The awards ceremony is essential to the culture of road racing. However, much to the chagrin of this road racer, increasing numbers of race directors are deciding to do away with the traditional awards presentation in favor of a bureaucratic check-in process devoid of any ceremony. Not only does this marginalize the efforts of runners, but it suppresses the spirit of competition, and erodes camaraderie within the running community.

I’m not winning any road races these days, but I respect those who do. I want to see their faces, learn their names, and cheer for them when they receive their awards. I want to know who’s on my heels and who’s in front of me. And, if I run well enough to make the podium, I want to be recognized too.

The Demise of Road Race Awards

The decision to stop making a big deal about winners seems to have come about from a confluence of factors. First, it’s easier on race directors to skip the awards ceremony. Second, awards are seen as something that benefits only a small minority of runners. Third, the general emphasis continues to shift from winning to participating across the spectrum.

Everybody gets a medal and a t-shirt these days. Winners earn a $20 gift certificate to a local running store where they’ll have to dig into their own pockets to buy anything other than energy gels or car decals. Call me a curmudgeon or a jerk, but winners still matter and competition is a good thing. Let’s do better.

Don’t ask your winners to pick up their awards in secret like it’s shameful. Click To Tweet

If you’re a race director, don’t ask your winners to pick up their awards in secret like it’s shameful. Celebrate their performances and create an awards ceremony that is entertaining and uplifting for everyone. Create some fun awards to involve kids, families, and local residents. Make it a party to remember.

Not every runner is going to want another tech tee or race medal. Offer it to those who want to pay a premium. Spend your money on food, drinks, and quality awards. Runners will come back to races that are fun and make them feel appreciated.

An awards ceremony isn’t just for the winners. It’s a post-race party for everyone who ran, cheered, and volunteered. And, if you’re one of the lucky ones who receives an award, have the decency to stick around to the end.

4 thoughts on “The Demise of the Awards Ceremony

  1. I’m with you on this one. It is a competition and the top runners deserve to be recognized.

  2. I do not believe the awards ceremony is “essential to the culture of road racing.” Perhaps this is because I’m usually still on the course when they happen, so I don’t think about them much. Or perhaps because lately I’ve done some trail runs too. Perhaps because the vast majority of my running friends–even the fast and competitive ones–don’t care about the awards ceremony.

    Maybe because I’ve been to just a few. But even back when I ran my town’s 5k and one-milers as a kid I don’t remember much more than an announcement of the names of the winners. I liked seeing the winners announced at the See Jane Run half marathon, and clapping for them. I suspect they were annoyed that the awards ceremony was so late–if I was there to watch it, they had been waiting around for quite some time. When I saw the awards for the LA Marathon (on TV), it was just the top man and top woman (and I assume there were awards at least a few deep?) and it looked REALLY awkward.

    An awards ceremony is a nice idea. If you are going to have awards for the winners, I think you should give them out publicly. I’ve been to several races where the awards are publicly displayed, and the winners go to a special (public display) area to pick them up. I don’t know whether those winners were announced or just posted–I assume announced.

    So in short, if you’re going to have awards, I think you should award them publicly. I don’t believe that is “essential to the culture of road racing.”

    1. Thanks, Bain. Regardless of awards, the culture of road racing should be inclusive and inspiring. The awards ceremony should be a celebratory time for all runners and a chance to socialize with your peers. When I wrote this piece I was thinking of some local 5K and 10K races. I agree that race distances longer than that make it tough to hold an awards ceremony within a reasonable amount of time considering the disparity in finisher times. Enjoy the miles!

  3. Runners should be recognized at an awards ceremony. I understand that some people have other obligations and cannot stay. I bet if you treated awards like you do door prizes and if the winner is not there , go to the next runner! If you do not want to stay for your award , do not enter. Stay home and let someone who appreciates the recognition win . I have been running for fifty years and I still am excited when I win!

Thoughts?