Everyone’s a Winner

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Photo Source: mouseinfo.com

A finisher’s medal.  It’s the one tangible item from an event that states that someone has successfully completed the obstacle set before him/her.  It’s an item that some treasure dearly, proudly displaying it in his/her home.  Some just place them in a box or hand them off to their children, proud of the accomplishment but not necessarily desiring the need to save them since having one doesn’t validate or take away the fact that he/she completed the race.  However, one thing is certain.  When a medal is awarded, it is because the participant earned it by completing the challenge.

Recently I had the unfortunate pleasure of discovering one of the more mainstream running events, runDisney, was awarding medals to participants who DNF (did not finish).  These participants were ones that set out to complete the course but got swept up on the bus because they were not maintaining the minimum pace requirement.  Everywhere on the event’s website and handbooks it states that medals are awarded to those who successfully complete the course, a requirement that is no different than that seen in other races.  However, after a friend of mine ran the 20th WDW Marathon I found out the ugly truth.  It was a fairly warm race day and many participants dropped out because of that.  Those people still received the finishers medal.  I was a bit surprised.  I figured it was just an isolated event since the weather was supposedly bad.  Even with this in mind, though, I ran across other examples of this happening again and again.

Most recently I read of another participant not completing the Goofy Challenge.  The runner was able to complete the half on Saturday and 13.1 miles of the marathon the following day before getting swept up by the pacing bus.  However, the runner went on to display a photo of the medals, proof of the runner’s accomplishments.  I was shocked to see the runner had a marathon medal.  I wasn’t alone:

Commenter: “Not to be rude, but how did you get a marathon medal if you got swept and didn’t complete the entire race? no offense. Just curious. I haven’t been swept before and I was told you don’t get a medal if you’re picked up. Also, what corral were you in?”

Participant: “lol don’t worry I didn’t take it in a rude way, but everyone gets a medal. The medal I didn’t receive was the goofy because I didn’t actually complete the challenge which sucks. This is the only race I’ve gotten swept in but I’ve heard you always get a medal”

What?
Turns out Disney changed the way they award the finisher’s medals.  Now they just state they will transport you to the reunion area.  Only under the Goofy and Dopey Challenges does it state that you will not receive the Goofy/Dopey medal.

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Photo Source: rundisney.com

I completely understand why she didn’t receive the challenge medal because she didn’t complete the back-to-back races.  However, what I don’t understand is why she was awarded the marathon medal.  Having that medal means that she completed the distance at one time on one course, not that she started it and got halfway through.  Yes, she did run 26.2 miles total in the weekend but that still doesn’t mean she finished the WDW Marathon.  Why then would you give her the medal?  To keep your participants, who make you a profit, happy and more willing to pay ridiculous prices to run again?  I understand that Disney is in this to make a profit but I find this a bit demeaning (not sure if that’s the word I want to use…) to the sport.  You’re putting DNFers on the same level as those who pushed, struggled, and finished in the allotted time.  It kind of belittles the achievements of those who did complete it, you know?  Don’t get me wrong, running 2 back-to-back 13.1 miles is a huge achievement.  Having the courage to start a marathon with all intentions of finishing is huge!  However, if you did not finish it, you did not finish it.  Yes, it sucks that you put in all those training miles only to not complete what you set out to do.  It’s just something you note to yourself, learn from, then move on and either attempt again or don’t depending on how you felt about the distance.  Basically, you live and learn then move on.  It’s not something you’re given a finisher’s medal for as a consolation prize for trying and not completing.  No other race I’ve heard of does this.  The fact that runDisney does this caused me to lose some respect for them.  I also question the validity of all those medal wearers at the parks now, not knowing whether they actually earned it or not.
I feel as though the attitude in several things in life have become “everyone’s a winner!”  Whether it be little league or these races, no one wants to be left out so people try to protect those feelings by making sure everyone gets a prize.  I feel as though this promotes false satisfaction and minimizes drive.  After all, what’s the point of trying harder or finishing if you’ll get an award in the end anyway?  This, of course, is more of my personal view and distaste towards this new found attitude that seems to be sprouting up everywhere.  How is one supposed to learn that you have to work hard and earn something if it’s just given in the end?  It devalues the reward ultimately.
Still, it’s Disney’s prerogative to do whatever the hell they want.  However, wouldn’t it be smarter to hand out participation awards instead of finisher’s awards to DNFers?  They obviously make enough money that buying a few thousand participation awards wouldn’t hurt the bank.  This way they would not be devaluing the finisher’s medal meaning.
Again, these 2 incidents are just the 2 I’ve personally heard about so I may be fairly ignorant on how often this occurs, whether it occurs at all events or just a few.  I’m curious to see if anyone out there has seen something similar.  I know that not all DNFers get medals at all runDisney events but the rumor is alive and well on the internet.  Any opinions/personal experiences/thoughts about this subject would be awesome so please share!
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