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.
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.
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.
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!