Trail runners are an odd lot. We pride ourselves on being self-reliant and simplistic, proud of the fact that it takes little else to enjoy our sport than a pair of running shoes. Our races tend to follow in the same vein. There are no scoreboards, no digital timers, and no crowds. There’s no starter pistol, just someone that decides to shout “Go!” which starts the stampede onto a blissfully unpainted, rutted, and minimally marked race course. In spite of these minimalist leanings, we still covet the awards that await the winners of such races. From the word “Go!” until we cross the finish line marked crookedly in chalk on the pavement, we are just like any other athlete…we go for the gold. We want to bring home that extra award, the hardware that says we were the best on that day.
At nearly every single marathon I’ve ever ran, the winners get finishers’ medals. When you run for 26.2 miles, any finish is worthy of a medal. Some medals are so large they resemble a heavyweight boxing title belt more than a medal. The medals are a great reminder of the races I’ve ran, but I’ve yet to figure out what to do with them. After the race is over and the photos are taken, the medals are relegated to the back of my closet, where they take up space next to my tie rack. One of these mornings, I’ll skip the tie and wear a 2 pound medal to work instead. Or not.
But the best awards are something you will be able to use and enjoy. This past weekend, I was fortunate enough to win my age group at a local race and was presented with a small handmade desk sculpture that was made in the likeness of an Indian petroglyph found near the race course. It’s beautiful, handmade, and I could see myself displaying it on my desk at work. However, my all-time favorite comes from a few years back. For winning a trail race conducted mostly in pastures of local cattle ranchers, I was given the coveted “chip” award. That’s right, the chip. Nothing says “gold standard” like a cow patty attractively mounted on a plaque. I’m still trying to talk my wife into putting it up in the living room for all to see.
During training for all my trail races, I continually turn to lean beef to help me go for the gold. Trail runners need massive amounts of zinc, iron, and protein for muscle building and recovery, but don’t want to consume huge amounts of calories that add weight and counteract our minimalist philosophy. Steak preparation is as blissfully minimalist as it gets. Thaw (maybe), grill, eat. Plus, it’s a health food that actually tastes good! Whether I’m celebrating another successful finish with my family, or recovering from a tough workout, lean beef is always a crowd pleaser. Healthy, simple, tasty. Pre-race or post-race, that’s something truly worth striving for.