Are Your Race Numbers Dropping? Why Bling Matters

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An article about why race medals motivate runners Are Your Race Numbers Dropping? Why Bling Matters

This morning my wife told me that our race ran out of bibs.  Our timer offered to get us new bibs and for just $0.07 more he could get them customized to our race.  For an extra $70 per 1000 bibs, we could add custom bling for our runners.  What would you do?


This is not just a problem of cost.  It could also cost us runner participation.  Up until last year, our Turkey Trot was the only one around in the Greater Philadelphia area.  Then our neighbor town inaugurated one.  We were concerned that we would lose participation.  This year we want to do as much as we can to ensure runner loyalty and race growth.  A custom bib can help.


All bling can help for that matter.  When we took over the local races six years ago, we found a box of hundreds of cookie cutter medals used over the last decade.  They just couldn’t give them away.  We left them in the basement and upgraded our bling to something totally unique to our race, “medals” that no runner could get anywhere else.  A local volunteer designer made them all for us at no cost.  That meant more proceeds went directly to our memorial charity fund.

Fireworks Glass Medals
Glass Fireworks Bling
Custom Bling
Custom Woodburned Cheeseboards for First Place Winners

Just take this simple test from column A and column B.  Which medal would you rather have if all other race costs and perks were equal?  Yes, race directors go to a lot of trouble to attract runners.  Runners love their bling.  Bibs, t-shirts, medals, and food mean a lot.

Bling Preference
Choose Preferred Bling

On Facebook, Medal Monday is an opportunity for racers to post pictures of all the bling they earned over the weekend.  Christmastime is when they show off their new custom-made medal racks. Many spouses are surprised by what happened to all their missing t-shirts.  They’ve been transformed into quilts, pillows, and man-cave curtains.

medal monday bling
Medal Monday gives bling bragging rights

There is a fine line between cost of bling and total cost of a race that makes it attractive to runners.  Our venue has been around for over 40 years.  Our runners are loyal and they have shown that loyalty by growing their numbers from 150 just five years ago to over a 1000 last year.  Remember those cheapie medals in our basement?  We’re going to experiment with them this Memorial Day.  They get one more chance.  We’re going to offer a rock bottom price race where the only bling we give is the aluminum slug and the obligatory food.  Nothing else.  But we’ll also drop our price down to $10 a runner.

If this is not making any sense to you, then hold your horses for just a second.  It sounds like we’re giving away the farm and not using the bling to our advantage.  Sure a $10 race is a huge bargain.  But runners are used to the good stuff.  Here’s a secret.  The one bling our race offers, and it has not changed in over four decades, is our beautiful course.  It is a huge draw.  People love to run by our lakes, see our historic log cabin homes, and smell the pine forests they run through.  They tell us that over and over.  They come from the city of Philadelphia just to experience the serenity of our woodlands and lakes.  It’s mental bling they can conjure any time in their minds, look at in pictures, and run in twice a year at our races.  No other race in our area can offer that, not even our neighbor town.

Medford Lakes scenery includes lakes, log cabins, and the Pinelands

Just like our new custom bibs, we like to theme our bling around our beautiful town and its history.  Two years ago we had to tear down a beloved log cabin community center.  Time and termites had taken their tolls.  We saved the best of the exterior split logs and turned them into medals.  Each one was a memorial to the cabin, a landmark that every runner knows because that’s where we all meet for the registration, start, and finish lines.  Last year, we had just enough wood left to make these adorable turkey mementos for all our top finishers.

Themed Bling
Wood From Local Landmark

Many of our runners are local.  Not only do they enjoy our lovely town on event day, they live and play here all year-round.  Children go to summer camp here.  Adults volunteer here for all the sports we offer.  Those things have been going on since the early 1930’s.  We recently lost our arts and crafts cabin to the elements.  The bling that adorns the new Craft Pavilion honors our race as the biggest donor.  All the net proceeds from our race go to a charity fund that builds ADA-compliant accessibility to the public beaches, parks, and buildings in our town.  Not only do our residents get to wear some bling around their necks, they get to play in the biggest bling around.

Charity Community Bling
Craft Pavilion and Bling

The point here is to theme your race bling to something deeply entrenched in the area where you hold your race.  Philadelphia has a number of such themes even though most of their races are on pretty much the same course along the roads through Fairmount Park.  The latest to join the ranks is last year’s inaugural Rocky Run starting at the Art Museum.  Then there is the LOVE run in line with the iconic sculpture representing the City of Brotherly Love.  Next is the Hot Chocolate Run that reminds people of Hershey’s chocolate, a world-famous chocolate town not too far away.  Then of course there is the Rock-and-Roll and Philadelphia series of half- and full marathons because hey, we’re Philadelphia and we totally rock.  What about your city?

Love Run Bling
Philadelphia Love Run Medal

So go ahead and match up your t-shirts, medals, and bibs to the memorable sights and significant events that your race represents.  If your race is a mud run, make your medal the muddiest one around.  Runners love bling.  It sometimes makes a difference between a good race and a great race.  It can be the subtle draw that keeps runners loyal and encourages them to spread the word so they put your race on the calendar.

Bling fits the race
ABF Mud Run medal is definitely muddy