Let’s be honest: in this sport everyone has an opinion regardless of what the topic is; everyone is vocal especially when differences arise. The opinions that people have on different topics vary more than the number of races held each season. It seems like everything – and I mean everything – about this sport is debated, argued or discussed. One of the hottest topics of discussion revolves around the phenomenon of racers actually selling their medals after a race, generally through online outlets like eBay. This is a polarizing topic as some people are okay with it and others find the idea of selling their medal blasphemous: in this article I will explore this topic in further detail.
For those who are unfamiliar, many OCR brands have distinctive medal designs they are known for throughout the industry. For example Spartan Race gives out a smaller “wedge” piece along with their finisher medal that makes a larger “Trifecta” medal when all three of their race distances have been completed within one calendar year. Savage Race is known for their “Syndicate” medal, earned when a participant completes two or more races in one calendar year. In a similar vein, Bone Frog just announced their “Trident” medal for 2019. These brands spend a lot of money designing their medals each year along with a ton of time and effort. Each brand wants their medal to stand out from the others: to look cool and to be desirable to the athletes. Race series have even incorporated some unique features into their medals to make them stand out from the rest: Warrior Dash had one medal that doubled as a bottle opener, and another that was magnetic. Savage Race and OCRWC have had spinning components to their medals. Hell, at Savage Race the overall men and women’s winner award is an AX!!!!! Each season most brands redesign their medals in an effort to keep them fresh-looking and ensure participants will return year after year, with many racers just going after that new medal design to add to their collection. The OCR race series know how addictive the OCR community is: they know even if the change in medal design is slight it will still attract racers who are avid collectors. There is a reason why Instagram accounts like Medal Addict and hashtags like #MedalWhore exist! In this way you can see that the idea of a medal’s “worth” can vary in more than one way: to the race it represents profit, to the participants it represents the pride of accomplishment. To some racers, that pride of accomplishment can mean everything.
To some the medal is merely a collectible representing an event they participated in, but to others it is the physical embodiment of a proud accomplishment. To many, each and every medal represents a step in one’s personal journey or an achievement. I have been in this sport, community, and industry for four years now and I have seen personally some of the amazing stories that truly show the pride that people feel for their medals. For some, a medal represents an amazing body transformation and shows that they can truly do anything when they put their mind to it. Other athletes have battled addiction, and their medals remind them that by keeping a clear mind they can continue to fight the good fight and overcome insurmountable odds. I will never forget the story of a friend of mine who was trying to lose weight and get healthy and decided that she wanted to do a Spartan Sprint: seeing the emotion and the look on her face when that medal was hung around her neck was all she needed to start crying tears of joy for what she had accomplished. To that friend and so many others, that medal is worth a lot and something to hold onto forever. And showing off these medals doesn’t just stop at social media: many people actually display their medals, and so selling unique or eye-catching medal displays has become another big business within this sport. There are well-known medal companies like 1000 Podiums all the way down to smaller companies like I Wood If I Could, and even down to folks doing things on their own or buying customized one-offs from vendors on Etsy. From a simple shelf in the racer’s room to a full-out mega display in a home gym or living room, displays can get pretty creative and represent the value racers place on their medals. I have seen shields, spears, even Savage Axe’s that have medals hanging from them. My daughter has a medal display made by I Wood If I Could that is customized to our team and even lights up.
But what about the people who don’t collect or hold onto their medals with such fervor? Is it really possible that there could be some who have such little regard as to toss them into a shoebox under the bed, or leave them in a pile in the garage to be given away or forgotten about, or even to sell them? Surprising but true…folks do sell these medals! And it happens more often than some may think. But WHY??
I will be honest when I first heard about people selling medals, I was a little confused. Who would want to buy them? And why? And how much would they even sell for? Then I asked around to understand why people were selling their medals, and it actually made complete sense to me. I mean let’s be honest, a lot of these races are not cheap to do. I have seen Ultra Beast buckles sell for $200 or more (each!) and the more rare a medal is, the more it seems to be worth to the online buyer. Regardless of what the buyer’s motivation is for purchasing a medal from a race they may or may not have participated in, $200 puts a pretty good dent in future race registrations and I decided that was something worth considering. So two years ago I started to sell my medals to make some extra cash to fund my own future racing, and I will continue to do so. Last year I sold 2 different style 2X Trifecta medals for $150 each! However when I have posted medals for sale on social media channels, I have been absolutely ripped to shreds for daring to sell my medals, and had people question my sanity. Thankfully for me I have some very thick skin.
So what is a medal worth to me? Well that simply depends. I have three medals I care about: two medals from my first OCRWC simply for qualifying, going, and racing against some amazing competition. The third is my 2018 Boston Marathon medal, which means so much to me due to the fact I was injured, had very little time to train, and…well…it’s the Boston Marathon. People train and train and train an may never ever be able to run that race. Aside from the selected few that have very special memories attached to them, a medal doesn’t mean anything to me except for some extra cash to register for another race. On average I make about $60 a medal, and I would rather have the money to be able to run more races in a sport I love than have an extra paperweight. Why hold onto something I don’t care about, when I could have the chance to re-invest it and get more of the great memories I cherish? To me what is most important is the race experience itself: the memories, spending time with friends, family, and teammates.
At the end of the day, each person earned their medal and what they decide to do with it is solely their business. There is no one is right or wrong here. People give different meanings to their medals and can choose to do different things with them (display them, don’t display them, throw them out, whatever!), just like people race for different reasons. We race to prove something to ourselves, whether that’s just going out to have some fun with friends or to race competitively for podiums and championships. For anyone who holds judgement on people as to why they race or what they do with medals, well piss off. I would never personally give anyone crap for collecting medals, displaying them or doing whatever they want with them, and I think it’s about time that we as a community grew up and gave each other a little more leeway and respect on this topic.
Lastly, stop judging people for buying medals as you have no clue what the reason is behind their decision to purchase. One 2X Trifecta medal I sold was to a woman in Virginia. She bought it so she could make a special medal holder for her husband for Christmas. She told me she wanted him to be able to display his accomplishment as he overcame cancer. Cancer! People buying medals are not the cheating criminals that some of you make them out to be, so stop judging without even knowing the whole story (especially when it’s none of your business in the first place.)
A medal’s worth is not cut and dry, because a medal can mean so many things. It means new incoming profit for race series and brands. It represents pride and accomplishment for some. For others it can be a valuable way to continue their participation in the sport by selling them, and how people choose to fund their racing is really no one else’s business. If that medal has some type of worth to you personally, that’s all that matters. Go out there and race for your medal’s worth, and for your worth!!!!!!!!!
Justin Scholl is the founder of the Lehigh Valley Spartans OCR team. Check them out on Facebook here!
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