Stickers, magnets and finisher medals… Hell yeah!

There are those who think we are jerks for displaying 13.1, 26.2 or another distance on our cars. Actually, some may call us worse. I’d like to address that.

I understand from where some of the venom originates. Some people may feel that we are arrogant and displaying how tough or strong we are. Worse still, we are rubbing their faces in it. This is not the case. In fact, it is quite the opposite.

As I have written on this blog and spoken about in podcast interviews, I lost quite a lot of weight. This was not an easy journey and it took a great deal of time and effort. After I lost enough that I wasn’t in agony, I discovered that I didn’t actually hate running and grew to like it. And I started to enter races.

At first, I was prudent and entered 5Ks. I did all that I could fit in and I was doing well at them. I figured that it took me a while to work up to them and that I had found my distance and peaked. That would be about as far as I would ever run. I wasn’t superhuman and would not be doing anything truly crazy like a marathon, or even a half marathon.

But I kept seeing these 13.1 and 26.2 stickers all over the place. I honestly didn’t know what they represented at first. I think I finally figured it out when I saw them in a parking lot to a race — I’m a slow learner sometimes.

Anyway, like many things, after you first notice something and realize what it is, you start to see more instances everywhere you look. In my case, that was the grocery store, on the roads, and at races — I don’t get out much. But when I saw the people getting in and out the cars, I realized that they looked normal. This planted a seed I think.

As I kept racing, I was unable to find a 5K in the middle of the summer, so I entered an 8K figuring 5K-5 miles was an increase, but I could probably do it. I started to run a bit more to cover the needed distance in training. After I successfully finished the race, I felt confident that I could do as much as a 10K.

It didn’t take long before one day when I was out doing my long run, I decided to take it as far as I could. I would see if I could get to 11 or more miles. In the back of my head, I wondered if I could reach the amazing 13.1 distance but only promised myself 11 miles.

I ran the full distance and was elated. I couldn’t believe that I could actually run that far. It was an astounding breakthrough and I signed up for a half marathon with a course that literally crosses in front of my house. This same half marathon I watched the year before — amazed that so many people were able to do it. At the time, I had only been running for a little while and was just working my way up to run a 5K distance without stopping.

The week before this half marathon, I injured my foot by using a shovel with Crocs in the garden and my heel was frozen. It hurt to walk. Let alone run. At the race expo, there was a sports chiropractor who was doing free tapings using Rock Tape. He wrapped my foot and ankle up the best I could and I raced the next day.

It was the most painful thing that I have ever done. After the first 5K mark, I was running in front of my house and tried to fake it for my wife. She took video with the phone. While I thought I was a super stoic actor, my issues were obvious.

By mile 4, I had no idea what I was going to do. I started to play my mind games. I needed to run at least 10K before I started to walk. When I hit 10K, I decided to try to get another mile. Then, just get to 10 mile. Then, I had to just get through another 5K.

When I crossed the finish line, I even found a kick. I wanted this one so bad. But it took everything I had. I limped into the building where they were giving free massages. I talked the student into just working on my foot and it was just enough to allow me to limp across the parking lot to my car.

When I arrived at my car, what was the first thing that I did? I took the wet paper towel that I had collected from the bathroom and cleaned an area on the back of my car. I then affixed the magnet from my race bag. It was that important to me. I still display it proudly.

Onward and upward

After my incredible painful experience at the half, I thought long and hard. Rather than being a reasonable person, I figured that if I could survive that race injured, I could maybe survive a marathon healthy. So, I bit the bullet and signed up for the Shamrock Marathon.

Five months, 2 more half marathons, a 10 miler, a 14 K, a 10K, and some 5Ks later, I ran my first marathon successfully.

What did I do before I left the hotel parking lot to drive home? Yep, I affixed a new magnet to accompany the one I had from the Crawlin’ Crab Half Marathon.

They are called Finisher medals

Another pet peeve I have is people mocking medals from a race unless they are awards. While for some shorter distance races, I would agree that they may not be necessary, they are invaluable for half and full marathons.

Some people have a habit of calling them participation medals, like those that many children are getting now by just showing up to events.

Sorry, these are not participation medals, they are finisher medals. You do not receive one unless you cross the finish line and complete a race. That is an achievement. Anyone who completes a half marathon or marathon has accomplished a sizable amount of work and training to get there. Having the medal is something that we can look at to remind us of our capability when times get tough. We have a physical object that we can hold and feel. We did it! We will do it again!

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Eric Hunley

RRCA Certified coach. Started to change lifestyle in 2012 when weight was up to 283 lbs. Eventually started running later that year and racing in 2013. Has run in dozens of races and has been featured in some podcasts. Full Bio on About Page.
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  • Mary Ellen Wiley

    Well spoken, fellow sub 30 club member! Your reason to begin running mirrors mine exactly. The reason we display our magnets/stickers, is because we finished our goal and it reminds us to keep going!

    • hamptonrunner

      Thank you for that Mary. I just had the honor of seeing an athlete I was working with put on her 13.1 sticker. I am really proud of her work.

  • Sherri Condon

    nice and well written. saw myself in a lot of the story lines.

    • hamptonrunner

      Thank you Sherri. I think that all runners can really relate.