A photo posted by B.J. Keeton (@geekfitness_) on

Until this year, I had never been given a medal for running a race. I got a trophy at my first 5K for placing in my age group, and it was cool, but it never really motivated me to run another race.

Then earlier this fall, I ran my school’s Glow Run 5K, and even placing third in my age group, I was given a bronze medal. I don’t know what it was about the medal that made me feel so much more special than the trophy did. But it did. I even celebrated with a duck lips selfie.

A photo posted by B.J. Keeton (@geekfitness_) on

When they hung that medal around my neck, I felt like the Walmart brand of Michael Phelps. I was hooked. I needed more medals. So I went out and got some. 

Medal #2: Sandia 10K

When I finished the Sandia Shadows 10K in Albuquerque, I was surprised to find myself being handed a medal for finishing this race, too. I didn’t place, and I still got a medal. The course was pretty tough and unlike anything I’d ever done, so I felt like I earned that medal just for finishing it.

A photo posted by B.J. Keeton (@geekfitness_) on

 Medal #3: UCP Half-Marathon

I didn’t post a recap or really say anything about my first half-marathon at all. I don’t know why. I never even went and bought the 13.1 sticker that I’ve wanted for so long. Part of the reason is that the race was harder than it should have been because I’m an idiot.

I finished in 1 hour, 56 minutes, which is a good half-hour quicker than my training runs. By pushing myself so much, I ended up with my left leg falling asleep around mile 5, and I kept running on it (yay for muscle memory and my nervous system trusting me). When it sporadically woke up, my calf was cramping.

So the last 8 miles of my first half-marathon were run on either a completely numb and dead leg, or a cramping calf muscle. And I still finished in under 2 hours.

I was stoked and ecstatic that I’d done it, but I was also beaten down pretty hard and have spent the past two weeks recovering.

But it was all worth it, and I can’t wait to do it again. You know why? Because of this baby:

A photo posted by B.J. Keeton (@geekfitness_) on

Medal #4: Who Knows?

I have no idea what the next race I run will be. I’m looking at the Nashville Rock and Roll marathon in April, or maybe even another half-marathon by that point. I just don’t know.

What I do know, however, is that if there’s a race medal, that sucker is mine. A friend of mine made the comment that my 10K and half-marathon medals weren’t that cool because they were participation medals, that everyone who was there got one who was there. That they’re neat, but not special because it isn’t showcasing having won.

I had to point out that isn’t the case. These are special because they’re finisher medals. Running isn’t about winning or beating someone else. Running is about doing something you love, or about doing something you couldn’t do before. I might not have beaten the fastest, most elite runners on those courses, but I sure did beat this guy on the left:

A photo posted by B.J. Keeton (@geekfitness_) on

And I sure as hell think that’s medal-worthy.

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