Used to be, athletes only coveted “finisher’’ medals if they completed something quite noteworthy, like a marathon or triathlon.
Those days, fellow runners, are over.
Instead, just about everyone who crosses a finish line – no matter what the distance – wants some bling.
Chris Seiler, owner of Always Advancing Sports in Newtown, should know.
His company cranks out about six million of these trinkets per year for races ranging in size from the Chicago Marathon 26.2-miler to the Kiwanis-Herald Sesame Place Classic 5K.
Now maybe getting a medal for completing a 3.1-mile race might not sound like a big deal to some, but to others it is.
For instance, there are plenty of “newbies’’ out there who are just getting into running and have never run a race before.
So achieving that goal and wanting to get some recognition for it makes sense.
And not everyone gets to stand on the podium and receive a gold, silver or bronze award. When all the runners have something to wear around their necks, it’s a show of pride, a moment of inclusiveness.
To some people, that 5K might be their gateway to bigger things. So why not celebrate the “Hey, I did it!’’ occasion?
At the same time, new races and new companies are realizing the best way to establish themselves is to create an attraction to bring in more runners.
“The purists say, ‘why is everyone getting this medal?’+’’ Seiler said. “They say, back when I ran, you had to accomplish something for it. Or I was just running to run and a medal wasn’t even part of my thought process.
“But my answer to that is, there are so many events right now, so many new events popping up around the country. Part of your marketing strategy for those races is to get runners.
“If you’re going to establish a new race, like, say, in Bucks County. . .why am I going to run this race? Because you’re going to get this awesome finisher medal. They love the way it looks, they want that on their wall.’’
Always Advancing, one of three largest companies of its kind in the world, just added the quite popular Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. to its list of clients.
That promises to be a truckload of finisher medals.
“Runners sometimes choose races on what they’re going to get,’’ Seiler said. “You want a race with a great course, and you want to have a run that’s great but at the end of it, they’re looking around right away and going ‘what’s the bling I get?’
“If it’s a liberty bell that rings (like at the Philadelphia Marathon, another Always Advancing client) or a crab that opens in Baltimore or a shark that opens in Orange County (Calif.), they want it on their trophy shelf or to hang in their office.’’
That’s why Seiler and his associates burn the midnight oil, trying to come up with unique ideas for these types of medals.
“It’s what we try to do from a creative standpoint,’’ Seiler said. “We look to create this one of a kind piece. You have accomplished a fitness goal. So maybe you didn’t run the half-marathon but somebody ran a 5K for the first time.
“Then they see everyone walking around with a half-marathon medal and they go ‘hey, what about me?’
“And that first 5K might turn into their first half-marathon and then maybe a marathon. So that gets them into it. I feel you have to reward everyone for their goal because you don’t know what the situation is.’’
It’s all about the sense of accomplishment, even if someone is only running a mile.
“When they finish, there’s a sense of reaching a goal and then they think, ‘Oh, I got a medal, too.’ They did it and got something for it,’’ Seiler said. “They want to tell everyone, they want to show everyone that they did that 5K and this is the piece that symbolizes my accomplishment.’’
Bucks County Roadrunners Winter Series Tyler Challenge 10K, 9 a.m., Tyler State Park, Newtown. Contact www.bcrrclub.com