Friday, January 14, 2011

The Finishers Medal

The Finishers Medal is just that, it is not meant to be a participation medal. Shame on any organized event that hands these out to non finishers. Evidently this now includes Disney.
Disney you have just robbed my friend of the incentive he truly needs to train and return victorious across a future finish line. A friend, who may be surprised at reading my words here but will hopefully understand where I’m coming from. My friend and others like him do not need to be enabled; they need to be encouraged to rise and try again. And although I celebrate my own accomplishment, it, along with thousands of others has lost a bit of luster.

Listed below is what earning these medals has come to mean to me. To my friend I can only say this. Disney has not done you any favors during the past two events. Whether you want to admit it or not, you and I have been robbed. This sounds harsh but its true. My frustration is mostly aimed at Disney but I admit to having a problem with your justification of receiving said medal. Others we know did not finish past events and did not get medals. You’re better than this and in the weeks and months ahead I want you to prove it. Not to me but to yourself. Train for, enter a race and kick its ass!

Over the past few years I’ve competed in three Dam to Dam 20Ks, one Des Moines Half Marathon and four Disney Half Marathons. Upon finishing each of these events my efforts to get there were rewarded by having bestowed upon me a shinny object known as The Finishers Medallion. Wearing this symbol in post race areas (and in the parks at Disney) allowed myself and others who rose to that days challenge to acknowledge one another with congratulations. Walking through a Disney Park and wearing my medal is an exciting thing. On occasion another medal bearer may ask how your time was but most simply congratulate you and you reciprocate. In a way it’s an unnamed brotherhood.

To me “The Finishers Medallion” represents every mile of training and every mile of the final competition. In the case of my Dam to Dam and Des Moines race medals the distances are stamped in the metal. In Disney events my medal lanyards clearly state 13.1, the distance in miles I had to cover to earn it. That 13.1 and the time it took me to complete it says that in the months prior I put in what I got out. More training and I could have been stronger, faster. Less training and I would have been slower and possibly not finished. Had I not lived through what it took to earn it, I would not receive it. Were it offered, I could not accept, knowing in my heart that I left too much left undone on the training field.

Each of my medals holds a different meaning.

2006 Dam to Dam 20K: 2:19 
My first race and something I never thought I would/could do. It took a year and half of weight loss, walking and jogging but I did it.

2008 Dam to Dam 20K: 2:04
2007 had found me backsliding but I had set a goal to return for another go at DAM. I was determined to break my 06 time and I did.

2008 Des Moines Half Marathon: 2:22
I had not intended to do the race but my employer sponsored my entry. Following Dam I had kept up well with my training and was feeling good going into this run. The day after the race I had a set back. I had developed plantar fasciitis in my left foot. The pain was nearly unbearable. My first Disney half was approaching and how was I going to keep training?

2009 Disney Half Marathon: 2:49
Excitement was in the air for this event. In the weeks prior I had to limit most of my training to biking and elliptical work. By race day my left foot was feeling decent but my time paid the price do to limited training.

2009 Dam to Dam 20K: 2:59
In the weeks after Disney I fell into many old habits. I had additional stress due to a now fluctuating work schedule. When I trained I did not push myself as I had before. Felt fine after this race walking around and visiting with Justin and Krystal. When I stepped out of my car at home I realized something was wrong, plantar fasciitis had returned but this time in my right foot. It was so bad that I visited my doctor who x-rayed my foot. New shoes and arch supports were in my future. Found some over the counter supports by RED WING that worked well and I still use them today.

2010 Disney Half Marathon: 3:06
Following two cases of plantar fasciitis I was hesitant in my approach to train for this run. This has proven to be a challenging year for me mentally as I have lost much of the enthusiasm I once had for running.

2010 Disney Wine & Dine Half Marathon: 3:14
In the summer prior to this event some of the stress factors in my life had quieted down. Early on I had been getting out there, trying to rebuild my endurance levels. As summer turned to fall I once again fell back into old habits. Even with the support of friends I felt discouraged by how much of my fitness I had let slide. To this day I struggle with it. In the weeks leading up to this run I was doing 4-6 mile weekend jogs including one 13.1 mile run in which I broke three hours. This should have been a stronger event for me but factors such as the late evening start, humidity and not balancing food well in the hours ahead took its toll.

2011 Disney Half Marathon: 3:02
Although not my fastest, this run felt good throughout. My endurance was good, only waning during the last mile. I did have a brief cramp in my left calve at mile 11 but was able to walk it out. Going into this run my longest outdoor runs were 6 miles. Due to cold weather here most of my training had been at the gym on the elliptical and the stair elliptical. The gym training really helped my endurance.

So eight events are done with. Not sure what the future holds right now. My weight is back up and I need to lose it badly. At one point I was considering just spending the year without any planned race events but the more I think about it... the more I realize that I need to keep something out there to reach for. DAM 2011 I'm coming and I want my medal!


Chris said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris said...

So I reread my comment and it was incoherent....

Bottom line is that Disney should be consistent with their rules, but people have to make an individual decision on how they will look at their own achievements. Nobody can take away your blood sweat and tears (or mulch, sweat, and shears for that matter) that you have put into your achievements.

We are our own worst enemies at times and need to see when we are being enabled, then make the conscious decision to continue that way or to make a change.

Good post on a tough topic, Jeff!

Rae! said...

You said it wonderfully.

I agree with Chris too!

Hard work + discipline = rewards!

mgreene said...

Jeff, you're right about this.Our biggest race in Huntsville, Cotton Row 10K used to have a 55 minute finish requirement before you even got a tshirt! Now you get one just for registering - means nothing other than to show that you paid your registration fee. I call it the "soccer mom-ization" of running - the feel good, every body gets to play philosophy that does not reward hard work or training. It is pervasive in children's sports today.

Justin said...

Krystal and I are already making plans for Dam-to-Dam 2011. It's one of our favorite events every year.

We are already training with that race in mind.

See you there!