Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Trophies and Medals

Yesterday, I got a package in the mail.  It was my trophy for finishing marathons in all 50 states for the second time.  Trophies like this are awarded by the 50 States Marathon Club.  In 2010, I received a similar trophy, when I finished 50 states for the first time.

I wasn’t originally planning to do a second circuit of 50 states.  After finishing my first circuit, I moved on to other goals.  As it happens, some of those goals involved running marathons in several different states in the same year.  I also pursued goals that involved setting the bar higher, such as breaking four hours in every state or qualifying for Boston in every state.  Before I knew it, I had already completed two or more marathons in 45 different states.  After that, I decided to repeat the remaining five states, so I could complete a second circuit.  I finished in December at the Honolulu marathon.

I’ve already finished three or more marathons in 41 states.  Normally, I’d already be planning my race schedule to complete a third circuit.  I’m sure I’ll do that eventually, but I’m not making any big plans until I’m healthy.  I’ve only registered for five races in 2016, and I’m already having doubts about the first two races.

A few days earlier, I received a medal in the mail.  This one was from Competitor Group, the company that runs the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series.  They have extra medals you can get for completing two, three, four or more of their races in the same year.  This is their “Rock Trio” medal for doing three Rock ‘n’ Roll races in one year.

Earlier in the year, I received a “Double Beat” medal, after competing Rock ‘n’ Roll races in New Orleans and DC.  In October, I did the Rock ‘n’ Roll Lisbon Marathon in Portugal.  At the expo, I noticed they have a special medal if you do a certain number of races in their international series.  I assume the international races don’t count toward medals like “Rock Trio,” but I’m not sure.  Finally, in November I ran Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah.  Because of hot conditions, they had everyone turn around and take the shortest route to the finish area.  Instead of running the full course, I only ran about 20 miles of it.  I didn’t accept a finisher medal, and I didn’t pick up a finisher jacket, but they probably consider me to be a finisher.  I’m sure if I checked the results, I’d see my name.  I don’t consider myself to be a finisher of that race, because I didn’t run the full course.  In this respect, Competitor Group doesn’t “get it.”

I don’t feel I earned this medal by doing New Orleans, DC and Savannah, but I did do New Orleans, DC and Lisbon.  In any event, medals like this one aren’t a big deal to me.  While I appreciate medals, particularly the more attractive ones, what makes them special is knowing I earned them.  The medal represents an accomplishment.

There’s been a trend in recent years toward larger and gaudier finisher medals.  The Little Rock and Texas Marathons are examples.  One of my favorite medals is only about an inch in diameter.  It’s the finisher medal from the Comrades Marathon, which is an 89K ultramarathon in South Africa.  The medal may be small, but the accomplishment is huge.  In South Africa, you’re not regarded as a “real” runner until you have one of these.

Last year, the medals were larger, but only because it was the 90th Comrades Marathon.  Every 10 years, they have special commemorative editions of the medals.  I ran the Comrades Marathon again last year, earning an extra medal for doing the race in back-to-back years.  It’s a point-to-point course, and they alternate the direction.  The elevation profile differs significantly between “up” years and “down” years.  Doing them both, particularly in back-to-back years, is a notable accomplishment.  For this reason, getting the “back-to-back” medal was a big deal to me.

In addition to special awards like the 50 states trophy, I’ve received a number of age group awards over the years.  Most of those are either in a display case or mounted on a wall.  Over the years, I’ve received hundreds of finisher medals.  I’ve never found a good place for them.  Some people buy large display racks to hang them on a wall.  I now have too many for that.  For the time being, they’re mostly on hangers in a closet.  One of these days, I need to take pictures of all of them, so I can make a photo album.

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