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Swag. Swag. Swag.
Originally defined as the loot of a theft, now the term has become synonymous with freebies — generally promotional items distributed at an event as opposed to items awarded for winning a competition or contest. (I have no idea if “Swag” is singular or plural, so please excuse the grammatical confusion).
Perhaps the most notable and enviable swag are the list of items one hears about given to the attendees at the Oscars or Grammys, and other events of that ilk. That Swag is often incredible – expensive watches, designer items and high-end tech items.
It’s a funny phenomenon but everyone seems to want Swag – even when it’s bad swag! My god, I’ve seen people stand on long lines at marathon expos just to spin the wheel in order to get a free box of Carolina Rice or Rice-a-Roni worth, at most, 79 cents. Crowds wait on another line hoping to receive a foul-smelling plastic water bottle or to taste some horrific newfangled protein shake that promises to improve something-or-another in one’s running performance.
Typically, even with “bad” Swag, if they give it, we take it. Then we wrap it up and lug it on planes, and drag it all the way home, only to never take the item out of the bag or box, let alone actually use it. Really, when will I ever wear or use most of these promo items?
In addition to a race shirt and occasional free socks, gloves, hats and duffel bags, there is some Swag that we tend to always see at expos – and, indeed, I have garnered lifetime supplies of certain products, such as Breathe Rights (which I gave out to all the snorers in my life – you know who you are!), chapsticks, small tubes of Aquafor (I wouldn’t run a marathon without one), Zicam nasal swabs (a little dab when you feel a cold coming on), and Lady Speed Stick deodorants (I must have 20 of these!). In the “old” days, they’d have packets of 8 Advils in a race packet. Later, they discovered people were taking them all and getting sick, so they reduced the number of pills in the sample packet to 2. Even later, reports came out that ibuprofin is dangerous for runners, so now we must buy our own. To be honest, my problem with those Advil packets wasn’t that I took too few or too many pills, but that I couldn’t open those damn packets in the first place.
I decided to poll a number of runners about Swag. I asked them to share what was some of the best Swag, as well as the worst, weirdest and/or most bizarre Swag they’d received either in race packets or at race expos. The responses were hysterical!
“Women Only” races seem to have their own genre of Swag — if you run a Women Only race you’re likely to come home with a bag of “feminine” products – often with the name “sport” in them, from tampons and mini pads, to calcium and other supplement samples, to personal lubricants (yes, one woman recalls getting a sample of Astroglide in a race packet!). There seems to be no limit on what they will give us. One woman recalled receiving a product called “Squattie Pottie,” which apparently is designed to let us go on the run (Thank you, but I’ll stop if I need to!). Once I received a box of Poise Pads in a race packet for the More Marathon, a race for women over 40 (hey, we may be over 40, but that doesn’t mean we suffer from incontinence!). And we’ve received every kind of “wipe” known to
Some of the “best’ items reported were brand-name shoes (Brooks and Salomon), fleece vests and jackets, and a night-light jacket by Brooks. At the Underwear Run in New York City, all finishers get a pair of Nautica boxer shorts and a bowl of Chipotle chili (thankfully, that’s given out after the run). Those of us who’ve run the Mississippi Blues Marathon in Jackson, Mississippi all agree that the engraved harmonica and cd of mississippi blues performances were fantastic.
To me, any race that gives out Buff Headwear is a race worth running!
By far, the worst Swag is most entertaining. One marathon in Idaho uses a potato sack as a race bag, while another Idaho marathon (yes, there is more than one marathon in Idaho) gives out a full five pound bag of spuds. Here are some of the others – in no particular order of weirdness –
Iam dog food
A bobble-head Fred Lebow doll (FYI – Fred Lebow was the beloved founder of the NYC Marathon)
garbage disposal cleaner
rolls of toilet paper
cans of sardines distributed by someone dressed up as King Oscar himself
cheeses from around the world
coupons for free eyebrow waxing
coupons for anal waxing (OH MY GOD!)
and, last but not least:
And, there you have it.
I’m sure there are so many more Swag examples.
Please share some of yours here – the best, the worst, and the weirdest!
There will be a prize, but I haven’t decided what it is yet!
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