Sunday, December 9, 2012

Those Medaling Prizes

As I look back on 2012, I noticed that there were several additions to my Finisher's Medals family. I see their rainbow colored ribbons strung down to an insignificant amount of metal and I scratch my head. Why? Why in the world to race organizers feel the need to hand these things out?

I got my first finisher's medal back in 1998. The second came from the same race in 1999. Both medals, and countess others reside in this bag, in a box, in my garage. Emperor Palpatine watches over them to ensure that they don't get into any mischief.

My old roommate and I were losers who had just finished college and had nothing else better to do with our lives than go running and participate in the local 5ks. He had this brilliant idea of signing up for the Chicago Marathon. I, of course, was/ am an idiot. "Sure. How hard could it be?" We spent the summer training pretty much the exact same way as for 5k except that we gradually increased our long runs. I actually finished the race with a respectable time, despite all of the post-race pain and crying. Upon crossing the line, some hot chick draped a piece of aluminum foil around my shoulders while another had the unfortunate job of placing the medal around my neck. Maybe it was because of the hot chick. Maybe it was because of the endorphin-induced runner's high. Maybe it was because of the lack of oxygen and glycogen to my brain. It most certainly was not because of the shiny triangle dingling down my sore chest. I couldn't have been happier. 

Those mark the only 2 times I have ever been stupid enough to run an open marathon.

This year brought 6 new Finisher's Medals into my home. I got one for a duathlon, half marathon, 2 half iron tris, a full iron tri, and one more for something I cannot remember. Not a single one has brought me any sort of joy or excitement. Upon arriving home from a Finisher's Medal event, I stop at the laundry room to unpack my stinkies. I learned many years ago that, if I don't clean out my bag immediately, I will not clean out my bag until my next event. My stuff reeks in real time. Three weeks in a closed-system does not improve the stench. While I dump my stuff into the special workout clothes hamper near my wash machine, I generally dump the medals onto the floor near the wash basin. (Note: This pic was not staged, much to the chagrin of the Wife.)

I've never seen anyone wearing their Finisher's Medals away from finishers line. Wonderful volunteers hand them out to the countless athletes. Most will walk around the race campus, eating the post-race food, having the post-race conversations, etc. The Finisher's Medals do not indicate a race time. Or race position. Or even a racer's name. The provide absolutely no data about the race itself. Most people take them off when they get to their car or, at the very latest, home.

Once in a while, after a particularly grueling race (grueling in terms of effort or in terms of a long drive home), the medal makes it to the bottom of my bag. The medal re-emerges later in life when I re-pack the bag for the next event. I don't normally enjoy carrying around extra weight, so I'll dump the medal on the nearest, most convenient location. This is typically my dresser, right next to my belts.

Those medals are in my line of vision on a daily basis, yet I never actually see them. They have become part of the landscape to which I have grown accustomed. I don't even know how many are there or which events they represent.

That fact may be the reason I hate them so much. 'Hate' may be too strong of a word but I am using it in the "I really wish they would stop handing these annoying, useless forms of participant ribbons out." Unlike the 'free' t-shirt which has names of sponsors and may actually be seen in public, the medal does not advertise the race to anyone else. People will receive their shirt with the cost of admission and wear it during the race. Maybe a photographer will snap a shot for the local news with the endorsement clearly visible. I still have and wear some of my race shirts from the 90s. The long-sleeved shirt in the pic at the left was from the Chicago 1/2 Marathon in 1999. I wore this at the 2011 Rochester Half. I would say that the RDs got their advertising investment back after 12 years of running in that shirt. Think of how many people I passed or passed me just in that one race alone. The back of the shirt has that long list of businesses who paid money to get their names on the back of that shirt. The subliminal message scientists would have a field day analyzing that kind of promotion.

Shortly after that picture, I got a Finisher's Medal. It will never see the light of day again. It won't make it to another race. It won't be featured in any future race reports or photo-ops.

Pretty soon, the Wife will force me to do something with the hardware scattered around the house. And she is right to do so. Slobs like me need extra encouragement. When that day comes, I could huddle up all of those pieces of useless decoration and ship them off to amazing charity organizations such as Medals 4 Mettle. They scoop up your negative attitudes and give them to sick children and their families. Pointless artifacts can be turned into smiles and tokens of honor as opposed to the burden they have become in my life.

I have donated all of my Age Group awards and trophies to charity. I keep some of my race shirts. Some have gone to charity. Some have gone to the garage to clean my bike. Some are too heinous for any of those tasks and head to the trash. However, when the time comes, I'll will probably gather up my Finisher's Medal's hardware and place it in the Emperor Palpatine bag like I have done with each and every medal I have ever received. Into the bag they will go along with the Chicago Medals. And the IMLP medals. And various running events. And various triathlon events.

I still don't know the purpose of this swag. Their function is completely beyond my comprehension. Yet, I keep them all.

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