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Madison Marathon: A Race Story Rendered in Metal

This photo from the 2014 Fall Madison Marathon was used to create the 2015 finisher's medal. © 2014 Focal Flame Photography | Credit: Clint Thayer

This photo from the 2014 Fall Madison Marathon was used to create the 2015 finisher's medal. © 2014 Focal Flame Photography | Credit: Clint Thayer

Marathon training is a surreal journey into oneself, with a defined endpoint. 

After months of straining sinews, after countless hours flying across pavement (and countless more hours that did not resemble flight but a sensation unmistakably earthbound), after discovering that searing lungs and budding blisters have become a daily and normal occurrence, and after reaching the unsurpassed peace that occurs when all mental chatter is replaced by footfall after footfall, there is the finish line. 

And after the finish line, there is the medal.

For many runners the weight of a race medal is measured not in ounces, but in fortitude. It is a talisman that is earned, not given. And it can hold tremendous significance, representing a full range of experiences from elation for the sheer joy of good health to dark moments of self-doubt.   

Explaining the significance of race medals, Columbus, Ohio runner Chris Zawodniak says, “They are a reflection of the serious commitment that running a marathon involves. It's a great feeling to get that medal and hear congratulations after crossing the finish line.” 

Colleen Deatsman of Mason, Michigan displays dozens of finisher medals in her home next to signs reminding her to “Live, Love, Laugh, and Move.” Through long-distance running, she says, “I’ve learned to not only survive, but thrive, with fibromyalgia for over 25 years.” 

Cross Plains, Wisconsin athlete Debra Vaughan says, “My medals are hung on the wall on our bedroom. They remind me of where I have been, what I have accomplished, and what I can do. They act as a mental photo album because each one has a story.”   

  Always Advancing, a finisher medal sculpting company, converted the image to a medal design. 

 

Always Advancing, a finisher medal sculpting company, converted the image to a medal design. 

But what happens when the finisher’s medal actually is a “photo album”? For the 2015 Fall Madison Marathon, it is both. This year’s race medal is a sculpted version of an actual photograph taken at the 2014 Madison Marathon. 

The original image, captured by Focal Flame photographer and founder Clint Thayer, shows a group of runners in profile against the Wisconsin State Capitol. A runner in the foreground is suspended in mid-air just prior to footfall. Several athletes wear caps to protect against the dawn’s chill, even though all are clad in shorts. A tree at upper right is decked in copper-hued leaves. 

Step 2: 3-dimensional features are added to the medal. Photo courtesy Always Advancing

Step 2: 3-dimensional features are added to the medal. Photo courtesy Always Advancing

Madison Marathon race organizers felt that the image exemplified essential elements of the event: the season, the supportive crowd lining the fence, the elegant formal architecture of the Capitol, and the exuberance of runners. 

So they worked with Morrisville, Pennsylvania-based company Always Advancing, which rendered it as a 3-dimensional sculpted medallion with enamel accents. The manufacturing process allowed metalworkers to create a bas relief in miniature, adding depth and dimension to the image and then refining the sculpture. 

The authenticity of the medal reflects the down-to-earth nature of the Madison Marathon itself. The “hardware” is a reflection of reality, and a piece of Madison that each runner can actually hold in their hands after they cross the finish line. 

Step 3: Sculpting creates a bas relief version of the image. Photo courtesy Always Advancing.

Step 3: Sculpting creates a bas relief version of the image. Photo courtesy Always Advancing.

“To think that one of our images has been immortalized in metal and will be placed on the shoulders of each Madison Marathon finisher is amazing,” said Thayer. “Our goal has always been to create images that would have lasting value in the world. Seeing this photograph  translated to sculpture is wonderful.” 

As race day approaches, the Focal Flame Photography team is gearing up to capture thousands more lasting moments throughout the course. We are filled with excited anticipation, and honored to witness the journey of thousands of runners. 

The final product awaits runners at the finish. Photo courtesy Madison Festivals Inc.

The final product awaits runners at the finish. Photo courtesy Madison Festivals Inc.

We’ll see you at the finish line.  

Focal Flame Photography is honored to serve as official photographers for the Madison Marathon. All runners will receive free FocalShare™ digital race photos courtesy of the event organizers. The Fall Madison Marathon events will occur on November 8, 2015 on the streets of Wisconsin's capitol city.  For more information or to register, visit Madison Marathon.

- by Robyn Perrin