I have a confession: I am not a medal person. I have two race medals that are near and dear to my heart (from my first half marathon and first marathon, respectively), but as for the others, I could care less. My current medals occupy a corner of my closet, but I have also given quite a few away to be repurposed. According to our super-scientific Twitter poll, I’m not alone; a combined 41% of respondents just tuck their medals away or don’t take them all.
What's your take on race medals? Do you 😍 them, feel 🤷♀️ or pass them by? 🙅♀️
— Salty Running (@SaltyRunning) October 29, 2019
Now, I’m not saying that you have to bid farewell to your medals, but if you’re like me and they just really aren’t your thing, I’ve rounded up some options on how you can pass that swag on to give it a new life and keep it out of the landfill.
This program celebrates the bravery of the pediatric cancer patients at Texas Children’s Cancer Hospital in Houston, Texas. The Snowdrop Foundation – who operates the program – draws a parallel between the dedication and bravery of training for long distance races and triathlons and the journey of the young patients.
What They Accept: Finishers’ medals from long distance races (half marathons through ultras) and triathlons. Remove the ribbons before donating. It’s optional, but donors are encouraged to fill out a form sharing the story behind the medal; these stories are then passed on to the recipients.
Where: If you’re in the Houston area, you’re in luck! You can just drop medals in donation barrels at all Fleet Feet Sports of Greater Houston stores, FINISH LINE SPORTS or Texas Running Company – Sugar Land. Medals can also be mailed to Lawrence A. DeSpain, 4407 Lakeshore Forest Drive, Missouri City, TX 77459-4488.
Probably the most well-known of the medal donation programs, Medals 4 Mettle has been around since 2005. They give donated medals to both children and adults fighting cancer, chronic illness, trauma and other life challenges. Medals 4 Mettle has awarded over 55,000 medals through its 70 chapters in 80 hospitals around the world.
What They Accept: Earned half marathon, marathon or triathlon medals. [Note: this means no surplus/unused medals.] Remove the medal from its ribbon before mailing; this cuts down on labor, as medals will be rebranded with a Medals 4 Mettle Ribbon. Donors should fill out a form telling about themselves and what the medal means to them.
Where: Mail the medals to the chapter nearest you. You can also find Medals 4 Mettle at some race expos and finish line areas, if you would rather save shipping costs and the associated carbon emissions.
Founded in Boston in 2012, the idea behind We Finish Together is to connect people with the power of a medal and message. Donors share messages on the medals themselves to give them a unique, inspiring message to the recipients, who are all ages and walks of life.
What They Accept: All medals! Every distance, and not just limited to running. We Finish Together also takes participation medals, academic medals, and everything in between.
Before sending the medals off, use a black or dark colored marker to write “#wefinishtogether” on one side of the medal ribbon. On the other side, write a positive mantra. Finally, attach a card or tag to the medal with an uplifting message on it. The tag is your chance to get crafty with stickers, glitter or drawings.
Where: Contact the fleet closest to you. Or if you are feeling extra inspired, start your own!
Several years ago, I had medals that I wanted to donate but the closest chapter of Medals 4 Mettle wasn’t that close, and I felt that shipping the medals would negate the environmental benefit of reuse. I asked the folks at my local running store if they knew anyone who would accept them. They pointed me in the direction of a pediatric oncologist who awarded medals to his patients when they finished treatment. I donated a handful of medals… and then as I was chatting with the doctor, got the idea to help him publicize the program. I organized a donation drive, with local group runs and gyms serving as drop off points. We collected 745 medals in about a month! The moral of this story: ask around.
Like the name implies, this group takes extra and unwanted road race, endurance event, sport and academic medals, and recycles their components. Sports Medal Recycling is comprised of a group of athletes who regularly fundraise for charity events and organizations. They were concerned about reducing the environmental footprint of races and saw this as a way to help out while giving back to other causes. The money raised goes to support their fundraising minimums for charity events; if they’re not currently fundraising for something, they’ll donate to someone who is. They have recycled over three tons of sports and academic medals and ribbons to date! Even the packaging you use to ship the medals in is recycled.
What they accept: Extra, unused, or no-longer-wanted medals from any sport, as well as academic medals. (Note: they will take surplus medals from races.) Bottle opener or key chain medals are welcome. The ribbons can stay on, since those are recycled, too!
Where: Mail to: Sports Medal Recycling, 679 Washington St, Unit #8-135, South Attleboro, MA 02703. They can accept mailings from USPS, UPS and FedEx.
Do you know of any other organizations that reuse or recycle medals? Hit us up in the comments!