save the medals for the people who actually won the race, and give the rest of us what we really want anyway – clean socks, somewhere to sit, and some caffeine!
By: Audra Rundle