What to do with all those race medals, T-shirts and bibs?

Donate them to hospitalized kids, turn them into quilts, hang them from lamps


You earned that stuff. You don’t want to ditch it. But what to do with it?

Medals4Mettle accepts donations of race medals that are given to children with serious illnesses.

Race T-shirts can be sewn into quilts, modified into tank tops, donated to charity or used as bags.

You did the training, ran the race and crossed the finish line. More than once.

Now your drawers are heaped with enough race T-shirts to outfit the Olympic track team and finishers’ medals to forge shoes for the Budweiser Clydesdales. You could wallpaper a grocery store with all the race bibs you saved, too.

You earned that stuff. You don’t want to just ditch it. But what should you do with it, other than let it pile up and clutter your home?

Some race organizers are onto the problem. A few hand out pendants instead of medals. The Austin Marathon and Half Marathon this year awarded finishers with medals that double as belt buckles. Others give away medals that serve as handy bottle openers.

RELATED: Don’t be a heel. Follow these etiquette tips when running a race

We checked with local runners and event organizers to get their ideas for making the most of race memorabilia.

Iram Leon, president of Austin Runners Club, says the organization uses unneeded medals to fill “sand bags” used to prop up signs at races or tents on windy days. “They’re remarkably heavy,” he says.

The club also donates unwanted T-shirts to a local church, which delivers them to needy residents or communities. “We don’t want to throw good shirts away, so it’s a way to be helpful while keeping strong branding,” he says.

Leon also takes his own supply of excess race shirts along when he travels to trade with or give away to people he meets along the way.

Kent Kohler, an avid Austin runner, places his race bibs and medals beneath the glass on his dinner table so he can see them with every meal. The collection includes memorabilia from the Portland Marathon, which he ran with his daughter, and the Boston Marathon.

“I keep on adding to the collection,” Kohler says.

Another idea? Organize a shirt swap with members of your running group.

Here are other suggestions to help you keep that stash of race memorabilia under control.


  • Let your race medals inspire someone who is fighting a serious disease. Medals4Mettle, a national nonprofit organization with a chapter in Austin, gives out medals to children at local hospitals. The medals — earned at everything from small-town races to the Boston Marathon — are collected monthly and hand-delivered to patients at Dell Children’s Medical Center. “We tell them how hard it is to run a marathon, but that it’s nothing compared to the battle they’re doing and the race they’re running,” says Steve Pina, who helps make the deliveries. “We also tell them that when we run we think about them and they inspire us. … It’s a way for the running community to give back.” Drop medals off at Ready to Run, 3616 Far West Blvd. For more, go to medals4mettle.org.
  • Hang them on a lamp. Really. GoneforaRun.com sells lamp bases with built-in hangers to hold about 90 race medals. The cost is $129. They also sell wall racks suitable for displaying medals.
  • Recycle them. Sports Medal Recycling accepts donations of unwanted medals from athletes and event organizers and even recycles the cardboard boxes and plastic packing materials they’re shipped in. It uses money it gets from the recycling to donate to or participate in charity rides around the country. Send donations to Sports Medal Recycling, 679 Washington St., Unit #8-135, South Attleboro, MA 02703.


  • Turn your hard-earned race shirts into a quilt. Check the internet for an array of tutorials that demonstrate how to do it yourself. You’ll need a dozen shirts for a small quilt to throw over your (achy) knees, 20 to make a larger lap quilt or 24 for a twin-size quilt. Don’t sew? No problem. Contact a company like RaceQuilt.com to do it for you. Prices range from $175 for a blanket made from nine shirts to $350 for one made with 30 shirts. “One thing that isn’t on our site that customers ask about frequently is if we can use tech shirts. The answer is yes! We use them all the time,” says Race Quilt spokeswoman Kristi Smith.
  • Cut off the sleeves and convert that boring T-shirt into a sexy workout tank you’ll actually use.
  • Turn a T-shirt into a bag to haul your race-day needs. Some don’t even require sewing.
  • Donate them to T-shirts for Hunger, which turns them into reusable bags for clients who pick up food at the Travis County Community Center Food Pantries. Clean, gently used T-shirts of all sizes can be dropped off on the fifth floor of the Travis County Administration Building at 700 Lavaca St., or at Travis County Community Centers.
  • Donate clean, gently used T-shirts to the Austin State Hospital, 4110 Guadalupe St., which needs men’s clothing and plus-size clothing for men and women.
  • Donate them to Goodwill of Central Texas or other organizations that accept new or gently used clothing. Check goodwillcentraltexas.org/locations for details.

Race bibs:

  • Mile 22 will take race bibs, route maps, shirts, photographs, stickers — just about any flat items — and transform them into custom bags you can use to shop for groceries, haul your workout gear or carry a supply of energy gels and post-run recovery drink powders to your next event. Small bags cost about $100. Larger padded messenger bags with cross-body straps suitable for toting a laptop computer cost about $300. For more information, go to mile22bags.com.

Prefer to sit around and stare at your bibs all day but don’t want them tacked to a bulletin board, slowly decaying? Get a big frame and put a bunch of bibs in there together.

  • GoneforaRun.com sells flip books with 50 vinyl sleeves to hold up to 100 race bibs for about $55. They also can take a scanned photo of a race bib and turn it into a cork-backed stone coaster for about $22.

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