Heavy Medal - Paul Gentry - Marathon Maniacs


Heavy Medal - Paul Gentry - Marathon Maniacs



by Allison Weiss Entrekin

Some people race for fitness.

Others race for the

Schallenge. challenge. And then there

are those who race for

medals – lots and lots of medals.

“After you finish a race,

you want to have something

where people say, ‘My gosh,

what is that!’” says Belfair,

Washington, resident Paul

Gentry, who has accrued

18 marathon medals and

even founded a website


that pays tribute to the

country’s best finish-line

bling. “Medals give you a

chance to shine,” he says.

These days, the medals

themselves shine pretty

brightly, too. Gone are the days

when race medals were simply

round, brass and military – they’re

now as creative and diverse as

the events themselves. Disney’s

2009 Endurance Series features

20 unique medals, including one

adorned with Goofy’s face, another

encrusted in gemstones and

still another that boasts a built-in

compass. Meanwhile, the Rock ‘n’

Roll Marathon series is known for

its heavy, eye-catching medals, including

the coveted Rock Legend

medal given to those who complete

seven or more Rock ‘n’ Roll events.

In Huntington Beach, California,

the Surf City Marathon medal is

shaped like a tiny surfboard, while in

Cincinnati, the Flying Pig Marathon

gives finishers their very own twodimensional

swine. “People are getting

more original with it,” Gentry

says. “It’s great when a medal reflects

a race’s history or the feel of

the surrounding community.”

It’s great, and perhaps it’s crucial.

A growing number of athletes say

the quality of a race’s medal affects

whether they will participate in it,

and some call medals their numberone

criterion. “I choose races for

the medals,” says Natalie Smith, a

Boston-based healthcare provider

who has racked up 12 medals in

the two years she’s been running.

“When I run in a race, I move with all

the other runners to get to the finish

line and receive my medal, and there

is a sense of pride and accomplish-

“But if the Boston Marathon gave me a

bolt attached to a piece of yarn, I would

proudly display it,” admits Paul Gentry,

founder of www.262medals.com.

ment in the air. Later, when I look at

my medals, it reminds me of that


Race organizers are aware that

many people share Smith’s sentiment.

It’s becoming increasingly rare

to find a marathon whose medal

stays exactly the same year after

year, and companies that produce

a race series are scrambling to create

incentive medals for those who

complete multiple events within the

series. And when you hear that a

new race is hitting town, don’t be

Competitor.com 29

surprised if the medal is

designed before the course is even

finalized. “The overall look of our med- med- medmedals is is a priority of ours. We want to create

something unique,” says Kathleen Duran,

Disney’s area manager of endurance

events. “When we establish a new event,

one of the first things we think about is

what the medal is going to look like.”

So, why are medals so darn important

to so many racers? Perhaps because

they serve as tangible symbols

of intangible emotions. “To me, my

medals mean that I have accomplished

something that not a whole lot of people

in this world can do,” says Melisa Callison,

a Sacramento, California-based respiratory

therapist and below-the-knee amputee who

has earned 31 finisher’s medals to date. “My medals

say that I have overcome incredible odds, that I

have done something I never thought I could do.

They represent a lot of blood, sweat and tears, and a

whole lot of fun.”

Tony Phillippi agrees. Though he’s run 133 marathons

and 141 ultra-marathons, he says he’ll never

forget receiving his first medal after the 1998 Portland

Marathon. “Nobody knew it at the time, but I wore it

under my shirt for several days after the event,” the

Tacoma, Washington-based event manager says.

So what does a guy with hundreds of medals do

with all his bling? “I keep them in a bookshelf in my

office, and I hang my most recent medal on my rearview

mirror to keep the memory fresh in my mind

until until the next race,” race,” he says. says. Other Other racers racers

store their medals in shadowboxes, hang hang

them them from towel racks racks or display them in

their offices. Gentry recalls one one racer telling

him that he plans to be surrounded by

his medals when he’s six feet under. “He

said, ‘I’m going to line my coffin with them

so so when they dig me up, they’ll know I was a

runner,” Gentry says.

Extreme? Yes, but but many racers can can identify

with the importance Gentry places on those

shiny mementos. mementos. “Each “Each of my medals means

something something different to me,” says San Diego resiresident Lisa Herman. “Some remind me of a friend friend I

lost last year to leukemia, and some remind me of

the places I visited for the races. All remind me of

the hard work and perseverance it takes to earn the

medals, the pride I feel when I cross the finish line and

the friends I’ve made while training.” ■




We asked racers around the country

which events have the best best medals. Here

are some of their picks:

Boston Marathon in Boston,

Massachusetts (“But if the Boston Marathon

gave me a bolt attached to a piece of yarn, I

would proudly display it,” admits Paul Gentry,

founder of www.262medals.com.)

Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati, Ohio

Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathons nationwide

Silicon Valley Marathon

in San Jose, California

Surf City Marathon

in Huntington Beach, California

United States Air Force Marathon

in Dayton, Ohio

Walt Disney World Marathon

in Orlando, Florida

You can check out pictures of hundreds of

race medals from all 50 states and across the

world at www.262medals.com.



Medals4Mettle (M4M), founded in 2005, is

dedicated to “celebrating and rewarding the

individual and collective courage of all human


M4M was established by Dr. Steven Isenberg,

an avid marathoner who once gave away a race

medal to a patient. Before passing away, he told

the doctor that that medal was one of his most

cherished possessions.

Today, the non-profit organization gifts marathon

finisher’s medals to people who have demonstrated

their own mettle. Recipients can be

any age, and are often unable to race marathons

themselves. Nevertheless they show their courage

by dealing with life-threatening illnesses or

severe disabilities.

As marathoners run through cities around the

country, large crowds gather to cheer on their effort.

Medals4Mettle lets these runners, who are

healthy enough to compete, return those cheers

and support to other deserving champions.

You can donate your own finisher’s medals to

M4M, and pass it on to a child or adult who’s

earning the award in a different kind of struggle.


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