LAST UPDATED: 20 September 2023
What To Do With Those Leftover Medals & T-Shirts
Tired of throwing away unclaimed medals and T-shirts after a race? Hate waste? We do too - here's our top tips for cutting down on race waste.
Managing purchases of race supplies can be a headache, particularly when you're trying to keep a delicate balance between ordering enough for everyone whilst keeping waste at a minimum.
If you, like us, hate paying for things you don't need and throwing stuff away, you'd be looking for ways to order smarter and make the most of what's left over.
We asked our group of Facebook RDs what they do to keep waste at a minimum and reusing leftover supplies. Here's what they came up with.
The 10% rule
If you've put on races in the past, you've probably heard of the 10% rule. According to this rule something like 10% of registered participants fail to show up on race day, so why buy stuff no one is going to claim?
Whatever the exact percentage of DNS's, buying less to account for no-shows is a reasonable tactic. However, be careful how deep you dig for those savings. Last thing you need is people standing at the finish line without a medal or finisher T-shirt!
If your race has a long record of starter/finisher data, or you think you can confidently draw conclusions from similar events, you can try to under-order in line with your expected DNS/DNF rate. If not, try to be conservative until you get the hang of this, and only under-order by half of what you expect the actual DNS/DNF rate for your race to be.
Avoid printing the race date on medals/T-shirts
A much safer - and smarter way - of managing race supplies long term is to try and reuse leftover supplies in future races. And one good way of achieving this is to leave out your race date from medals and T-shirts, so you can reuse what's left over in following year.
This may actually be easier to pull off that you think. Instead of stamping a race year on your medals, for example, print it on the medal ribbons. That way you can throw away the less costly ribbon and reuse the medal with a new ribbon next year.
Undated T-shirts are also easy to pull off. As long as you have a nice race logo and T-shirt design, few people will bother figuring out you left the race year off the design - and there's also something to be said about keeping a uniform design over multiple race editions.
Print T-shirts at the very last minute
This takes a bit of planning, but can dramatically reduce your T-shirt waste.
All you need is a switched-on local T-shirt printer you can trust who can deliver your race T-shirts at short notice. Usually, custom clothing suppliers keep a large number of printable items in stock, so if you know the number of people who will be starting your race a day or two before race day (from bib pickups or registration roll requests), you can hope to only print as many T-shirts as you need.
Turn T-shirts into bags
If you've done all of the above and still find yourself with a good number of unclaimed T-shirts after the race, you can get creative and turn them into something special. Like a garment bag you can give volunteers or other people contributing to your race as a token of your appreciation.
It is surprisingly easy to turn a T-shirt - be it cotton, tech or anything else - into a decent-looking garment bag and you don't need any special sewing skills or anything. Take a look at this video, for example, for a simple step-by-step guide.
Donate T-shirts to charity
If you want to put your leftover T-shirts to good use, one of the best ways of doing so is to donate them to charities who need either sports clothing or clothing in general.
That's what Swindon Half Marathon did with some help from running charity Running Buddies, donating their 500+ unclaimed tech shirts to PE classes and kids looking to take up running in Africa.
Donations don't have to have a sports recipient, either. Leftover race clothing, as well as tons of clothes discarded by racers at the start line, are routinely donated by race organizers to local charities instead of being thrown away.
So, put your shirts to good use - donate!
Recycle or donate race medals
Although you shouldn't expect to recover anything close to what you paid for, recycling medals can help raise some money from your leftover bling.
You can choose to either reach out to a commercial metal recycler for this and see what you can get for your spare medals or donate your leftover medals directly to organizations, such as Sports Medal Recycling, Medals4Mettle or Bling for Bravery, who award the medals to brave hospital patients or use the proceeds from medals recycling towards a number of charitable sports initiatives. Either way you're doing better than stashing another box of race junk in the attic.
Turn medals into ornaments
Turn bling into bling? That should be obvious - right?
There's a surprising number of things you can turn a race medal into. For example, you can take the ribbon off, attach a small magnet and turn the medal into a fridge magnet. Or, come Christmas, you can turn your excess medals into Christmas tree baubles and give them away to friends, race contributors and the local community.
Sponsors love a bit of attention. So why not turn some leftover medals into plaques and present them to your sponsors? They'd really appreciate the gesture! ;)
Sell your leftover shirts in your merchandise store
If you have an online merch store, or you're selling items as part of your registration checkout, you can try selling your leftover shirts for a discount.
If you don't have a merch store online, but put on a number of other races, you can also bring your leftover shirts along and put on a race day clearance sale alongside more premium items you may be selling.
Generally, you'll be surprised how many people will pick up a shirt for $5, whether they ran that particular race or not - particularly if your designs are quirky or in any way eye-catching. And just like that, you'll start shifting through your leftover stock without losing much (if anything at all) on each leftover shirt.
Put on a leftovers/lucky dip race
Perhaps the ultimate hack in making something of leftover race supplies is to put on a leftovers race, as Leftovers Run RD, Jeff Crane, explains:
"We do a Leftovers Run each year where participants get a random medal and shirt from a previous event. One of my most profitable events of the year because we don’t have to buy new medals or shirts."
Top that with some sleek marketing (set up right after Thanksgiving Day, the Leftovers Run's tagline is: "Help us burn off our leftovers while we burn off yours!!"), set up a stall to get rid of any additional race supplies at a discount and you've got yourself a winner!
By the way, if you can't bear the hassle of putting on a live lucky dip event to help you move your leftover swag, perhaps a virtual lucky dip race would work as well for you. If you've got the "wow" medals you're off to a good start.