Race Medals and What to Do With Them

Race medals didn’t use to be a thing when I started running races, way back in 2000 and I ran my first 5k. In fact, I didn’t even get a medal for running my first, second, third, or even fourth half marathon. My first race medal was at the Philadelphia Distance Run in 2004 and since then I received medals at most of the races after that, although there was the occasional race that didn’t include medals in the early 2000’s.

Now it seems like everyone who finishes everything from a 5k to a marathon and every distance in-between gets a medal. Until more recently medals were only given to marathon and sometimes half marathon finishers, but now it’s not uncommon to receive a medal after a 5k, especially if it’s a large event. Small, local 5k’s may or may not give medals to all finishers. Sometimes a medal will be given to age-group winners only at small races.

My largest medal- it’s bigger than my palm spread out!

I’ve seen all kinds and sizes of medals over the years. I even have a medal that seems to be made of some type of foam material that I got at the Color Vibe 5k, a “fun run” that I ran more for the experience than anything because it was my first run of this type. The most interesting medal I have is the one from Shamrock Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, Virginia. It’s a functioning bottle-opener so it’s not only cute but it’s useful too (well it would be if I actually used it).

My “Bright & Bold” medal from the Color Vibe 5k

Although I’ve only run on average 3-4 races a year, I have been running races since 2000 as I mentioned before (with a lapse between 2001 and 2004), so I have a decent accumulation of race medals by now. I know many runners run more like 7 or 8 races a year (or more), which means they accumulate a whole lot more medals in a year than I ever did. In just a few years’ time, this could mean dozens of race medals. I only have 45 race medals so it’s not an issue of what to do with them but I could see it being a real issue for other people who may have hundreds of medals.

Some people have display racks. My daughter started running when she was in grade school and has accumulated quite a stack of medals by now (she’ll be starting high school this fall), and she has a display rack that’s already over-filled with her medals from races. You can buy these at local art supply stores or easily make your own.

Others give their medals away. Medals 4 Mettle accepts medals earned by runners and triathletes and gives them to “children and adults for the mettle and courage they demonstrate battling cancer, chronic illness, trauma and other life challenges.” All you have to do is remove the ribbon from your race medal and mail it to them and they will take care of the rest. According to their website, over 55,000 medals have been awarded since 2005.

I’ve heard of other people repurposing their medals into coasters, Christmas ornaments, and magnets. All of these things would be pretty easy to do, especially to make magnets and ornaments. This way your medals actually have a use other than sitting in a drawer or on a shelf.


I have to admit, all of my medals are on a bookshelf in my office at home. I have a collection of books that I was saving for my daughter to read someday and/or re-read them myself, and the medals are on this bookshelf. I also have some other race-related things on the bookshelf, like the trophies I’ve won at races and the printed photo I got at the Missoula Half Marathon in Montana. They’re a nice reminder of all of the races I’ve run over the years.

What about you all? What have you done with all of the medals you’ve received over the years?

Happy running!



Author: runningtotravel

I'm a long distance runner with a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states in the US. I also love to travel so I travel to other places when I'm not running races. Half the fun is planning where I'm going to go next!

24 thoughts on “Race Medals and What to Do With Them”

  1. I have a bunch of I don’t know probably 30 medals hanging on a hanger in my closet. I anticipate I’ll get more. I guess I’ll leave them there until my kids throw them in the trash someday in the hopefully distant future! Actually that donation idea seems interesting- I haven’t heard of that before

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I too have a lot of medals stored in a closet, but I only have one on display – from the 2017 Boston Marathon. That’s also the only medal I’ve worn after race day, because in Boston you can do that and people will congratulate you and not give you funny looks.
    I work Zero Waste at races, and the past two years in particular I have been surprised by how many medals I’m finding in our trash and recycle bins. If you don’t want it, why take it? At some races, shirts are optional and you accept or decline one at signup. I’m starting to think the same should apply to medals.


  3. In high school I used a cork board and hung my medals on there. The majority of them are now in a tote in my closet, but the ones from my recent half marathons are hanging on my dresser mirror. I like getting one for completing half marathons because I feel that’s a real accomplishment that takes a lot of training time, but think any distance shorter than that should only award medals for age group winners. Last year the agre group prizes at the White Rose 5 Miler were hats that had the race name and “Award winner” on them. They’re really light weight and make for good running hats so that was a nice change from a medal.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that giving out medals for 5ks and even 10ks is a bit excessive but I can see how getting a medal for someone running their first 5 or 10k might motivate them. I like the idea of making receiving a medal optional. I also like the idea of giving out alternative things like hats, mugs, pint glasses, and things like that for age group winners.

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  4. Your post prompted me to go look to see what I had. There, at the bottom of a box in the back of a drawer were no medals, but rather patches from my days running before you were likely born. I do recall some medals, but they are long gone [today they might become ornaments for our Christmas trees]. I have four patches from Cherry Blossom ten mile races [Washington, D.C] a couple Marine Corps Marathons including the second ever in 1977 and one celebrating running 1776 miles in the course of the year 1976 for he bicentennial. They haven’t faded and brought back great memories such as the time I passed the great runner Bill Rogers during the Cherry Blossom – he was on his way back while I was still heading out the course. : ) We will be moving again and I haven’t a clue what I will do with them. Do they still give out embroidered patches?

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  5. The walls in our basement workout room are reserved for displays of our sporting activities and achievements. We have several race medal racks on the wall, as well as pictures of the husband’s Ironman finishes, my XC ski races, whitewater rafting, rock climbing, etc., and a couple of framed posters autographed by professional triathletes. It’s fun to have a space where those memories and trinkets can be displayed. I love the idea of donating them someday though. I should put that in my will. Ha ha!

    Another question if you do a lot of triathlons is: what do I do with all my swim caps? Usually people have their own preferred one (like the silicone kind that don’t pull your hair), but the races make you used their color-coded ones. The only thing we’ve come up with is this: when we transport bikes on our open-air truck bed or on the bike rack on the back of my car, we put an old race swim cap over the seat to protect the seat from bugs and dirt. I’d love to know what else I can do with those swim caps!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I had no idea you have to wear the swim caps they give you at triathlons but I’ve never done one and no one in my family has. I wouldn’t have any idea what to do with them after a race but your idea has got to one of the most creative ones!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’d like to take credit, but it was the husband’s idea. Only someone with Chronic Intractable Bicycle Obsessive Disorder 😉 would worry about leather bike seats (perfectly wipeable, in my opinion) getting dirt, bugs, or rain on them!

        Liked by 1 person

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