Monday, January 30, 2012

Gimme The Bling!


As runners, we like to think that we run for health, to support good causes, to compete, to challenge ourselves. Often, all of those reasons – good ones, I might add – are true. But sometimes we’re a little more selfish.

We run to get, well, stuff – like, medals and t-shirts and bags and water bottles and towels and, oh, beer at the end of races. Pretty much just about anything we “earn” by running, we like.

Ask a runner what they think of a local race and they’ll likely to mention the course, the weather, the volunteers and the swag. I cannot count the number of races that have been recommended to me because they have great stuff.

From pint glasses to shirts, my drawers and closets are the proof. Mementos of races and miles are everywhere. (Although, note to race directors, most people I know have tossed all shirts that aren’t “tech” shirts. To us, cotton is rotten.)

I’ve never given race swag much thought until recent weeks when I started contemplating a spring half-marathon, something to keep me motivated in the winter months. A running-pal of mine suggested the Wallis Sands Half Marathon in May, with its scenic (and I’m assuming flat) ocean-side course.

The race quickly made my short list of possibilities, so I solicited some feedback from my local online running friends on Facebook and dailymile. The race got big thumbs up in almost all areas. More than once, however, I heard what I considered to be a warning: the race has no finishers medals. (Top racers, of course, still get bling – as they should.)

Often, the warning came with an apology: “I don’t know why it bothered me not to get a medal, I know it shouldn’t. But it did.”

It struck me as funny because I actually have a drawer full of race medals. They’ve made the cut every time I’ve moved. But still, they are sitting in a drawer, waiting for me to finally find a way to properly display them. I’ve considered seeking out a local version of Medals for Mettle, which allows runners to donate their medals to children in hospitals. (Sounds a lot better than having them sit in a drawer, doesn’t it?)

Still, like my friends, the thought of a half-marathon finish line without finisher medals irked me a bit. Finishers medals are pretty much standard for half-marathons and marathons. They’re more of a memento than a reward.

I thought about it so much that I actually looked online to see how much medals actually cost (which was probably a mistake). For just a few dollars of my $55 registration fee, the race organizers could get custom medals. The event planner in me thinks it would be a good investment. (Can I admit I’d prefer a medal to most of the race shirts out there?)

Finisher medal or not, I've already signed up for the Wallis Sands race. And I’ll still be proud, knowing that I trained for and completed the half-marathon.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to run for all of the other “stuff” out there – like the pint glass and running hat that comes with the Shamrock Shuffle in March. And I’ll continue to participate in the random raffles associated with Runner’s Alley Winter Warriors runs. I scored a sweet half-zip tech shirt from Mizuno a few weeks ago, and my name is in the running (no pun intended) for a pair of New Balance shoes next week.

Yes, runners – at least this one – like swag. I’d love to hear more about your favorite race freebies. Which events have the best?

Teresa Robinson is Community Relations Manager for the New Hampshire Union Leader. Her column appears every other week in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Her email address is


  1. The glow in the dark medal at the Vegas Rock and Roll was cool. I also saw the Madison, Wi mini marathon medal had a built in bottle opener. The Solider field 10 miler, shaped like a football also pretty sweet. But what I really ultramarathon belt buckle!!
    Good post

  2. I love the idea of an organization that donates medals to a children's hospital. Who is more deserving of receiving a medal than a child who has just completed a difficult procedure, a course of treatment or achieved a goal at physical or occupational therapy. You could start one at CHAD.


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