There has been a bit of talk among some of my friends as of late about people cheating races. Apparently, a couple of people saw runners cutting the course at the Tinker Bell Half. At one point, it was pretty easy, though I don’t think it even cut off a mile. People stopped to stand with cheerleaders and then rather than getting back where they stepped off the course, they cut the corner and picked up further along.
Of course, if you’re not going for an age group award, does it matter? I personally think it does – it’s all about integrity. You’re cheating yourself. And in a way, you’re belittling the efforts of the people who did work their way through the entire race.
Cutting the course is actually policy at Rock ‘n’ Roll races – if a participant falls too far behind pace, the sag wagon picks them up, but rather than take them to the finish, they get dropped off further along the course so they can still finish and get their medal.
Their finisher’s medal.
Yeah, you can guess how I feel about that.
Disney has started doing something similar – if you get picked up by the sag wagon, you don’t get moved along the course, but you do still get a medal. I’ve heard multiple stories about how this works – in some cases, the volunteers just tossed the still-wrapped medals at the swept runners and in other cases, there was a little medal ceremony telling the swept runners how they deserve the medal for all their hard work.
I don’t think so.
Don’t get me wrong – it hurts to not be able to finish a race. Sometimes it’s undertraining, sometimes it’s injury or illness, sometimes it’s just a fluke. I missed my first half marathon because I was too sick to run. But did I deserve a medal because hey, I trained for the race and it wasn’t my fault? Absolutely not.
Some runners say that they paid for the medal as part of their entry fee and thus they deserve the medal. I disagree. A few friends joke that you pay for the shirt – you earn the medal. I could not take a medal that I didn’t earn by covering the full course. I would never be able to look at it.
At the end of the day, it’s personal choice. I would never take a medal I didn’t earn. If another runner wants to, that’s their choice. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.