THE POWER OF A RACE MEDAL

Some medals are about making the commitment and making it to the starting line.

DAVE MCGILLIVRAY, for Runner's World

I do a fair amount of speaking appearances around the country. The audiences range from corporate executives to marathon runners to school children and college students. I usually start off surveying the audience to find out who exactly I am talking to. I ask where they are from and what they do for work. Then I ask if any of them like to run. Some hands go up. Then I ask if any of them like to walk. Some more hands go up. Then I ask if any of them like to drink and party like rock stars and just about every hand goes up! Finally, I ask of those who have never run in a race or a marathon before, who would like to someday? Just a few hands go up.

I then select one of them and ask for their name. They tell me, “I’m Jennifer.” Then I ask one of the folks who brought me in to speak to take Jennifer out of the room for 5-seconds. Jennifer doesn’t know what to think. When she is completely out of the room, I whisper to the audience, “when Jennifer comes back in, I want you all to get out of your chairs, yell and scream out her name, make her feel like a rock star!” Jennifer comes back in and the audience goes nuts (funny, if you are the guest speaker at a function, you can tell the audience to do almost anything and they will do it!). I signal for Jennifer to come up to the stage and for the audience to scream even louder.

When Jennifer gets to the stage, I pull out a medal (courtesy of Ashworth Awards) and drape it around her neck. Of course, she is perplexed and somewhat embarrassed but that is okay. I then explain to her that this is what tens of thousands of participants in races experience every time they cross the finish line of a race. The medal is symbolic of their accomplishment–they had the guts to make the commitment, do the work, participate, cross the finish line, get their medal, and go home feeling good about themselves. Doesn’t get any better than that. Now, she gets the message.

I then read to her and the audience what is on the medal–“My next goal is to earn my own medal!”–and I tell her that once she does finish her marathon (and she will someday) she must mail that medal back to me so I can give it to someone else someday. I then go on to say I have given out hundreds of these medals and have received most of them back so the pressure is now on! I just gave out one yesterday to a woman named Debbie and she said to me that this is exactly what she needed to finally make the commitment to get ‘er done. “I’m going to do this!” I have no doubt.

It is amazing what people will do for a medal. Most medals are about the accomplishment and making it to the finish line. But this medal that I give out is about making the commitment and making it to the starting line. It’s pretty fascinating to see the power of the medal truly at work.