What Does it Mean to “Earn” Your Race Medal?

The concept of what it really means to actually “earn” your race medal (or race bib for that matter) is something that I’ve been struggling to define for awhile now. After my injury, I had a really hard time giving up running indefinitely, since I considered it to be my soul sport. I never participated in traditional sports in school because I was never really any good at them, so once I found running, it felt like I had finally found a place where I could excel and belong.


At the finish line of my first half marathon with my medal and bib in hand.


The anticipation of anything being possible at the starting line on race day is an amazing feeling. It’s a great feeling to surround yourself with other people who get you, even though they’ve never met you. No matter what you have going on in life, there’s something about being one of the many in the crowd waiting for the horn to sound that seems to put everything in perspective, if only for a moment. It gives you the freedom to let go and just be present for every stride.


Racing to the finish line to place for the very first time (third in my age group) and collect a shiny new PR!


There’s so much respect in the running community that you can’t help but want to be a part of it forever. Some of the proudest moments of my life have taken place on the race course. From completing my very first half marathon this January, when I was in tears the night before absolutely convinced that I wasn’t prepared to complete the distance without getting picked up by the pace car, to the very first time I placed in a 5k when I went into it without any expectations at all (I ended up placing third in my age group). Running has taught me to have faith and confidence in myself and that I am capable of accomplishing things I never thought were possible. It’s like a free form of therapy. Something about the pavement, the crowds and the starting lines help your biggest problems seem more manageable and not as daunting as you once thought they were.


Rocking the Disney World Half Marathon in January 2014.


That being said, now that I have taken an indefinite break from running due to injury, I feel a little off balance and missing the clarity running used to provide me with. I’ve signed up for a few races since with the intention of doing some sort of run/walk interval combination or just walking all together. I just wanted to see if just being there at the starting line would bring back that feeling. It did a little, but it’s just not the same.


My very first race EVER!


Before, I used to get so much pride hanging up my race bib after my run and receiving my medal at the end, but now I have the feeling like I cheated and didn’t fully earn it since I didn’t run the race in it’s entirety, like everyone else. I mentioned this to my dad the other day when I showed him my most recent medal from the Women of Wonder 5k I did over the weekend and he said “Just think of all the other races you did when you didn’t get a medal. You would have ran it if you could have, so don’t be so hard in yourself. You earned it just as much as anyone else.” Sometimes dads just know the right thing to say to make you feel better!

photo 3

Women of Wonder 5k


This got me to thinking though. Am I the only one that feels this way or do others have the same feelings about what it really means to “earn” your medal or race bib? Is it just enough to be out there participating at the level you’re capable of at the time, or do you need to be able to run the full distance for it to count?


My first solo 5k.


I had someone tell me when I first started running that they didn’t believe runners in a race any shorter than a half marathon deserved a medal and this really stuck with me. I know this is a highly debated topic in the running community, but when it comes down to it, does it really matter? Aren’t we all out there for the same reason, to accomplish the same thing, no matter how we get there? Shouldn’t we all be able to celebrate our own personal victories and just be proud of our accomplishments without having to follow them with some sort of disclaimer?

Questions of the Day:

What are your thoughts about earning your medals and bibs?

Do you think only half marathons and marathons should offer medals or is it okay for shorter distances to give them out too?

What is the racing accomplishment you are most proud of?



Linking up to MCM Mamma Runs

18 thoughts on “What Does it Mean to “Earn” Your Race Medal?

  1. Great post, Tricia! My thought is that if you cross the finish line, then it counts no matter what distance, no matter how fast. Sometimes I feel more proud of finishing a super slow marathon (with the flu *ahemDISNEYahem*) than setting a new PR!


  2. I used to feel the same way when I first started running that no one running a or shorter race should get a metal just for running the race. But then like you I had a couple of injuries and realized that running is more a part of me that I originally thought and that if you stick through it and the injuries and you get out there and you keep running and that’s definitely worth a metal. But through these races I have run for so many charities and run with countless people who have overcome the most difficult things you could possibly overcome and they’re still out there running then yes they do serve a metal just for life, yet alone the race! Recognizing people for their efforts and giving them a little reward afterwards as a symbol, I think it’s a wonderful idea.


    • That’s actually a valid point I didn’t even think about. Thanks for bringing that up. When we run, there’s always a charity aspect to it that shouldn’t be forgotten about. So no matter how you finish, you’re participating in honor of others also (if that makes any sense), so it’s not just about the distance and the speed, but the act as a whole. Why not get a little recognition for that right? The more I keep thinking about things, I realize how much I am a runner deep down inside. It’s impacted me in ways I never really realized and probably some I haven’t even realized yet. Crazy.


  3. What idiot told you that running anything short of a half marathon didn’t deserve a medal? How rude is that? Completing a 5k, whether you ran the entire thing or not is an accomplishment in itself. Not everyone is fit, not everyone can run a 5k without stopping. Maybe they trained all year to run it. Maybe they went from being overweight and barely being able to walk a mile to running an entire 5k! Ignorance is bliss and maybe that person doesn’t know what it’s like to really struggle. *end rant*


    • All valid points. I know I’ve said my piece about “earning” bibs and medals in the past, but I was just meaning people who took it seriously vs those who just wanted the swag. I think you know what I mean but I wanted to clarify that I never meant to direct my rants toward people who were working toward a goal like you mentioned. Do you remember my old running friend that I was going to go to kenny with? It was her that made the comment about the medals. Shocking. I know. Hahha


        • No I know. I just feel kind of bad about that and wanted to clarify because it could have been taken the wrong way. Yeah, she was a weirdo. RUDE! if you finish, you deserve it. End of story.


  4. Pingback: Link Love 03.06.15 + You’re A Runner… | A Couple of Dashes

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