They blinded me with bling!

 My medals 
But should they?

It’s a question that’s been rattling around in my brain for a while. When you survey people, most will tell you that participation medals for kids in sports is a bad idea. That we are raising generations of kids that think they deserve medals for showing up.

Yet we expect medals “simply” for completing a race. The bigger and blingier the better, right?

I’m linking up with Tuesdays on the Run today; the subject was running bras, but as you can see, I decided to go in a different direction.

A quick look at the statistics
We hear that 1% of people finish a marathon. But we don’t hear how many finish half marathons. Since that’s one of my favorite distances, I tried to dig a little deeper — and I found this report from 2014.

Here are just a few of the stats:

  • A little over 2,000,000 people finished HMs
  • 61% of finishers were female
  • The average age of female finishers was 36 (woohoo! I’m finally above average!)
  • The average age of male finishers was 39
  • The median finishing time for females was 2:21
  • The median finishing time for males was 2:02

You can read the rest of the info for yourself. It’s interesting to note that HMs are supposedly the most popular distance currently, so one assumes that more people finish halfs than full marathons. I understand why!
So what’s wrong with bling?
I remember showing my family one of my medals a while back. My sister had no idea that everyone that finishes gets a medal. When I told her, you could just see her face fall a little, and she commented that it’s like the kids getting participation medals.

She’s right, of course.

But we love our bling, myself included, and sometimes we even choose races based on the bling.

Racing is hard, y’all. We all know that. Of course we want to be rewarded for our efforts. Should we all get medals? What if we all got nicer running shirts? Or something a little cheaper but useful, like socks? Hats? Things we actually use and would help remind us when we put them on that we can do so much more than we think we can.

And then there’s the whole racing is elitist argument. There is certainly a grain of truth in that argument — ask any runner, they’ll be happy to tell you how expensive it is to race. What if you’re poor and want to race? Cut down on the swag and bling, and maybe you’ll cut down on the racing fees, too.

Am I giving up my bling?
Of course not. I don’t even have any answers. Thoughts like these get stuck in my head at times and spitting them out onto paper or the Internet is one of the best ways to get the mental juices flowing.

I read not that long ago about someone wouldn’t race a 5k if it didn’t have a medal. Seriously? I’ve only raced one 5k that had a medal anyway! And only one 10k that had a medal.

Would I race if there was no swag, no tshirt, no medal? Good question. Shorter races, yes. Most don’t have good swag, and often the tshirt isn’t good to run in anyway. Would I run a half without some bling waiting for me at the end? Would you?

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Have you ever thought about why we all get medals?

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29 thoughts on “They blinded me with bling!

  1. Truly I think the bling is the main reason for maaaannny runners. I know someone who ran 16 miles of the Chicago marathon then passed her chip to her husband to finish and very much feels she earned that medal. My first half had no medal and only the first 200 got a shirt, so I have nothing. That was 2007. I raced a half in 2011 that had no medal. Not too terribly long ago. Some races offer an option to pass on the swag and pay a lower entry fee.

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    1. How in the world think someone deserves a marathon medal for running 16 miles? That’s terrible.

      I probably would do a half without a medal at the end. It’s nice to get, but it’s not why I’m running.

      Which is why virtual races really don’t do it for me.

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  2. I am all about the bling! I don’t expect a medal for a 5K, or even a 10K (unless it’s a runDisney race). But I love my HM medals and I am proud of them! They are a reminder of the fun I had during each race. I have many in picture frames with photos from the race.

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  3. I don’t necessarily agree. If you crossed the finish line, you didn’t just try, you succeeded. You put in the blood, sweat and tears to prepare for and complete that race. Now, I do have issues with races giving medals to those who were pulled from the course, and I know that’s a hot topic.

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    1. I hadn’t actually heard about people pulled from the course getting medals. I can understand, as a BOTPer myself – it’s why I always look at time limits.

      Still, kids try too. They show up to practice & put in the sweat & lose & often still get a medal these days. Just food for thought.

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  4. I like to get a medal for a half marathon. In fact, I didn’t do the Palio because they didn’t give medals (They do now.) For other races, I don’t really care though it is nice to get one, I don’t pick a shorter race for that reason. I wish they would lower the cost and not give tee-shirts but since the companies provide the money to have their name on the back, it wouldn’t make a difference anyway.

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  5. Thought provoking post! I do like to get SOMETHING from a race. We went over to Barcelona and ran an 11k there. It is the 5th largest race in the world and they didn’t have anything! Now of course there was no entry fee…but I darn sure would have paid for a souvenir T-shirt from a kiosk at the end of the race!

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  6. I love the bling. I fully admit that I’ve been convinced to sign up for a race because I wanted the great swag. My race medals are commemorations of the hard work I put in to finish those races. Admittedly, I think it is borderline to give out medals for anything less than a 15K – but I’m happy to get a medal anyday!

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  7. I think a medal at the end of a race is a good way to celebrate not only completing the race, but all of the training that goes along with it. I love a good medal, but I also run races that don’t give out medals–to count those races out would be silly!

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  8. I’ve never received a finisher’s medal for a 5k or a 10k and don’t expect one. (I’ve run over 100 of them too.) I do like something for my half marathons, though. I appreciate a token to validate the hard work I put in.

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  9. This is a very good discussion topic. I think getting medals for a half is fine because that is not just something the normal person participates in. The training and what not behind it is a bit more substantial. A person cant just get off the couch and go do a half and then get a participation medal. the shorter distances I can understand and do not expect a medal. There someone can possibly get off the couch and run walk a 5k with no issues. I personally know which medals I earned and which ones were just gimmies. The ones I have earned are the ones I am more likely to show to friends. I too struggle with the whole virtual race though. The idea of getting something else or making the races cheaper is fine by me and actually would prefer it. Running shorts cost too much right now and I have tons of racing shirts. If you asked me do you want a medal or do you want some dri fit shorts. The shorts win by a mile lol.

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  10. Totally not something I even think about, to be honest. Once the kids have played with them for a bit, they tend to end up in the bin, I think? Actually don’t know now I think about it. Have a feeling my husband might’ve held on to some memorable ones (like the Boston M, which he ran the year of the bombing…..) but other than that, I don’t know. However, I do like getting a t-shirt. I still run in a brilliant “technical’ t-shirt I got for the Bristol Half 10 years ago. That’s a really nice “prize” for a plodder like me…

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    1. I often workout in my race shirts, too. A Boston medal is definitely earned! No idea what the kids do with their trophies.

      When I was a kid, I had swimming & bowling trophies. Not just for participating, but for placing & winning.

      Interestingly, I didn’t keep them. I have all my running medals, though!

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      1. No way! I’m a flautist! πŸ™‚ I’ve picked it up again recently as one of the people I run with is a pianist, and we’re hoping to play together some time. It’s hard when you pick something up after a long time, though, as it takes a while to get it sounding the same again. But I find all the old pieces are still in my fingertips. They kind of move without me having to think about it. Muscle memory or something?

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  11. Great post. I hadn’t really thought of comparing my medals to those green participation ribbons I used to get in school. I knew they didn’t mean anything and didn’t value them but I love my medals and they mean a lot. They are a symbol of how hard I’ve worked and how I keep getting out there, regardless of how fast I am (or aren’t). I definitely still run events without medals but I love bling…or a t-shirt…or just my race number. Whatever helps me remember.

    I’m also warming to virtual events as they give me something to work towards and I could never cheat on them – there’d be no point as I’m doing it for the memory and the feeling. The bling brings all of that back, but I have to put in the hard work to create the feeling in the first place.

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  12. I like my bling. I’d run without it, but I still like to get it. I also don’t have a problem with kids getting medals for participation. Just getting out there and sticking with it is worth celebrating. So, I’m cool with some sort of acknowledgement of that. Trophies, on the other hand, I think are only for winning. And if you give medals for participating, then there should be something more for winning.

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