What do you do with your finisher's medals?
On Sunday I accumulated my fourth marathon finisher's medal. I'm proud to have it because of what I had to go through to get it.
But when you think about it, a finisher's medal isn't worth much. It's just a souvenir, an acknowledgement that the one possessing it has overcome some obstacles in order to get from point A to point B.
So what good is the medal?
One can wear it around at the race for a couple of hours, where hundreds or even thousands of others may be wearing the same icon, and where no one will think the wearer to be immodest or showing off for wearing it. In that context, the medal says to others, "I was there, too. I shared your experience and your suffering. We are brothers and sisters of the road."
In a big race in a big city, one might even dare to wear the prize around town the rest of the day on race day. I'm told that in some bars in Boston wearing a BAA finisher's medal can be good for a free beer.
Later, while it is still new, the trophy might be stuck to a refrigerator, or be mounted in some similar local shrine of honor within one's home, where family and visitors may frequently be reminded of the recent glory leading to its being there, giving occasion for conversation and remembrance.
After that, the medal goes into a storage location along with other mementos, eventually to be forgotten, like the nearly worthless paper certificates they hand people at school graduations, tokens symbolic of much, but intrinsically, objects worth very little.
All of my finishers medals presently hang on a wall in my office at home, dangling by their neckstraps from pushpins shoved into sheetrock. That's where they will remain for now, until I run out of space for such knickknacks and relegate them to a box in my storage room.
During their tenure on my wall, someday these may attract the eye of a guest in my home who does not know that I run (or that I ran), who may inquire about what they represent.
But will I ever be able to explain such matters to those who have never been there?