After the London Marathon has been packed away for another year and people begin to drift back to their daily lives, slightly chaffed, a strange thing starts to happen: medals from the iconic race start to appear on eBay. I’ve always found this very bizarre, why sell and crucially why buy something earned through sweat, pain and hard work. I wanted to understand, so I put my own London Marathon medal up for sale.
Don’t worry I had no intention of parting with it and removed it before the selling date but by putting it up for auction I could directly talk to those bidding, giving me a better chance of understanding why people wanted my sweat stained memorabilia.
Most of the five bidders didn’t want to discuss the why but two did and offered very differing points of views.
The first had completed the marathon and wanted a second medal to frame and hang in his office. This London was his first and only marathon and he wanted to commemorate the achievement in both his work and home.
The second was a collector of London Marathon medals, having never completed a marathon in his life I found his choice of collecting item a little strange but he assured me he simply likes the design aspect of them and never pretends to have run them. He said at the age of 78 he doubt anyone would believe him anyway.
But what about all the other buyers out there? I actually started looking at this phenomenon last year and noticed something interesting. In the first few days following the London Marathon some sell for over £120 but in the following weeks and months they decrease in selling price with some ending up going for around £20. To my mind the massive price decrease suggests people want to pretend they ran it resulting in frenzied bidding early on which dies out when bragging rights aren’t quite as potent.
On the flip side, however, I do understand that people buy medals online when they simply didn’t get theirs, even if they finished the race. The Bath Half Marathon last year underestimated the amount of people running and 700 people missed out on a medal. Also, some races don’t offer medals past a cut off time, so if you were to take 9+ hours to complete a marathon there is a chance that the medals may have been packed away.
For me, each medal stands as a tribute not just to the race itself but the hundreds of miles and many months of hard work and commitment that went in to getting to the start line. I will sometimes go and look at my medals as a visual reminder that I made possible what many believed impossible. A tangible representation of hard fought mental and physical challenges. However, I can now understand why people would, having also emailed a few sellers as well as buyers.
I sent out a load of messages to sellers laying out why I was messaging them and after literally one minute I got my first, somewhat blunt, reply; “who needs them?”. I asked him to elaborate a little more and he explain that he was a prolific runner without the Gollum like hoarding habits most runners have. Having run every London since 2008 and along with countless other races he felt like they were all just taking up too much space in his house and binned them. This year he discovered that they had a value to other people and has been selling them ever since. He uses the money he makes to fund future races.
The second seller I spoke to did it for charity. She had earned her fourth London Marathon spot through a charity and was some way from her fundraising target after finishing the race. Having seen that the medals went for a premium online she sold her’s to fill up the total.
The final response I got was from a first time marathon runner who just couldn’t afford the costs of his weekend in London. With train tickets, hotel stay and food the memorable weekend had taken a hefty chunk out of his overdraft. He needed to recoup some of the money so I brought his medal and told him to keep it. Ironically, trying to understand why ‘those people‘ buy medals I ended up becoming one of ‘those people‘ myself.
Would you ever consider buying or selling your medals? Let me know in the comments below.