Oh how times have changed. When I first started running back in the mid-1980s, it was all because of a T-shirt. A cotton T-shirt to be exact—that was only awarded to finishers of the Lilac Bloomsday 12K run. The design and color was a well-guarded secret until the morning of the race, when the boxes of T-shirts were unloaded at the finish.
Only those who finished the Sunday morning event were awarded the prized T-shirts, and most Spokane businesses loosened up dress codes on Monday so everyone could proudly wear their shirts to work for the day. Yes, I literally took up the sport of running for a cotton T-shirt.
Fast forward almost 30 years, and now it's all about the finisher's medal. Rarely is the medal a surprise at the finish. Race directors post pictures online of their medals months in advance to lure more participants to the races. Medal designers are always trying to push the size to be bigger and heavier (the current champ is the 2014 Texas Marathon medal, at 9-1/4 inches by 6-3/4 inches, and weighing 3.3 pounds) or more unique to get the buzz going to drive the following year's attendance.
Many of us stalk runDisney at race expos in the hopes of seeing the newest race medals in person. There are even websites dedicated to hosting pictures of finisher's medals so one can track the progression of changes over the years, and even determine if the race is one to do based on their track record of medal designs.
What makes a good medal? In the August 2014 issue of Runner's World magazine, Paul Gentry, coordinator of Marathon & Beyond magazine's annual ranking of the best marathon medals, gave his opinion that the best medals featured a lot of color, minimal sponsor logos, a design that reflects the course, race theme, or community, has a design that carries both on the front and the back of the medal, and of course, was large.
So after careful consideration, you decide it's time to part with some serious registration money so you can earn a big, colorful, well-designed finisher's medal of your own. In celebration of earning that medal (once you finally take it off), you frame it and hang it on the wall. It looks great, but it looks lonely hanging there by itself. You want more. One medal leads to two. Two then become four, and so on, until you find yourself with a collection of race bling that can fill your walls—and then some. The question now becomes, what do you do with them all?
If you have unlimited wall space such as in a home office or down a hallway, consider creating and hanging shadow boxes containing the race bib, medal, and other race memorabilia. For those of us non-crafty types, companies such as Fond Memories Graphics and Lasting Commemoratives sell pre-framed medal collections that can include race pictures and finish times. They even provide a set of race medals with the frame.
If you don't have the wall space for shadow boxes, medal hangers are another great option. You can group and hang an entire gaggle of medals from a single event, a year, or even by theme. Companies such as SportHooks by HeavyMedalz or craft sellers on Etsy offer a variety of metal and or one-of-a-kind hand-painted medal hangers for your collection. They will even make custom metal hangers based on your own design. Of course, if you want to keep it simple, there is always the option of using a basic curtain rod in your window as a medal showcase. Just make sure you take into consideration the weight of the medals as you determine how many to hang together, so you don't accidentally pull your hanger from the wall.
Get Crafty With Them
Once you fill up your wall space, what's the next option for displaying your medals? Assuming you have strong tree branches, how about creating Christmas ornaments from your medals? Or if the medal is flat enough, how about coasters for your favorite drinks? Consider placing small magnets on the back of the medals and displaying them on your fridge or a magnetic wall. Depending on your tolerance for noise (and your relationship with your neighbors), you could even make a wind chime for your patio or porch from your medal collection.
Or for something completely different, how about a table top? Faris A. Ashkar, a talented wood craftsman, created a unique and extremely impressive table-top inlayed with medals to celebrate a friend's completion of a fifty-state run challenge.
As a way of funding race entry fees (which seem to grow ever higher with each event), many race participants post and sell their medals to collectors on eBay. runDisney race medals always seem to sell for the highest prices the day of or shortly after an event is held. Once the novelty of the new medal wears off and a glut of them appears for sale, prices drop and demand fades. Rare medals, such as the one and only Disneyland Marathon medal, still command a decent price when they come up for auction. The rarer the medal, the higher the potential demand and price.
It can be a simple as a shoebox stuffed in the closet or a more elaborate storage system of yearly plastic containers with the medals photographed and inventoried on a spreadsheet. Either way, keep them dry and out of the elements until you decide what to do with them.
Give Them Away
One of the most selfless options for your medals is to give them away to non-profit organizations such as Medals4Mettle, which collects and re-ribbons medals to present to children and adults fighting cancer and other illnesses, in recognition of their bravery and courage as they face a much more difficult marathon than those that runners complete. Since its inception in 2005, Medals4Mettle has presented over 25,000 race medals worldwide.
Some of the most popular medals with Medals4Mettle are from runDisney events; Mickey, Goofy, Donald, and Tinker Bell are all in high demand, especially by children. It is not unusual to see a child wear their awarded medals to chemotherapy treatment, hang them from IV bags, and sleep with them. Although Medals4Mettle only accepts marathon, half marathon or triathlon medals from adults, they will also accept medals earned by children who wish to donate them to other children. According to Andrea Herrmann, Director of Social Media for Medals4Mettle, the key part of the program is that they will only accept earned medals; they do not accept race extras, unclaimed medals, or over-produced medals. Every single medal presented has to have been earned by a race finisher and then donated.
Medals4Mettle receives medals nationwide through a variety of means. Most come in the mail to their headquarters in Indianapolis, or are mailed to local chapter coordinators. Often race directors will set up collection booths at race expos, or collect medals at race finish lines. Most medal donations are anonymous, but they do often get to pass on the messages left by the donating runners to those getting the medals. It is not unusual to have runners write Medals4Mettle that their inspiration to keep going in a difficult race was knowing that their medal was going to someone facing a much tougher battle.
Now it's up to you
These are but a few of the options you can take to display, store, or share your race medals. Enjoy your race medals how ever you see fit as they represent major milestones and accomplishments in your life.