A statement to file in the ‘cliche but true’ category: running is it’s own reward. Frankly, unless you’re a professional (or aspiring to be one), most runners enter events not for glory or riches, but for the warm feeling of satisfaction that comes with completing an athletic endeavour – hopefully in a Personal Best time.
Yet if running really is it’s own reward, why do the organisers of just about every paid-for race always provide some form of prize for finishers? And why is there always something thrilling about being handed your finishers’ prize.
When it comes to running prizes, the most common remains the medal. And, while it’s a long way from an Olympic gold, there is something quite nice about walking away from a run with a little bit of shiny metal hanging around your neck.
Now, you do get some medals that seem a bit basic – classic bits of metal with runners or a similar design on. They’re nice, but… a bit simple.
What’s more pleasing is completing a race which offers a far more customised, bespoke medal – it’s a nice touch that shows the effort many event organisers put in to make sure their event (and prize) stands out as a little bit special.
Sometimes that means a medal with a design that reflects the venue: a picture of a stag for the Bushy Park 10k, or a Christmas design on a festive-themed race held in late December.
Or perhaps a medal shaped like a dragon for the Wyvern 10k, reflecting the logo of Wyvern College, which hosted the race HQ (and no, the Wyvern 10k isn’t in Wales, but near Eastleigh in Hampshire).
And some medals stand out just for being big, chunky and colourful.
Yes, we like medals. Except there’s just one problem: what do you do with them after a run? Sure, they’re nice to show off, but you tend to end up with a lot of them. And unlike, say, an Olympic gold for winning a race against world-class opposition, you probably don’t want to hang a series of medals for finishing somewhere mid-pack in a race of a few hundred amateurs up on your wall. Well, you might, but if you end up entering lots of races, you can end up with a lot of medals.
My growing collection started taking up space in a rough pile on the top of a bookcase, until a visit from my Mum came up with a better solution: she bought me a jar to put them in.
Here’s the thing though: medals aren’t the only finishing prizes that are offered by races. And some of the other prizes might not be as shiny, but are far more useful. The next most common prize I’ve encountered are technical T-shirts – and, as every runner knows, you can never have too many running T-shirts.
Helpfully for me, lots of the T-shirts given away as prizes come in somewhat bright colours, which is very useful – if you’re going to run in the dark in winter you need bright colours, and as someone who doesn’t like standing out much, I’m rubbish at buying brightly coloured clothes. So getting them as prizes saves me a lot of bother. And yes, there is something quite satisfying about going out running in a T-shirt that shows other runners you’re a proper runner who’s done races and everything.
There’s also a brief nod of respect here to some of the bigger events that have multiple prizes: the Hampton Court Palace Half-Marathon I did recently offered a T-shirt and a medal – and the medal is perhaps the finest, most original I’ve received to date.
Then there are even more creative prizes. The Thames Towpath 10 is sponsored by the Fullers brewery, and so the finishing prize is a pint glass. Even as a non-drinker, it’s one of my favourite glasses. Another event gives every finisher a mug – which is strangely satisfying to reflect on every time I slurp tea from it.
What’s notable about the T-shirts, mugs and glasses I’ve been given as prizes is that I use them regularly – while the medals have ended up in a corner of my room in a pot. Is that a sign that more events should be thinking outside the medal when it comes to prizes?
Possibly, except the truth is it really doesn’t matter. Because the truth is I really don’t do it for the finishing prize. It’s a lovely gesture, and always makes the end of a race that bit more enjoyable. But, as I started by saying, the real reward of completing a race is in the running it took to do it. Any finishing prize on top of that is a nice bit of icing on a cake (a sweaty cake with aching legs, obviously).
Having said all that, I already know that, should I finish the London Marathon in two weeks or so, the medal I’ll get for doing so will instantly become one of my most prized possessions. Am I running for that medal? No, but it will be a shiny, metallic bit of proof of my achievements.
I’m running the 2016 London Marathon to raise money for the South West Children’s Heart Circle, who help care for children undergoing heart surgery in the south west of England. Any sponsorship received would go to a great cause – click the ‘Just Giving’ button for details of how to donate. Thanks!