Okay, I will admit it. I read the Letsrun.com message boards. It is primarily a habit leftover from college when I wanted to procrastinate on a project, but it still lingers as part of my procrastination strategy in the “real world.”. I rarely open up a thread to read, but a thread title caught my eye and I just had to add my $0.02. The thread, “Interesting Blog on Finisher Medals. What do ya think?,” struck a chord with me, because I do race for a finisher medal and I am proud of that.
Okay, before you scoff at my remark, let me back up. I started out as what Letsrun enthusiasts would call a HOBBY JOGGER, rec runner, or some other name to identify the “slower corrals.” I ran a 22:40 for my first 5k and didn’t even place in my age group at the local fourth of July race in Mifflinburg, PA. I did not go into that race thinking I was going to take home the winning trophy. I was not even sure I would be able to finish. The finisher medal I received was my achievement for accomplishing my goal. You would think the appeal would wear off somewhere around the 18 minute 5k mark, but it remained.
The volunteer at the end of the 25km Championship was actually shocked when I told him I had to go back through the line to pick up my finisher medal. He said I was not allowed and I insisted that it was necessary. Luckily, he went back for me, but it took some time to convince him I was not joking. That finisher medal meant just as much to me as anything else you could give me on that day. It represented accomplishment. My parents display my trophy for my USATF 25km Championship and my Top American position at the 2011 NYC Marathon in their house, but I have the finisher medals in my apartment. It is a small reminder of how far I have come and what my future goals are. When I look at my NYC Marathon medal, I am reminded of what I went through to get it and that gives the medal value to me.
Those who know me can assure you that my apartment is rather minimalist. I have yet to ever put up a decoration on a wall in my dorm rooms in college and my rooms/apartments after I graduated are just as empty. My childhood bedroom has decorations, but I am fairly sure my mom was the brains behind that. My dad compares my “four white walls” to a prison cell, but it fits me quite well. I do not like acquiring “stuff” and I hate knick knacks, but I proudly have all of my medals on a hanger in my closet. I think a lot of runners who have been in the game a long time, as well as elite runners, lose sight of why they started running in the first place. It wasn’t for the big appearance fees, the constant injury battle, and the free gear (at least I hope not). I started running because it filled my heart with contentment and joy. It provided me with an activity that has a never ending list of goals that I am constantly trying to achieve. My finisher medals are like a checklist of past goals and a springboard for my new ones.
I understand that not every local 5k finisher medal you acquire will have some deep meaning, but I beg you to remember that for someone else in that race it might mean the world. It could be a skinny young girl whose eyes are now open to a sport that filled an empty place in her heart, an elderly woman celebrating her victory of beating cancer, or for some far less dramatic reason that finisher medal holds significance for someone. Although we all have different goals on the starting line, our passion for running...elite runner and recreational runner alike...is why we lined up in the first place. What’s so bad about a little memento celebrating that?
Please share your finisher medal stories! I'd love to hear 'em!