Here’s an exercise in self-loathing: Put all of your worldly belongings in storage for six months. Then, open the boxes one by one, and get ready to express horror at the useless crap you saw fit to keep.
Is self-loathing a little bit harsh? OK. At the very least, taking some time away from your worldly possessions will cause you to view them in a new light. That’s how I felt about a good percentage of our belongings when they were delivered to our house in New York recently. Among the most cringe-inducing: Favorite shirts with stains (Note to self: Once you have a red-pepper hummus stain on the sleeve, you will not wear the shirt again. You just won’t.); that denim skirt that didn’t really fit when it was new; cheap pots and pans with deep scratches and grooves; the books you don’t even remember reading.
In this state of mind, you can imagine my reaction when, a day or two into our move, Steve approached me with a jangling mess of race medals hanging from his arm, and asked: “What do you want to do with these?”
I groaned, and prepared myself to donate them. Race medals are tough, though. I got through the 2009 Marine Corps Marathon in part by repeating to myself: Go get your medal. It is the external representation of your internal accomplishment, the wedding ring of your relationship with the race.
Even the medals awarded for shorter races carry a memory of a struggle: When I embraced the discomfort it took to run a fast race at the Broad Street 10-Miler in 2009; when I battled with my inner perfectionist demon during the 2011 Marine Corps 10K.
Still, I started researching where I could donate them. It didn’t take me long to discover that Medals4Mettle, which collects medals and distributes them to people battling a variety of illnesses, is the go-to recipient of race medals. The nonprofit organization started when a marathoning doctor spontaneously handed over his own medal to a hospitalized friend, noting that his friend’s battle was far more grueling than his marathon was.
Medals4Mettle’s website that the organization accepts medals from anyone who’s finished a half-marathon, marathon or triathlon. I hadn’t planned on giving away my marathon medals. And somehow, it seemed wrong not to include my 10K medals, with the memories and achievements attached to them.
In a really lovely Runner’s World story about the organization, the doctor answers some FAQs, including this one:
Q: Does my medal need to be from a marathon?
A: “No. Someone’s maximum distance they’re capable of might be a 5-K or 10-K. It wouldn’t be appropriate to say ‘marathon only.’ ”
After some careful consideration, I shoved all the medals, from the 10Ks to the marathons, in a bubble-wrapped mailer, and included a hand-written note explaining why the non-obvious choices—the 10Ks, 15Ks, 10-milers and open-water swims—were an honor to me for various reasons at the time I got them. I said that it seemed in keeping with the spirit of the program to pass along that honor to someone whose journey is far, far more difficult.
I’m pretty sure I’ll never miss them. And if there’s a small chance that they can benefit someone else, even better.
What do you do with your race medals? Have you donated them? If so, which organization did you donate them to?