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5 Unique Race Medals That You’ll Want to Earn

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Different things inspire and motivate different runners.  For some, the idea of thirty minutes of peace and quiet out on the trails is enough to keep them moving.  But others seek rewards that are slightly more tangible.

And while some runners can’t even be bothered to grab a race medal after crossing the finish line, it’s an undeniable highlight for others.  So even if you’re not quite a self-proclaimed medal nerd, have a look at these unique race medals and rewards.  They might just convince you to splurge on a running vacation sometime in the near future!

Highlands Trout Mountain Challenge

The Highlands Trout Mountain Challenge takes place annually in the Kingdom of Lesotho.  (This small country is located on the southern tip of Africa and is landlocked on all sides by South Africa.)  It’s a grueling race with three distance options (5 km, 21.1 km, and 42.2 km) that takes participants over a section of the breathtaking Maloti Mountains.  Race proceeds go to the local Basotho community of Katse Village and the community is very much involved in both the staging and success of the race.

One of the ways in which members of the community are involved in the race is through the hand weaving of miniature replicas of the traditional Basotho hat.  These cone-shaped miniature hats, which symbolize the unification of Lesotho, are then purchased from the Basotho women by the race organizers.  Each replica is attached to a full marathon finisher’s medal as a keepsake of this beautiful race.  A truly one of the unique race medals that also empowers and benefits the women of Katse Village!

Unique race medals that you'll want to earn
Mpho Nthunya in her Basotho hat” by K. Kendall is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Little Rock Half Marathon

If big bling is your thing, then look no further than the Little Rock Marathon, which takes place annually in Little Rock, Arkansas.  This unique race medal is a whopper.  It’s literally as big as a person’s head, with previous versions having weighed as much as three pounds each.  (Note, however, that this is only relevant to finisher’s medals for the marathon distance.  Medal sizes for the shorter race options decrease proportionally.)

Unique race medals that you'll want to earn.
Arkansas State Capitol Building 2, Little Rock, Arkansas” by Nicolas Henderson is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The co-executive directors of the race, Gina Pharis and Geneva Lamm, are both self-confessed medal junkies who believe that race finishers deserve a medal that represents their achievement.  Lamm says, “I know when I finish a marathon, my effort is not a quarter-sized effort.  It is a ginormous.”  In light hereof, Pharis and Lamm mandate each year’s medal to be bigger than that of previous years.  And it certainly is one of the unique race medals you’ll ever add to your collection.

Entries for the marathon distance of this popular race, which takes place in March every year, are capped at 2500.  So enter early to avoid disappointment!

Nike Women’s Half Marathon

Unique race medals that you'll want to earn.
I run to be…” by Irene is licensed under CC-BY-ND 2.0.

The fact that the opportunity to earn yourself one of these beauties has sadly passed certainly doesn’t make it any less drool-worthy.  The iconic Nike Women’s Half Marathon was staged in San Francisco for the last time in 2015, after 12 years of being one of the most popular races on the annual calendar.  So popular, in fact, that only around 20,000 lucky entrants were selected from the lottery pool each year to complete the race.

But why was it so popular?  Well, a word from the street is that the custom-made Tiffany & Co. necklace handed out to race finishers by firefighters dressed in tuxedos certainly had a lot to do with it.  So count yourself lucky if you are one of the few who had the opportunity to earn yourself one of the most coveted and unique race medals out there.  It certainly is a keeper!

Momentum Knysna Forest Marathon

Unique race medals that you'll want to earn.
Knysna Turaco” by South African Tourism is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The Momentum Knysna Forest Marathon takes runners through the heart of the Knysna Forest in beautiful South Africa.  And apart from treating runners to some breathtaking forest scenery, and perhaps even a glimpse of the elusive Knysna Lourie, the first 300 finishers of the marathon distance also receive unique timber shields.

These coveted timber shields serve as an apt reminder of not only the magical setting of the race but also the prestige of being one of the first 300 runners to cross the finish line.  Most definitely one of the most unique race medals that are cherished by many!

The big one

2010.olympic.medal” by Aaron “tango” Tang is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

And last, but definitely not least, we have the big daddy of all 5 unique race medals: an Olympic gold.  It certainly isn’t in the cards for most of us mere mortals, but there’s nothing wrong with dreaming, right?  Based on both beauty and prestige, this is one medal that even the most stubborn medal hater wouldn’t mind adding this unique race medal to his or her own collection.  And while most of us will have to be satisfied with admiring it from a distance, even that is often enough to inspire greatness.

So, whether big medals, unique medals, or the medal of all medals motivate and inspire you, the important thing is to get out there and move.  Train hard, push those boundaries, and be the best runner that you can be.  Let your race medals bear witness to and celebrate your effort and the things you’ve overcome.  You’ve earned it!

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