Sunday, May 14, 2017

Finisher Medals & T-Shirts—Who Deserves Them?

A few months ago, my wife and I joined the so-called Ultra Aquathlon at Pantai Klebang, Melaka. It was the first time that the event was organized there, and it wasn't a very big crowd. Before that my wife had never been to Melaka, and she thought it's a good excuse to visit the place.

Fate would have it that the size of participation was such that there were only 2 participants in her category—something that we did not know until we were back home to KK. My wife isn't a strong athlete, and in each race that she joins, she's bound to barely finish within the cutoff time. But since there were only 2 participants in her category in the Melaka event, she ended up getting 1st runner-up, even though she was actually last (of the only two participants)! The funny thing was that we didn't even know all this at the end of the race. We had to rush to the airport to catch a flight home that same afternoon, so we did not stay for the prize-giving ceremony.

However, when the results were officially published, we were amused to find that she got 1st runner-up and was entitled to a trophy. She was excited, and asked me if I could contact the organizer to arrange the delivery of the trophy. I duly contacted the organizer. I did so via Whatsapp and email. I agreed to pay for the delivery cost too. I was then instructed to contact one of the organizer's staff, which I did. From the exchanges of numerous Whatsapp messages and emails over a period of several weeks, I was repeatedly assured that the trophy would be sent to us. But excuses upon excuses, ranging from some confusions with the race results, to difficulties in locating the trophy, eventually having that trophy damaged in the store. In the end, it became obvious to me that the trophy was never intended to be delivered. So I gave up trying.

My view is that, regardless of the poor timing of the participant, if he or she really deserves a trophy, medal or finisher T-shirt, the organizer should see to it that these are duly delivered to that participant.

Now in the recently-concluded Borneo International Marathon (BIM) last Sunday, we had a similar situation at the end of the race. There were some runners whom did not finish the race within the cutoff time. Yet they demanded for the finisher medals and T-shirts, on the excuse that some of them did finish the 42km, although beyond the 7 hours allocated time.

I can understand the disappointment of these slow finishers, but rules are rules. I think the whole problem arose because many of these people came into the race with the wrong idea in the first place. They paid for the entry fee, and in their mind, they're paying for the medals and T-shirts. The truth is that they're not really paying for the medals and T-shirts; rather for the OPPORTUNITY to challenge themselves to finish the race within the cutoff time. This is a race, and time is an important factor—so get over it.

No—I'm afraid the finisher medals and T-shirts must be earned; not an automatic entitlement regardless of finishing time. For if that were the case, then there is no meaning to delay their delivery until after the race. It would have been much more efficient to put them in the race pack together with the bibs. 

Running 42km, even if it takes 12 hours to finish, is an achievement to be proud of, and we're not trying to belittle such an achievement. Just that it's still NOT within 7 hours, which is the cutoff for this race. Bear in mind that the Macau Marathon, for example, has a cutoff of 5 hours only. May I suggest that before registering for a race, it's a good idea to read the rules of the race first, including the cutoff time. We are not all born long-distance runners, but 7 hours is quite generous, provided that one trains for it.

I can understand why my wife is disappointed for not getting her trophy for the Pantai Klebang event because she really deserves that trophy. At the same time, I can also understand why these people whom did not finish the marathon within 7 hours cutoff in BIM last Sunday felt disappointed, but unfortunately they did not deserve the finisher medals and T-shirts. If my wife had been running the marathon in BIM last Sunday, and she failed to finish within 7 hours, it wouldn't have been an issue to me if she did no get the medal and T-shirt.

Whatever we want in life, we must work hard for it—we need to earn it. We must be prepared to accept the reality that sometimes we will fail. We work harder the next time. Sometimes it takes a few tries; and sometimes we keep trying until we die without achieving success. That's fine, as long as when and if we finally achieved it, it's because we have earned it.