I apologize if this comment comes off as ungrateful, that is not my intention. I am an avid 5K runner, and the occasional 10K (I have done mini marathons in the past as well). In the past year I have begun placing either overall, or within my age group, and while I appreciate the sentiment behind medals, trophies, and plaques, I'd MUCH rather the money spent on those to go for something else. Either just to the charity the event is for, or in useful prizes such as mugs, glasses, or gift certificates. I have so far participated in 2 events in other states. The one in Portland, Maine, we got pint glasses with the logo of the event and name of the city. VERY nice and I use mine every day. The other race was in Wilmington, North Carolina, and the prizes were oversized mugs. Again, VERY nice, and I also use that nearly every day. But what do I do with the medals, plaques, and trophies I am now accumulating? Again, I don't mean to sound ungrateful, because I DO appreciate the gesture. But seriously, if you're going to give out prizes, why not make them something we can USE? Does anyone else feel this way? I'm looking for ways to offer this suggestion to the actual race organizers - the people who can make the change. If anyone has any suggestions I'd love to hear it.
I think that medals might be less expensive than mugs, etc. Most of the races I have done also do medals for the winners, but there was one that did engraved water bottles and another that had ornaments. I'm not sure I would have used the water bottle, and the ornament is only useful for people who put up a Christmas tree. I like your idea of doing something useful, but I think that different people have different ideas of what is useful.
In terms of ways to offer the suggestions to the race organizers, I would simply email them and tell them how awesome you thought it was when you got a prize that you could use on a regular basis. You can say that it's a way to relive your victory, and helps to motivate you to keep going.
I didn't think I would win anything this year, but I actually finished in the top 3 in my age group several times. (I fared much better in races where there were 10 or less people in my age group than the bigger races ) The best prize was a $40 gift certificate for a local running store, which I used to purchase a hydration belt. I received a $10 McDonalds Gift Card and a framed certificate at another. Other than those, they have all been medals or small trophies.
The gift certificate was the best, but that was dependent upon the organizers getting sponsors to donate prizes. I think that situation is ideal if the people running the race can pull it off. You get something useful (usually) and it doesn't cost the organizers anything.
As for the trophies and medals, it is nice to get something, especially initially, but I can see a point where they may just sit on a shelf and gather dust. I may end up taking a picture with everything I won for the year to remember all the hard work I put into obtaining them, but other than that, they are pretty useless. I will admit that, if I didn't get anything for placing, I would probably be disappointed. I think most people like to win *something*. I do like the idea of mugs or water bottles or other, more useful prizes.
I was hoping to give some of my medals to the "Medals for Mettle" for charity next year, but apparently they take only half marathon, full marathon and triathalon medals, of which I have only 1.
More "generic" medals and small trophies, with engraving, can be purchased rather cheaply from sites like Trophy Depot (from a buck or two for medals and around $4 or $5 for trophies), making them affordable for event organizers, which is why you probably see them quite frequently.
"Whether You Think You Can or Can't, You're Right"-- Henry Ford
Upcoming races: Super 5k 2/3/13
Select Recent Results: Brooksie Way Half Marathon - 1:49:09 (Half Marathon PR), Open Door Julie Run 5k - 22:16 (2nd place age group, PR)
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I'm sure it does come down to the cost of the prizes, but I agree that useful prizes are the best. The one and only running prize I ever recieved was a perfect surprise. The other prizes at this race were all useful... gym bags, running socks, Dunkin Donuts gift cards. I totally didn't expect to win anything, and when I went up to accept the prize I thought maybe socks, which would've been cool, but man-oh-man was I psyched to be handed an iTunes gift card! At another race, prizes included gift certificates for 1-hour massages. Now that's a sweet prize!