FINISHER’S MEDAL DAY
Finisher’s Medal Day on the first Sunday in March recognizes the long hours, days, weeks and even months of training thousands of men and women across the country have put in to achieve their goals of completing a race.
Every year, cities around the United States and the world hold half and full marathons, triathlons, and other endurance races. Most of the competitors are everyday working people who train before or after work, after caring for their families and keeping their other commitments. Despite rain, snow, wind, and sometimes injury, they remain on a schedule.
Some have been athletes all their lives. Others are just starting out and want to see if they can do it. Many are amputees and are regaining some of what was taken from them. There are those who train as a team and those for whom this challenge is a one-person mission.
Finisher’s Medal Day recognizes each of them who crosses the line. Whether they cross it once or many times, earning that medal is a lifetime achievement.
In 490 B.C., the Greek soldier Pheidippides was sent from the battlefield near Marathon, Greece to Athens to tell of the victory over the Persians. The distance was approximately 25 miles, and he ran the entire way. Once he arrived and delivered the message, the not quite fit soldier collapsed and died. Pheidippides earned a Finisher’s Medal.
His feat was revived over the years, and initially, the marathon race was 25 miles long. In 1896, the Olympics in Greece set the distance at 40 kilometers. There were varying distances along the way, always somewhere near but usually 25 miles. In 1904, for example, the Boston Marathon measured 25 miles. Michael Spring won the race in two hours thirty-eight minutes four and two fifth seconds. He earned his Finisher’s Medal.
At the 1908 London Olympics, the story goes that the route for the start and finish of the marathon was designed to pass beneath the royal nursery so the princess’s children could watch and the Queen and princess could participate in the ceremony of it all. This adjustment brought the distance to 26.2 miles. Everyone earned a Finisher’s Medal that day. The official distance for the Olympic marathon became 26.2 miles in 1921.
K.V. Switzer ran the Boston marathon in 1967 and completed the race in four hours forty-four minutes thirty-one seconds. Not an impressive pace, but Switzer finished. An official also tried to remove Switzer from the run. Why? Because Switzer was a woman and at the time the Boston marathon was still a men’s only race. However, she was allowed to complete the race and crossed the finish line. Kathrine Switzer earned her Finisher’s Medal.
HOW TO OBSERVE FINISHER’S MEDAL DAY
- Support all those you know who are striving to cross the finish line. Frequently a finish line means more than a single goal and getting there accomplishes more than just earning that medal. It’s a long, challenging road to the finish line.
- What does crossing the finish line mean to you? Tell us your Finisher’s Medal Day story.
- Sign up for a race, be it a marathon or a shorter event.
- Host a marathon.
- Snap a picture of all your medals and post them on social media.
- Explore different kinds of foot races.
- Use #FinishersMedalDay to join the conversation.
FINISHER’S MEDAL DAY HISTORY
The Little Rock Marathon founded Finisher’s Medal Day to celebrate endurance athletes and their competitive spirit. They encourage all finishers, whether you are a runner or a walker, to celebrate Finisher’s Medal Day, too!
The Registrar at National Day Calendar® proclaimed Finisher’s Medal Day to be observed annually on the first Sunday in March in 2018.
The Little Rock Marathon #LRMarathon began in 2003 and offers races for all ages and distances from the 5K (3.1 miles) distance to the marathon (26.2 miles) distance.
Finishers Medal FAQ
Q. What are finisher medals?
A. A variety of foot races award finisher medals to runners who complete the race. The medals are a sign of accomplishment. Each race designs a unique medal to represent the event. They are often colorful and represent a theme or something unique about the event.
Q. Do all foot races have finishers medals?
A. Many do, especially endurance races like marathons.
Q. How long have endurance races been awarding finisher’s medals?
A. The tradition dates back more than 100 years in the United States. In the late 1800s, endurance cycling races like the Long Island Century Run awarded finisher’s medals. In 1911, at the Intercity Marathon in Washington, D.C., if runners completed the race within an hour of the winner of the race, they received a medal for finishing.