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Miles Completed = 29.01
(Run/Walked = 29.01, Biked = 0.0, Elliptical = 0.0)

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Great Medal Debate - LONG POST

During Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend there was a lot of controversy to be found around the topic of finisher's medals. Should people that get injured or swept be given a finisher's medal or not?

For those not familiar with sweeping - it's pretty simple. Many races have a maximum per mile pace that must be maintained, if a participant cannot maintain that pace they may be picked up and transported to the finish line. Most races will not give participants that have been picked up a finisher's medal - why? Pretty obvious - they didn't finish the distance of the race.

Here is an excerpt from the runDisney Walt Disney World Marathon site FAQ section which can be found
here (once on the site - click on Event Details, then FAQ and scroll down to find this section)

PACING REQUIREMENTS & RESTRICTIONS

Is there a pacing requirement for the race?
Yes. Participants in the Family Fun Run 5K, Half Marathon and Full Marathon must maintain a 16-minute per mile pace throughout the race.

Is this race walker friendly?
Both runners and walkers who can maintain a 16-minute per mile pace are welcome to participate in the WALT DISNEY WORLD® Marathon Weekend.

What happens if I can't keep up with the pacing requirement?
Anyone not able to maintain the pace will be picked up and transported to the finish. You may be picked up at any point along the course for not maintaining pace. If you are transported to the finish line for any reason you will not receive a finisher medal.


Now, I think that is pretty clear. If I don't maintain my pace, I don't get to finish and I don't get the medal. I know this going in to the race and it makes me train to stay below that 16 minute per mile pace. It's fear - I don't want to be swept, I don't want the embarrassment, I don't want the sadness, I don't want to miss out on that medal. For me, these rules in my mind are set in stone and enforced. They make me work harder.


Thankfully, I have not been swept during a race. Don't get me wrong, I've worried about it - sometimes a lot. I saw the sweepers on the full marathon course - they were less than a mile behind me at one point. That put fear in me sure, but it sparked my determination even more. No way was I going to give up on my goal, my dream, my pride, my reward for finishing!

It just so happens that we had a member of our group get swept during the Walt Disney World Half Marathon at mile 10. It was sad, I was sad for him. I know he tried, I know he wanted to finish, but he didn't. When we saw him later he had a finisher's medal and was wearing it.

Now, if this was the first time I'd have seen that I may not have reacted so strongly. This was not the first time we had seen this though. It also happened at the Wine and Dine Half Marathon. I could almost forgive the Wine and Dine since it was the inaugural event and maybe they were feeling generous since there were some issues with the course, the after party, etc... Don't get me wrong - I wasn't happy about it since I was sick from 5.5 miles through the end of the race and I still pushed through and finished.

While on the full marathon course I was eavesdropping on a group of run/walkers that came up behind me. They were talking about a runner they knew that was planning to start the full and not finish it. This person was aware that they would get their full marathon medal, but not the Goofy medal. The runner believed this to be true because they had a friend that did that with the half marathon - they started, were swept and didn't finish but still got their medal. This group of run/walkers was upset by this - so was I. We discussed it for a few minutes until they finally passed me :)!

While waiting for the monorail after the full there were two other runners behind me. The cast member came up and asked us about our medals and asked if we knew if everyone was getting medals even if they didn't finish because he heard that was the case. I relayed the story about the half marathon and the other runners echoed with similar stories about people that hadn't finished and still got medals. We were all very disturbed by this as we finished the full, were tired, still sweaty and yet knew we earned our medals.

We know from past Disney events that other people that haven't finished have not been given medals. Another team member did not get a half marathon medal in 2009 after not finishing. Another team member's family member had to stop at mile 11 and didn't get a medal.

So, is this a new policy that Disney has decided to implement and not publicize? Can anyone register for an event, toe the starting line and give up in 3 miles and still get a medal? I don't know the answer to this, but I'd really like to know.

I think it's wrong for non-finishers to get a finisher's medal - period. Disney advertises them as finisher's medals, they say you have to maintain a specific pace per mile and it is there for everyone to see. This is not a secret - you can find it in all the documentation they provide.

I saw a comment that someone wasn't even as proud of her medal because she walked a lot of the course. I say that's just silly - you did the miles and you did it in the time allotted - no shame in that. If there is then I'm red faced with shame because I finished the Dopey and I walked the whole half and full - trust me though, I am not ashamed. I did my best and did the miles in the time Disney said I had to do it in. I will be back next year to better my times and no matter what happens next, I cherish my medals and have showed them off at work and to anyone willing to look :)!

I am not singling any specific people out in this - I truly believe that Disney needs to take responsibility for this. I have to say that if they continue giving non-finishers a finisher's medal it makes me feel like my medals aren't as special. I also think that if word of this gets out, it will inflate the number of participants that register because people will know they'll get the medal without having to do all the work required to finish.

I also saw a comment that everyone should get a medal because we paid for them. I totally disagree with the statement that I paid for the medal. No, I did not pay for the medal. I paid for the shirt, my bib, course hydration, race programs, post race refreshments, and medical support. The medal is something special given to participants that rise to the challenge and finish - it's a bonus and something to be earned not given for free! Should someone that registers but doesn't even come to the race be mailed a medal too? No, I think not!

If I ever run in to a situation where I cannot finish a race - no matter whether I gave it my all, quit, got injured or whatever the circumstances - I will not accept a medal. I will politely decline the medal and let the person know that I will be back and I will earn that medal - this medal was not meant to be mine. I thought about this a lot during the last year while training for the Dopey Challenge - I had to come to terms that I could fail. In coming to terms with that fact, I knew that a medal that I did not earn would never be a medal I possessed. If I had a medal I didn't earn I lose that little extra push, that little extra something that I would need to make me want that medal - I mean honestly why would I need to work for it if I already have it...Of course, that's not my style - I am proud of every medal I own, they have all come with challenges and resulted in triumph and the medal is the culmination of the struggles I faced to get it.


I could probably go on even more here, but I'll leave it at this. Please chime in, let me know what you think. Would you take, keep,wear, display the medal if you didn't finish? Should Disney give medals to non-finishers? Any other thoughts on this? What if other elite races started just handing out medals, how would you feel?

9 comments:

Matt said...

This seems to be the topic du jour! I'm posting my comments over on my blog right now.

Briefly however, I agree with you. I can see both sides, but I must say that the medal is called a finisher's medal for a reason.

Kathryn said...

I *completely* agree. Didn't finish, no finisher's medal.

I am appalled that Disney is doing this, and even more appalled at the people who wear a finisher's medal knowing that they didn't finish

Btw, I am also a run/walker, on the slow side at that.

Richard said...

Amanda, I completely agree with you.
One thing that makes a true challenge worthwhile is not knowing for certain whether or not you will succeed, and then taking on that challenge anyway. When you tackle that goal the rewards are yours to enjoy, when you fail it is time to examine why you failed and make changes accordingly. I once limped several miles to finish a 50K event, I had twisted an ankle and had multiple blisters, but I also earned the right the rewards for finishing-even if I was the next to last across the finish line. for me to think that someone could have sat down and been carted to the finish and gotten all the benefits that I did would have been heartbreaking.

Now, if Disney wants to give out Participant Medals, then that is their business, but I have to hope that they would also be forthright about that fact. Perhaps there could be a compromise where the race could offer a replica medal to those who drop out early to ease the sadness for those falling short of their goal while still protecting the integrity of the race for those who succeeded in making their goals.

Thank you, Amanda, for the opportunity to post a response on a subject near and dear to my heart and for having the courage to write a post on a sometimes controversial subject.

Jonathan "The Voice" said...

And as always, through more and more discourse and debate, I find myself re-examining my point of view.

I never thought about it from the standpoint of the "finisher" - only from the "non-finisher". The original question posed by Jeff W was whether or not giving ME a medal somehow was enabling to ME to keep not finishing. And for me it's quite the opposite. It pushes me to do better. Even though I didn't go as far (10 v 11) I handled January VERY differently than October due to the sweeping there.

Then it turned into - should Disney have given ME a medal because of what I didn't do. And should I have worn it at all? Which I think, boils down to a personal decision on my part. I wore it...well...one and a half days. And I NEVER took the 2009 medal off. So even I knew...or felt...it was different.

But now - I see myself wondering. How would I have felt in 2009 if that other team member got a medal. On one hand - I know he did everything he could. But he also didn't cross.

I totally understand your points Amanda. And as always, I thank you (and everyone else) for deciding to discuss them. I agree that Disney went against it's own policy. And that's where the real problem is.

And on a personal note - if my wearing my medal to our Dole Whip Meet upset anyone who was there - for that I'm sorry. I wore it because I'd worked my butt off. And was proud of myself. Would I wear it again?

Hard to say - but never going to be an issue.

I will never NOT finish again. Period. :)

MAIN STREET AWAITS!

MikeF. said...

I think people need to stop completely blaming Disney for this. Yes they do have some blame for not following there own rules. But so does the runner who did not finish. I do not care how hard someone said they worked their butt off for it. If you did not finish (not becuase of injury) because you could not keep up with a 16 min. mile pace then you shouldn't act like you deserved it. Because obviously you did not put in the proper amount of work to be able to finish. And proudly wearing it afterwards is a direct slap in the face of the people who did put in the needed time and finished. I have been trying to keep my mouth shut (because as you can see what comes out of it), but I keep seeing people putting complete blame on Disney(I do not believe that to be true in your post Amanda) as justification, but the responsibility also falls on the runner to say NO I DID NOT FINISH SO I DO NOT DESERVE THIS FINISHERS MEDAL! Maybe I just have a different way of thinking, but just as much blame that Disney is getting also needs to be put on the persons shoulders who did not finish. I will leave it at that. It's in the past and yes we all need to move on from this. But I just could not bite my lip anymore. Keep Moving Forward! And NO EXCUSES!

Jeff W. said...

At work and can't comment in depth right now. Great post Amanda. You have stated the finishers point of view very well. I too would deny a medal if offered. I do want to say that at the very least this debate has released some much needed passion and resolve within our group. I feel that each of us will look at this as an opportunity to really dig in our heels this year. To Jonathan I have one more thing to say. It takes one little spark to ignite a pilot light. Your pilot light has been quietly burning for awhile. This is the year to flip the switch and let your fire burn baby burn! Post races I've always fallen into that post run lag. The whole debate has pushed me and since coming home I've put in 19.5 miles. Guesd I'll ask how many have you put in?

Ok that was longer than I planned. Now back to work.

Karen said...

If you didn't finish, you shouldn't get a medal. The medal is the symbol of completing the race. If I were the one who got swept, I wouldn't want the medal. It would just be a reminder of an uncompleted goal. By not getting the medal, it would give me the extra push to get out there and try again.

Anonymous said...

I'm so angry about this. I just ran the Princess half last week. I trained for 6 months and ran part of it in the rain. Then I find my friend who was swept at mile 3 and she's wearing a freaking medal! I also came across a blog written by someone who was at the same race. The writer admits to not training properly and knowing she wouldn't finish. She was swept at mile TWO and the person on the sweeper bus told her, "you'll still get a medal and no one will be any wiser". That's a bunch of BULL! I wrote RD an email but just got a generic "thanks for your concerns".

Claire and Adam said...

I googled this topic after recently receiving my "Final race info" packet for the Princess 1/2 in 2 weeks. I had been training for 6 months as a busy working mom and then developed a femoral stress fracture 4 weeks ago. Had to stop running totally and MD discouraged me from even trying to walk the race. Naturally, I'm heartbroken. Now, I'm still going of course as the race and trip were already paid, and I do plan on trying to see how far I can get without running the risk of breaking my leg. But, I'm devastated about losing the chance to get the medal. My two girls Have been so excited for the sparkly medal! I worked so hard!!!!!!!

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