About That Bling

I often volunteer at local running and triathlon events. I have had almost every race volunteer job there is: registration, water stop, making endless pbj sandwiches for marathoners. You would think “handing out medals” would be simple. The two times that has been my job, I have encountered medal quandaries.

It should be simple.

  1. Runner or triathlete crosses finish line.
  2. I place medal around said athlete’s neck.

At the April 2012 triathlon I worked, an athlete approached me who had decided not to complete the race after he finished the swim portion. He had to turn in his timing chip, and I stood between him and the bin where the chips were. He said, “DNF [did not finish], can I still get my medal?” I am not sure what expression my face portrayed, but my inner dialogue was, “What would the race director tell me to do?” At an event like that, I want to be compliant with the race director’s preferences. And at a triathlon, the race director could be miles away on the bike route or otherwise inaccessible. Sensing my hesitation, the athlete angrily threw his chip in the bin and huffed away.

The other time my job was medal hander-outer, I also had an athlete who had not broken a sweat that day ask for her medal. She was pregnant, so she had deferred her entry to the following year, but still wanted her medal. Again, I told her I needed to consult with the race director. I think between the time I asked the race director and could respond to her, she had convinced another volunteer to give her the medal.

Getting back to the giving out of medals in general, the vast majority of athletes at races accept the medals that are given out as rewards.

The day I worked the triathlon, several people matter of factly declined the medals that were offered to them as rewards for finishing. Whatever led them to make that choice, they must have felt “complete” solely for finishing such a grueling endeavor.

I guess it’s splitting hairs in a way to question the honesty factor of owning a medal for a race you didn’t compete. I guess it’s not any different (to some people’s way of thinking) than wearing a race shirt for a distance you could not have possibly completed (case in point: me wearing the Tallahassee Marathon shirt I was given as a “volunteer reward”).

Full disclosure: I did not earn the shirt I am wearing (a Tallahassee Marathon shirt) by running 26.2 miles. I did earn the medal for running 5K and the Relay for Life hat by being a RFL Captain.

But I always walked away from the interactions where someone wanted a medal for a race they didn’t complete feeling conflicted. Sure, they had “paid” for it with their registration fee. The monetary value of the medals is probably nominal compared to their emotional value.

And I doubt the athletes planned to parade around in these medals, proclaiming to everyone they encountered, “Congratulate me! I competed the [insert name here] Triathlon! I’m amazing!”

What I ask myself, still, after both of these interactions (and one of them happened years ago) is: what does that individual think when they look at that “finisher” medal?

When we have athletic goals, just as when we have principles in our lives to uphold, no amount of external reward will counteract the fact that we did not honestly keep our own bargain with ourselves. To do the right thing, to serve others to the best of our abilities, to do what we said we would.

As you approach your week, consider finding that incident, that conversation, that challenging moment when there is no outward reward, but the serenity of knowing you did the right thing.

“If we say something often enough, we come to believe it. We don’t usually delude others until after we have first deluded ourselves.” – David Frum

PS – While I am on the subject of Triathlons, I would like to congratulate my friend Ann Brennan on definitely, 110%, undoubtedly earning her medal at yesterday’s Beach to Battleship Ironman Triathlon in Wilmington, North Carolina. Ann has inspired me, motivated me, and (most importantly) befriended me. Congratulations, IronAnn!!


Wordless Wednesday

Things that make @biggreenpen dissolve in purple puddles.
You all know I rail against typos and spelling errors, but sometimes it just doesn’t matter.  At the Leon County Relay for Life this weekend, the sign below was propped up against the luminaria bags honoring “Little Mamma Harris.” 
Angle, Angel, Anelg, Anleg……..I could care less. 
(And given the illustration, maybe somehow the illustrators actually meant those geometric things.)
She was loved.

Muddy’s Flame, 24 Beads, and Hope

This weekend took off like a bullet train, with an overnight at the Leon County Fairgrounds Friday night for Relay for Life.  The express tour continued through the Red Hills Kids Triathlon and the 4th Annual Holocaust Essay/Art Awards Ceremony.  The train is slowing down and pulling into the station now.  Each of the three “stops” I have mentioned contained at least one blogworthy moment.  Tonight, however, belongs to Relay for Life. 

I have been Relaying for a while now (since 2003).  For the past three years, I have been captain of the Gulf Winds Track Club team.  For this year’s Relay, one of the teams (The Tallahassee Chrome Divas) was selling “Relay beads.”  I started off with a string and one bead; by the time the Chrome Divas packed up, I was at bead #24:

I liked having the mechanism of the beads to track my progress at Relay.  I also enjoyed interacting with the Chrome Divas each time I passed their campsite and got another bead (after every three purple beads, I got a “chrome” (otherwise known as silver) bead to signify that I had reached about another mile). 
With each of the 24 laps, I tried to focus on thinking of someone specific who is dealing with cancer as a survivor, or someone who has been lost to the disease.  To honor them, and extend the reflective feeling of Relay just a little longer, here they are: 
Letha Rucker – my mom, a breast cancer survivor.
Dianne Dolan – my friend, a breast cancer survivor.
Rose Naff – my former boss and my friend, a cancer survivor who taught me (by letting me watch a radiation treatment) just how dehumanizing it can be to be written on with a sharpie (the tattoo to tell the radiographer where to aim).
Kaitlin Nash – my brother in law and sister in law’s friend’s child, who lost her fight with cancer just after her 1st birthday.

Chuck Kiger – my brother in law who survived cancer but passed away from other causes shortly after getting a clean bill of health.
Pam Stokes – a coworker and cancer survivor.
Terry Massa, a friend and cancer survivor.
Kenney Shipley, a role model.

Fran McLean, a GWTC Relay for Life team member and survivor.
Linda McNeal, a GWTC Relay for Life team member and survivor.
Bill Milford, a friend who I did not know was a survivor until I saw him in his survivor shirt Friday night.
Seab Rucker, my grandfather who died of stomach cancer.
Layla Grace Marsh, a young girl of 3 or 4 who died of cancer.  I only “knew” her through Twitter and the web, but her family’s openness made me feel like a member of the family.
Lucy Dinnes, a parishioner with me at Park Avenue United Methodist Church in New York City who passed away from cancer.
Tom Meehan, my coworker’s husband who is a cancer survivor.
DeeDee Rasmussen, my friend who is a cancer survivor. 
Robin Dunn Bryant, who I did not know was a cancer survivor until she and her family became contestants on the “We Live Fit” challenge and their lives became “an open book.”
Robin Roberts, host of Good Morning America and cancer survivor. 
Lattice Marie Davis, my aunt who died of breast cancer.
Lew Killian, fellow parishioner at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church and cancer survivor.
Don Carraway, fellow parishioner at Holy Comforter Episcopal Church and cancer survivor. 
Janice Zaehring, Wayne’s kindergarten teacher who was diagnosed with breast cancer in November of his kindergarten year and did radiation treatments at a super early time every morning so she wouldn’t have to miss any time with her class.
Jackie Palmieri, my friend and cancer survivor.
Andrea Hartley, who passed away from cancer.  We were only acquaintances, but I was touched (blown away actually) by her fight at such a young age, and by a photo tribute I saw of her and her daughter, Emma, with Jack Johnson’s “Upside Down” playing within it. 

That song, Upside Down, has a line in it that states, Please don’t go away.

Our team member Fran’s dog, Muddy, was always “first in line” to be washed at the annual Gulf Winds Track Club car/dog wash for Relay for Life.  Muddy lost his life to cancer between last year’s relay and this year’s.  Fran had a luminaria for him (one of the bags filled with sand and a candle, used to light the path during Relay). 

It’s funny.  Fran left Relay on Friday night, and said she would be back the next morning.  She asked me if a group goes around and destroys all of the luminaria bags, because she wanted to get Muddy’s instead of having it tromped on and thrown away.
When she arrived Saturday morning, all of the luminarias around Muddy’s had extinguished themselves, with the exception of Muddy’s!

Fran shared with me in an email today what it meant to have that candle still burning.  She stated that perhaps that’s why she felt drawn to return to the camp site (at its hottest, dirtiest hour!).
Upside Down includes this line:  I don’t want this feeling to go away.
What I don’t want to go away, and am freshly reminded to hold tightly to, after a weekend at Relay, is hope:
I will hope to “run” into you next week, readers!