I remember when wearing a North Face jacket was a symbol of honour. It meant something. It meant you had done stuff. That stuff was stuff of legends. Told around camp fires, whispered in hushed tones. Nobody would have thought about posting it up on some notice board. I never owned one back then.

I remember seeing the faces of those that did in Snell’s Field. Faces told everything back then. Eyes sunken deep. The hundred mile stare. Words were not needed.

Now The North Face (registered trademark inserted in the appropriate place) is favoured by gangster rappers and those with money. Same with Pataguci and Arcteryx.

Now we all wear Ambits and some of us still carry a Leatherman to the office. Really? Yes Really. Or maybe a Gerber.


What do these badges represent?

To us, to others?

I wear my Ironman t shirt with pride. My chest puffs out and I stand a little taller. I get knowing looks wherever I go when I have it on. It means something and I mean something. Really? Did I have a good time getting that shirt? Nobody cares but I crossed that finish line.

Pay your money and get the t shirt.

So at what time did I become an Ironman? Is it when the announcer said those hallowed words?

Was it when I decided to run down that lonely dark stretch past the University rather than walk?

Was it when I started the marathon or even when I heard the National Anthem at 7h00 that morning?

When did I magically change into Tony Starck?

Did I have a good time? Who gives a damn. As long as I got the tattoo afterwards. “You are an Ironman!” Oh really? Ten minutes ago I was nothing and now I have ticked another item off the list.

Who cares what time you did? Who cares that the first guys to do it were far faster.

(Who can honestly say that they did their first IM in under 11:46. Yip that was the winners time in 1978.)

Or Two Oceans in under 3:56.

I have fails at both.

Are we not trying to improve on previous generations or is it all about the also ran. Or the brilliantly branded “age group win”. What does that mean? Nothing against also rans. But that is not competition. To call it that is wrong.

Bring back Pankration I say. Real sport, fight to the death stuff. And let’s see who has the stomach.

Why are summit photos so important? Does it somehow validate our experience. Somehow make it more meaningful?

Want meaningful?

It is out there and easy to get.

All you need is imagination, switch off your Twitter and your Strava.

Go and look on the edges. On the fringe you will find a shadow. Follow that. Don’t get sucked into where all the followers are are going. Go the opposite direction.

The DC sold out in 13 minutes last year. The route is there 365. Ride it yourself, same rules, solo and see if you can still break that 7 hour barrier? No 11 other pockets to hide behind.

You want meaningful. It is out there for the taking.

One thought on “Badges

  1. I’m not going to hop on my bike and ride 200km on my own for fun, it would just be a long lonely day, but throw in a couple of friends, then maybe I would hop on a bike and ride it again…

    A Marathon, Oceans, Comrades, Ironman, not done for the badge, but for fun, and maybe for a time… It’s only when the gods are against you that I grab that badge / medal and say I earned that!

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