Forget the Medals! 5 New Ideas for Finish Line Rewards

Finish line

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.

Bumper Stick­ers
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.

Run­ning Socks
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?

Race Entry
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