go, get your medal
*This blog post was written few months ago in response to the announcement about the new Spartan Race medal design.
There is something special about the medal. Crossing the finish line, as you barely feel your legs. That slight bowing of the head at the finish line, so someone can place the medal around your neck. The sensation of ribbon or string against the skin on your neck. The gentle heaviness of metal (glass, clay, wood) against your chest. There is nothing like it.
Canada’s Dara Howell, who earned a gold medal in slope style skiing in 2014 Olympics – the first ever medal in the sport, talks about the incredible feeing of having a medal around her neck. “You keep reaching down to touch it”, she says.
MY 6 FAVORITE MEDALS
Regardless of how many pounds of metal one may possess, every racer has a handful of special medals. You may remember the medals that you worked for. Trained for. Sweated for, cried for, bled for.
Even more valuable than the medals themselves are the medal memories. The race that broke you, yet you finished any way. The first race you ran with your spouse. The last race you ran with your father.
Here are my 6 favorite medal memories:
Ironically, I cannot remember my very first medal. Some of the earlier events I have done did not award participation medals, and when I got the racing bug bad, things started to get blurry. However, I definitely remember my first obstacle racing medal. Warrior Dash Illinois 2010 – an event that I ran with my father and my baby brother – my introduction to the world of obstacle racing. And one of my favourite races to date.
My first road marathon medal from October 2013 – the first race I specifically trained for, freaked out by 42.2km of flat pavement.
Placing the Spartan Beast medal around Krista’s neck. This medal was not even mine. It remains one of my favourite medals, nevertheless.
Racing to the airport in Israel after making podium in a desert half marathon. People are staring as I sprint to the check-in window with a trophy in my hand, and a medal around my neck.
Wearing a proud bunch of medals after a Spartan Race with friends who did the same, dancing in a circle, sipping cold beer out of a coffee mug.
Showing up to a bar in Vermont after the inaugural Ultra Beast with a glow in the dark medal proudly hanging around my neck, pinned up high like a choker.
I was quite taken aback when the US Spartan Race has announced that it will start splitting the medals in 2014. You will now get a third of a medal for doing a Sprint, another third for a Super, and the last third for a Beast – for an ultimate Trifecta medal. See what they did there?
The Spartan Trifecta is a pretty damn genius idea from the business perspective – it encourages people to run more races. In the ideal scenario, a Spartan Sprint acts as a gateway drug into the other distances, as racers get fired up to get the REST of their fucking medal.
Well, guess what?
When you finish a Spartan Race, you finish an event. An entire whole event. Not part of it. You deserve a whole freaking medal. There is nothing partial about your achievement.
Way to send a message, Sparta. If you ONLY run a Sprint, you are not good enough for a WHOLE medal. Awesome.
The only person who seems to like the new race medals is Dave Huckle. (Hi, Dave!) Then again, the guy has completed 9 Trifectas in a single calendar year. So.. the poor chap is probably just happy that he will end up with medals that are easier to organize.
After the announcement was first made, some commented that they are not signing up for a race to get a medal. Of course not. Just like those in AA are not there to get a key chain. Yet, the keychains are meaningful, damn it. Ask any Death Racer with a bib finish, how s/he feels about not getting a skull. [Hint: Not very good.]
GO, GET A MEDAL
A medal is a token of something you have done.
A medal is a tangible reminder of pushing yourself.
You do not get a medal for trying. You get a medal for doing, for finishing (first or at all). Crossing that finish line. An incredible feeling of accomplishment, whether you have just won gold at the Olympics, came top ten in an obstacle race, or completed a community 5k fun run.
I have now been on both ends of the finish line. I’ve had numerous medals placed around my neck – from participation medals to podium. I’ve had an honour of placing medals around my friends’ necks – often through smiles and tears.
That feeling, that flood of happy will never get old.
Go, get your medal. Preferably, a whole one.
Do you have a medal? If you have many, do you have a favourite? What makes it special?
*Note: since this blog post was written, the new development is that each racer receives TWO medals upon completing each Spartan Race (see below) – one regular round medal, and one fractional piece (see below). While it solves the problem I ranted about above, it seems to defeat the purpose somewhat. I wonder whether this medal approach will stick for a while, or whether we have something new in store for us for next racing season.
Loving the bling,
*Have you heard? On August 16th, 2014, I will be running Tough Mudder Toronto blindfolded (yes, blindfolded!) in order to raise awareness for visually impaired athletes and to become a better guide runner. In October, I will be guiding Rhonda, a dear friend, an ultra runner and a visually impaired athlete through her very first Tough Mudder. Please read more and donate to the cause!