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Have brands gone too far? Boston marathoners think so.


Cathy Connor loves the Boston Marathon. She likes the camaraderie. She loves the mystical side of this event, which dates back to 1897 and is the oldest annual marathon in the world. She loves the idea of ​​being able to run the same rolling course that has been conquered by greats like Kathrine Switzerland, Meb Keflezighi And Linden.

Ms. Connor, 58, loves the Boston Marathon so much that she has run it nine times. But there’s one thing she and many of her fellow runners don’t like: the redesigned medal, which will be awarded to the 30,000 athletes who complete the 26.2-mile race on April 15.

“It was a little disappointing when I saw the picture,” Ms. Connor, a graphic designer from Pittsburgh, said in a telephone interview. “Why waste a good thing? It’s not a turkey trot.

The new medal bears more than a passing resemblance to versions from years past. The main image, as usual, is of a golden unicorn, the long-standing logo of the Boston Athletic Associationthe organizing body of the marathon.

But the new medal has sparked concern among purists because of one key difference: It has been redesigned to feature a large banner for Bank of America, the race’s sponsor, along the bottom edge.

“I don’t like that it suddenly seems like it’s the Bank of America marathon,” said George Christopher, 55, of Downingtown, Pa., “and that the Boston Athletic Association doesn’t has almost nothing to do with it.”

The Boston Marathon has been awarding medals to finishers since 1983, a practice that countless other marathons have since adopted. For the Boston graduates, however, the medal seems particularly meaningful. You can not enter Boston on a whim. With a few exceptions, you must either have achieved a qualifying time in another marathon or be willing to raise money for charity.

Plus, the race is tough – lots of hills, occasional storms. The finishers’ medals are won.

Eve Lanham, 39, hopes to run fast enough at the Revel Mt. Charleston Marathon in Las Vegas on Saturday so she can qualify to run Boston next year.

“For dedicated marathoners, Boston is sacrosanct,” Ms. Lanham, who lives in San Diego, said in an email. “For someone like me, leading Boston will be a huge accomplishment, and I probably won’t be able to do it regularly. I want the medal to be of good quality and for the iconic unicorn to be featured, not yet another advertisement for a big bank as the main focal point.

Bank of America is in its first year as the race’s title sponsor, following a 38 years of existence by John Hancock, an insurance company based in Boston. And the bank wasted no time in making a significant change, as this is the first time a company logo has appeared on the front of the coin.

After a local television report on the production of the new medals distributed in February, a thread on Reddit captured the general mood: “Nauseating!” » one person wrote.

A few weeks later, those responsible for the marathon posted a photo of the medal on Instagram. But if they expected applause for their commitment to sustainability – the medals and ribbons are made from recycled materials – they miscalculated. The comments section was a grease fire. Reactions ranged from “extremely disappointed” to “very sad.” The trash bin emoji was used liberally.

“The BAA understands how much a finisher’s medal means to Boston Marathon runners,” a Boston Athletic Association spokesperson said in a statement, adding: “As they have done for decades, we believe participants will wear them with pride and cherish them as they reach the finish line.

Representatives for Bank of America did not respond to a request for comment.

In October, Ms. Lanham led the Chicago Marathon, which is also sponsored by the bank. But this race’s medal, she said, was “much more tastefully done,” with the brand name at the top in a relatively modest font.

Mr. Christopher, who ran Boston in 2020 in a pandemic-era virtual race, said he was excited to tackle the course for real later this month. He also understands the collective frustration with the new medal. He has one of another breed that was made by the same company.

“It’s a wonderful medal,” he said. “However, the Boston medal had looked a certain way for a while, and I think everyone was looking forward to getting one that looked like that.”

Ms. Connor, who ran her first marathon at age 39 and has since completed it at age 37, understands better than most the hard work that goes into it. Last weekend, she completed her last long run – 21 miles – before her 10th Boston Marathon. Is the new medal disappointing? Of course.

“Because it’s always about money,” she said.

But a heavily marked piece of recycled metal won’t dull her enthusiasm, she said, and she hopes to run many more marathons, including one in France, the Médoc Marathonwhere athletes win a different type of prize: glasses of wine at each aid station.


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