I don’t own a lot of things. In fact, I barely own much of anything because a few years ago I sold and gave away most of my stuff after I started to realize that I enjoy having fun and interesting experiences that I can tell stories about later a lot more than having a bunch of possessions. I don’t want to turn this into a post about minimalism though so I’ll stop there and just say that other than the things I need for my day to day life, I’m not really interested in owning much else, with a couple notable exceptions:
- Anything that my daughter Sara gives me (especially if it’s homemade). I don’t think there’s any explanation needed here.
- My race medals.
Every now and then I’ll read an article somewhere about how finisher’s medals have been getting too big or too gimmicky and how the trend is starting to become annoying, but I say bring ’em on. Big or small, gaudy or plain, the reason my medals mean so much to me in the first place is because they represent more than just finishing a race.
- Every race medal I own is something that I earned by putting in weeks of training during which time I put myself through a roller coaster of hard work, sweat, pain, and frustration mixed in with good times, happiness, and feelings of triumph.
- They represent the hours and hours of preparation that I put in to try and make myself faster and stronger than I was the day before during the weeks leading up to a race.
- They represent the times when I was sick (or sometimes hungover… let’s be honest…. ) or just too tired to really feel like running but I got up and ran anyway.
- They represent the days when I had too much to do but still managed to find time to fit in a workout.
- They represent the times when it was raining or too hot or too cold or too humid and I sucked it up and went outside and ran anyway.
- They represent the early mornings when my alarm went off and my bed felt nice and comfortable but I still got up and went outside to run.
- They represent the times when my neighbors saw me coming back from a morning run when they were just waking up and told me they don’t know how I can do it.
- They also bring back memories of friends that I ran certain races with, charities that I raised money for by running or other experiences that I had while traveling to run a race in a different city that I had never been to before.
- My first race medal in particular represents a transformation in my life from a time when I couldn’t run half a mile without being able to stop and catch my breath to becoming a runner and finishing my first 5K… which was the prelude to every other race I’ve done since. The feeling that I got when that first medal was placed around my neck is one of the things that inspired me to keep running even after I had already attained what at the time looked like my ultimate goal. I’ve set and reached many other goals since then, and the medals that I’ve gotten serve as physical reminders that no matter how hard or far off or unattainable something seems, it can still be accomplished through hard work and perseverance.
One of the things that non-athletes don’t always realize is that getting a medal isn’t as simple as signing up for an event somewhere and then just showing up…. The race itself is just the final product of all of the training that was put in over the course of the weeks, months, or even years leading up to it, and every race medal that anyone has ever had placed around their neck after crossing a finish line is something they can keep forever as a reminder of the hours and hours of hard work in to achieve it (work that goes unnoticed in many cases since a lot of workouts are done while others are still sleeping).
At last count, I had 74 race medals and if things go well, I should get at least 11 more before the end of this year. Every one of them has a story that goes with it (or in some cases, several stories) and I’m sure that most other runners can say the same thing about theirs. I know that at some point a day will come when I can’t run anymore and when it does, I’ll be happy to have all of my old race medals to help remind me of all of the things I was able to accomplish.