This article first appeared in Endurance.Biz, and is used here with permission.
With a big focus this year on gravel as well as running, Life Time’s endurance event awards tend to recognize accomplishments in different ways than the norm.
Rather than simply dole out a medal to recognize athletes, Life Time’s awards seek to give a sense of time and place at each event.
At the Leadville Trail 100 MTB race, finishers are awarded a belt buckle – with a coveted, larger buckle for those who finish in less than nine hours.
Leadville Race Series awards, specifically the buckles, were chosen to keep in tradition with the burro races of Leadville. Other awards, such as gold pans are tied specifically to the heritage of the area.
All of these were intentional choices designed around keeping Leadville in the forefront of the athlete experience and building the bridge between athlete and the story of Leadville. All award items were intentionally contracted within the state of Colorado, to help support local economic development.
The unique awards don’t stop at Leadville, however. At Big Sugar, participants were given jars of maple syrup and colorful lollipops when they crossed the finish line, a nod to the Big Sugar Creek, a 47-mile waterway that starts near the Arkansas state line and weaves through much of the course.
At Rad Dirt Fest, hand-painted records and guitars, painted by Colorado local artist, Marley Seifert, were bestowed upon the races’ top finishers. This paid tribute to the eclectic art scene that can be found when walking around downtown Trinidad, Colorado.
An event spokesperson added, “With The Rad Dirt Fest, we wanted to create a strong tie back to the community and one that, once again, links the experience of the race with the history and story of Trinidad. As an event producer, we work closely with the city to incorporate all avenues that highlight the essence of Trinidad. The awards are a meaningful and significant portion of this.”
At Unbound Gravel, top finishers last year were given boards made from a Cottonwood tree (the state tree of Kansas). The wood had been uprooted from the banks of the Neosho River during a 2019 windstorm. Local firm Tallgrass Custom Wood Products harvested and cut all of the boards for the podium winners.
Ben Sachs, Race Director of UNBOUND Gravel & Big Sugar Gravel, said “At their hearts, cycling events in small towns – such as UNBOUND Gravel in Emporia, Kansas – are intended to improve the area that supports them.
“Bringing in business and recognition to a small corner of the world are what these events are all about. As race directors, we keep this in mind in every aspect of event production; and this applies to designing awards.
“At UNBOUND, we have always worked with local businesses to source materials, design, and create our awards. One important business is Tallgrass Custom Wood Products in Emporia. They know all there is to know about the different varieties of trees that grow in the Flint Hills of northeastern Kansas.
“Over the last several years they have provided the wood we needed for awards and helped us choose different species each year based on their aspects: from the fruitful Mulberry to the far seed-casting Cottonwood to the ultra-hard Osage.”