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Rethinking the Value of Finisher Medals

By Chuck Engle - MarathonJunkieTM 

In a day where everyone gets (expects) a medal / reward for participation, I've had a change of heart.  Recently I read a post on Facebook where runners were seemingly shaming those who expected something for registering for a race.

After much thought given to the subject, I've come to this decision, registering for an event is monumental in many people's lives, and perhaps, that registration medal or certificate of registration is the first positive "step" they have made in a long time or perhaps in their whole life.

48381427_2282496478456802_2798499062557442048_oI get that finishing an event is also a huge accomplishment, and winning an event is for many more, a long shot. But we all take that first step, and I, for one, feel like anyone who wants to claim a first-time registration medal, or certificate, or post their receipt as personal positive affirmation, then so be it. I was there once. Weren't we all, at one point in our running career or life, proud to register for a race?

95% of the world will sit on their ass. To the 5% that make the decision to enter an event, I say, let them boast about the entry. We need to encourage these upstart, "yet-to-be-fits" any way that we can. Those of us who direct races or love to #runmore, WE ARE the leaders of this industry, and to make fun of folks in the slightest or to demean them for what could be a huge positive step in their life, stands against our open arms and welcoming policy within the running community.

I'll admit, I was one who used to ridicule people, but now I realize that I turned to running, and running A LOT, to get through a rough patch in my life. I'm still running, and it's difficult for me to judge any "new-to-the-sport" runner, and what they may see as a motivational "trophy" for pointing themselves in the right direction in running, or perhaps, in life. If not a medal, perhaps a hug or a pat on the pack is what they are seeking. But ridiculing people for wanting some recognition or personal memento for what might be an immense amount of effort on their part to get out the door is a mistake on the running community's part. Let's find something suitable and positive to "give" to these folks to encourage what might be a brave and positive step forward.


If the marathon, which seems to be the pinnacle for the "everyman's" Olympics can send out a confirmation certificate, then I think we can take a valuable lesson. As a race director consider that perhaps your event IS their Boston or their personal Olympics.  As a fellow runner, perhaps it's a person's quest to stay clean or get sober through running. I say reward it in whatever way you feel appropriate. I'd celebrate the SHIT out of their decision to run, walk or crawl at your event, and you may have just earned a friend/fan for life.

Let's encourage and not discourage. Let's reward and not ridicule. Let's encourage everyone to #runmore and not #moveless.

And I'll hug anyone who had the courage to take that first step out of the ominous front door.

~The MarathonJunkie

Chuck Engle has run over 425+ marathons with sub-3hr marathon wins in all 50 states in the US.  Follow him on Facebook:

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