Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Finisher Medals

As a child I was not at all athletic. The closest I came to participating in a sport was being in the marching band -- at least I was on the same field as the football players, so that should count, right?

I didn't even start running until late 2010. Since then I have run races in about 10 states, plus Canada, and witnessed a race in Japan (had I but known). I'm even on the committee for the Princeton Half Marathon, and will be a "balloon lady," otherwise known as the last designated finisher, in 2015. I've actually lost count as to how many races I've run. More than medals I have collected along the way.

Often when deciding what race to do, I think about the "swag." Over time I have gotten fussier about what I want from a race. These races each cost money (I won't admit to how much), so afterwards I want something to show for it -- ideally a nice medal and a women's cut tech shirt. According to Runners USA, since 2010 more women finish races than man. However, racing organizations will often hand out "unisex" shirts to all finishes. Us women know unisex=mens cut. I don't run so I can look good in a mens cut shirt.
Every time I read about the debate over "participation awards," I think about the swag I receive for running races. How is this any different? I've only once placed in my age group. It was a race held at Rider University to race money for Women's Space. The race was called "Run Over Violence." Other than placing, the race was such a non-event, I didn't even write a blog post about it. I suspect I only placed because most of the other runners were college students. 
Is it wrong of me to love collecting these medals basically for "participating" in a race? I certainly did not "win" any of them. Is there a difference between someone my age wanting a medal for simply finishing a race and a child receiving a participation award for participating in a team sport, but not winning? Is finishing a race enough to merit a prize? 

These are the questions I ponder every time I race. This year I have decided to only run races between 5 and 10 miles, with the exception of the Princeton Half Marathon because they asked nicely. Most, if not all, will include a medal, or at least a t-shirt.

There is enough in life to feel guilty about. This should not be one of them, but it still makes me stop and think a little when I receive one. I love my swag and will keep working towards collecting it.

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