Ahhhh, so many races, so many memories, so much swag.
Sure, the finisher medals are nice. An occasional age group award is pretty sweet as well. Often times, though, there’s other swag that’s just as special.
Care to take a peak at my current Top 10?
These are in no particular order....
**Pom-pom hat from the Leprechaun Chase 2019
What can I say? In recent years, I have developed a fondness for pom-pom hats. The Leprechaun Chase, traditionally, has offered a free "upgrade" for early-bird registration, and in 2019 it was the pom-pom hat. Even though the color scheme mimics that of the Green Bay Packers, I'm a huge fan of something other than a boxy shirt that will probably never get worn.
While on spring break, in March of last year, I ran a 10K through the streets of St. Petersburg, FL. Instead of age group awards, they had plaques for each of the top 25 men and women finishers. This was one of my early spring races, and I was fresh off of a rather lengthy winter (that had been filled with too many treadmill runs). It turns out I was able to run one of my fastest 10K races ever, and finished in the top 20. Apparently all that 'mill time was well-spent.
We all know what happened to me the summer of 2017. This event was my first race after that forced 3-month sabbatical from all things running. I love this medal for many reasons...it symbolizes my rally-back, it's a functional piece of swag, it's heavy, and it reps the University of Iowa Hawkeyes (my alma mater).
In 2018, I ran the Grand Blue Mile for the first time. I had never done a 1-mile race before, so I had no idea what to expect. I finished in 7:53, and was ecstatic to not only run a sub-8 mile, but to also capture a 3rd place AG out of 76 other "old gals." In 2019, I returned to the streets of Des Moines...eager to take on that mile again, but also apprehensive as to how I'd do. Well, all of that winter treadmill running (again) was a good thing because I knocked 30 seconds off my finish time. For a gal who grew up believing she was anything but athletic, this was quite a surreal experience. Granted, I know I could not have held that pace much longer. For that one mile, though, it left me feeling pretty euphoric.
This 10K is the race where I had my one and only DNF (2016). I wasn't able to run it in 2017 (#sidelined). In 2018, I ran both the 5K and 10K, and brought home a 3rd place AG for the 10K. Last summer, on a very hot and humid July evening, I not only was able to PR my course time (for both the 5K and 10K), but also got 3rd place AG medals for both. The pinnacle, though, was when a gal handed me the coffee cup at the finish line, for being a top-50 finisher for the women's 10K. That DNF has not been forgotten, but it definitely has been redeemed.
I knew this race was going to be hilly. I also suspected the Oklahoma weather would be windy. What I didn't expect was to be blindsided by a weird groin pain/strain at (mile-2) that would plague me for the final 24.2 miles of the race. I was able to run a decent pace, but had to take a lot of walk breaks in the final miles. In fact, the final 10K of the race took me almost 90 minutes...a good 30+ minutes longer than a typical 10K for me! Since the half marathon and the full marathon shared the same course for the first 13.1 miles, I was tempted to quit early. After I passed the turn-off for the 13.1 finish line, I spent the next five miles debating whether to go on or turn around and head back. Obviously, I kept going, and I'm glad I didn't give up. The race itself was a fabulous event; if it weren't for my wonky groin issue, it could have been a great day of marathoning for me. None the less, I can look back now and be grateful for the experience and thankful for my grit and determination.
I ran this race a few weeks following the Kickoff to Kinnick 5K. I was still in a rally-back mode, following my surgery. Affiliated with the IMT Des Moines Marathon, this race takes place on the day before the marathon/half marathon. There was no way I'd be able to do the half marathon that year, but I could handle five miles. Race day treated me to rain, but I was excited to try to run five continuous miles. Turns out, I was able to run the entire course, and kept a steady pace...and even snagged a 3rd place AG! The awards were mailed to the winners a few weeks following...imagine my surprise when this glass stein arrived in the mail, with my name and finish time etched on it. Definitely one of my nicer awards...and a solid piece of reassurance that my return to running was going well at that point.
As most know, the MCM had long been a major player on my bucket list. I was finally able to run this dream race...on a very rainy day. I had trained well, but I had not trained exclusively in pouring rain with water-logged clothing, wet shoes and painful feet (from said wet shoes). I bought the hat at the expo, and I probably was tempting Fate by not only wearing something "new" on race day, but also something with the very words "Mission Accomplished" on it. It was a tough morning with the race day circumstances and I didn't even come close to my projected finish time. But I got to run the MCM, and I still loved (almost) every minute of being there. Mission accomplished, indeed.
Returning to Davenport, IA to run the Bix-7 (after a 5-year sabbatical) was exciting! This is one of those races that's a tough sell...it's hilly, it's hot and usually quite humid (July) and it's an odd distance (seven miles). It attracts a big field of elites, though (ahem... Meb, Joan, and Billy), and the course is lined with non-stop crowd support, live bands and an occasional water hose. This was my fourth time running the Bix-7, and I was able to beat my PR from nine years ago. Thus, the timing tag has remained intact because I just can't bring myself to remove it.
**Fleece blanket, also from the Mercy Live Up Loop 5-mile
I've run this race twice, and both times received a blanket as the main event swag (in lieu of a t-shirt). I can't tell you the number of times I've stashed one of these blankets in my car for an easy warm-up device. Every year, one of the blankets accompanies me on the Market-to-Market Relay, so I have something for warmth and convenience for the numerous in/out of car moments at the exchange points.
How about you? Do you have any favorite swag items from races? Anything unique? Have you ever kept a timing tag on your shoe from a special race?
I'm linking this with Meranda and Lacey for the Friday with Fairytales and Fitness link-up.
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