The other day, in the mail, I received a medal for an archery competition. River, my dog, likes to wear medals and have her picture taken. Why she seems to enjoy this I do not know. After her photo-op, the medal was placed in a drawer where I store similar sports awards. The drawer contains only medals collected from 2006 – 2014.
A little more than a quarter are medals for podium finishes. Most of the medals in the drawer are finisher’s medals, memoirs of the event. Some are more meaningful because they took more effort to complete or made a lasting impression.
All competitive experiences are memorable to some degree but a few stand out. Among the standouts is the Mt. Evans Ascent, a running race that begins at 10,600 feet and finishes 14.5 miles later at the summit, an altitude of 14,264 feet. It claims to be America’s Highest Road Race. That race really hurt. Actually, at mile 9, I thought I was having a heart attack, and was looking forward to it.
Other memorable races include the Tokyo Marathon for the massive crowds and awful weather – it was cold and rained the entire 26.2 miles. Across the globe the Bristol 10K in England stands out because of the bazaar warm-up. Prior to the 10K in England, someone announced to “warm-up”. The Brits queued then squared with military precision in order to start synchronous calisthenics. I’d had never seen anything like it nor have I since seen anything similar. Once, racing in Italy, I was in a break away (cycling) and feared that if I got dropped I would get lost. I didn’t get dropped, placed 2nd, then got lost going back to my hotel.
Ironman Hawaii left two lasting memories. First, my wife, Brenda, sitting on top of a dumpster screaming and cheering as I cycled through Kona. Her acrobatics were later shown on NBC Sports. And there was running with Jeff Conine the former major league baseball player. Not so much because he was on a World Series winning team but because while we were running he was being interviewed during the marathon segment of the race. A reporter, and her camera crew, riding in a Ford Mustang convertible (Ford is the race sponsor) with the top down were talking with Conine while filming. We weren’t running fast and were 6 miles from the finish. I was dying and cramping but refused to stop while the camera was rolling. As soon as the Mustang and its posse drove away I walked. I never saw Jeff Conine again.
The people I’ve met while collecting these medals have enriched the experience. I worked with Bryan Clay, Olympic Gold medalist (Decathlon), and trained with Dr. Bruce Buchanan. Bruce is listed as one of the Top 10 Ironman Kona age-group finishers having won it 6 times and set a course time record (50-54 year age group) which remains unbroken. There are many others, especially the coaches, to mention here and still do them justice.
What is prevalent in elite athletes is their drive; that desire to put themselves on the line to win. That characteristic can be applied whether it is done through work, in activities of daily living, or in competition. It is trait found among the athletes I have met in archery.
The recent archery medal is now in the medal drawer. Aside from the photo in this article I expect it will rarely be seen, again. It is the next medal and the new experiences which I look forward to.