Race Medals and Stickers: A Discussion


Disclaimer: this was supposed to be posted a few weeks ago, but oh well.  Better late than never, I suppose.

So over the past few weeks there have been a couple of discussions on the Runner’s World Facebook page concerning the practice of awarding race medals and runners putting stickers on their cars to brag about the achievements.  I am certain that some of this curiosity was prompted by that article in the Wall Street Journal a couple of weeks back.  And after reading some of the responses on the posts as well as on some other running sites, one thing became certain to me, runners are a passionate group of people!  So I decided that I would give my opinion on both of these issues and see who agrees/disagrees with me.

Race Medals

This is my medal rack thus far

This is my medal rack thus far

It seems to be that the first derogatory comment about race medals anytime there is a discussion about the topic is some form of how we should not be a society that just gives a trophy for participation.  While I agree with this sentiment, I do not agree that it applies here.  For the most part, completing a race, rather it be a half marathon, marathon, ultra, and the list could go on for days, is a major accomplishment for the runner.  People run races for a myriad of reasons, and completing the race is a milestone and should be celebrated.  So what if it was not run at a world record pace or that you finished 150th.  You finished the race, met your goal, achieved more than you thought you could.  Take for example my first half marathon three years ago.  This race was a goal event for myself.  I had just completed a major victory in my weight battle and wanted to keep pushing forward.  I wanted to accomplish something that I thought was impossible.  Before I began training for the St. Jude Half Marathon, the longest distance that I had ever run in my life was a 5K.  This event more than quadrupled this distance!  It took hard work and dedication to complete the race, and I was damn proud that I did!  Going from well over 300 pounds to completing 13.1 miles in a 16 month span was an accomplishment in my book.  I was a guy that would get winded checking the mail, and now I ran further on that day than I had for the decade and a half combined prior to my weight loss journey.  I certainly earned that medal on that chilly December morning, and I have earned every other medal that I have received since that point.

My 1st race medal - St. Jude Half 2011

My 1st race medal – St. Jude Half 2011

No, I will not be on the podium as a top finisher in my next race, but I will be competitive with what I have accomplished in the past.  Too often we get caught up with winners and losers and forget that one of the things that makes running so great is that we are competing with ourselves.  Just be getting out there when it is cold, rainy, hot, or we do not feel like it is defying the odds one more time.  We are reaching greatness in our personal history and we deserve a trinket for our efforts.

Race Stickers

Will this hinder your drive home?

Will this hinder your drive home?

The amount of venom for race stickers actually surprised me.  How does it affect your daily life if another person has a sticker on their car?  If the sticker is not hindering their sight lines, derogatory towards another group of people, or obscene, what is the big deal?  If the driver has earned the sticker and wants to share that fact with the world, so be it.  They are proud of what they accomplished and want to brag about that.  By having a sticker on your car, most people are not inferring that they are better than you, but rather that they have accomplished a feat and it makes them proud.  The most appalling comment about stickers on a car was someone on a message board trashing people with the 13.1 stickers on their cars.  The poster’s stance on that distance was that it is an easy distance that anyone can complete whether they train for it or not.  Therefore, completing 13.1 miles is not a triumph and should not be something to be proud of.  I call bullshit on that notion.  Some people can run 13.1 miles without an issue I am certain, but those people are the exception, not the rule.  Rather, it is a triumph to complete a half marathon.  Be proud of your accomplishment, and if you feel inclined to share this information via a decal or magnet on your vehicle, go for it.

After my first half marathon, my running coach from my gym sent me a 13.1 sticker for my car.  I did not hesitate about putting that on my car.  I was proud of my accomplishment and thought that in no way was I showing up someone else.  I have since traded in that vehicle and currently I have no decals on my truck.  It is not that I am suddenly anti-decals, but rather I do not have one at the house that I can use.  But I can guarantee that after the WDW Marathon on January 12, 2014, there will be a 26.2 sticker on one more truck on the streets of Memphis!

10 thoughts on “Race Medals and Stickers: A Discussion

  1. Just put my first running-related sticker on my truck – the logo for the trail running club I joined recently. I generally don’t do stickers, but since I am committed to running in every other way (including a blog and a stack of social media devoted to the subject), why not a sticker too?
    And I am seriously beginning to believe I need a medal display – I just received one from a virtual race series I completed, and it’s so pretty it would be a shame to keep it in a box, which is where it and the other two I collected this year are currently living 🙂 Plus, 2014 holds the promise of many more – my first marathon, hopefully a collection of Spartan race medals, including a Trifecta, and some others; does wanting a medal display make me vain? I don’t think so…like you said, I EARNED every one of them, so I have the right to show them off!

    • Good luck on your Trifecta! Logos from running clubs is something that I didn’t even consider, but if I was a member of one here in Memphis, I would probably rep them on my truck somewhere.

  2. The DAY I finished my first half marathon I bought the sticker for my car. The way I see it, I EARNED that right. I trained for 4 months and pushed myself to limits where I thought for sure I would break. So damn right I’m gonna put the sticker on my car. I’m gonna tell anyone who will listen too, because running is not easy. If it were easy, everyone would do it, and therefore everyone would have 13.1/26.2 stickers on their car. But they don’t. Plus, whenever I see another car with a running sticker, I feel a bond. Like they know exactly what I mean when I say crossing the finish line is the greatest feeling in the world even if you crawled, even if you came in last, you still finished. So I agree with you 100%. I want to show off my accomplishment. If it were socially acceptable I’d probably wear my medal instead of a necklace everyday.

  3. crystal

    i love racing, be it mud, 1/2, fulls, obstacles, etc. something that I can do that my body doesn’t know it can. I love the medals and unless I really want to do a race, odds are slim I wont do it without one. what race was your captain America medal from?

    • Medals are certainly a driving force in looking for races. The Captain America medal was from a virtual race raising money for St. Jude last summer.

  4. Michaelle

    I agree 100% everyone has different goals, to some its about the time and how fast they can complete the race and to others it is all about finishing and challenging themselves individually or as a team. Sometimes its about camaraderie.

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