Having already launched the Interstate Challenge, Grand Slam Challenge and Hat Trick Challenge, DigitalRunning.com already had challenges that encouraged people to race different distances in different places. The next logical step was to challenge people to race more often.
I’ll freely admit that I struggled with this idea and considered scrapping the challenge. Excluding Ragnar Relays, I raced only 3 times in 2013 and I often encourage people to race less. Racing once per month for a whole year is difficult to do. In addition to crazy schedules, there’s injury potential and uncooperative climates to deal with. Here in Florida, it’s tough to find races in the summer. In Canada, they’re hard to come by in the winter. Racing the whole year calls for a special award.
Given the difficulty, I decided to split the challenge into seasonal increments. I thought it would be really unique to have four medals that connected together and such a “super medal” would be an appropriate reward for those who raced all year round. Unfortunately, I had no idea if it could even be done. I did a lot of research and couldn’t find anything like it. It was frightening and uplifting at the same time. I had the opportunity to be an innovator, but I had no idea where to begin. I had worked with two different medal companies for the first Interstate Challenge and the Hat Trick and Grand Slam Challenges. Neither of them seemed very interested in working with me on this project.
Through the Ragnar Relay Series, some employees of SymbolArts ended up on my email list. One of them reached out to me after receiving an email about the Grand Slam Challenge. One thing led to another and I was introduced to Dennis Molyneaux, their Florida sales executive. I shared my idea with Dennis and I was a little surprised to hear that he had thought about the idea before. Even better, he seemed really excited about it too.
Dennis presented 2 concepts. One was 4 long medals side by side with a tongue and groove design. The medals slid into one another, but there was nothing to hold them in place. It had been designed for a race series but never actually produced. From a design perspective, the medals fit together but they would have required tape or some other kind of adhesive to actually hold them together.
“The tiniest spark of an idea is no small thing. Even if born upon the tattered edge of a paper napkin, it may very well grow up to be the size of something special” – Walt Disney
The other concept was a very loose idea with the London 2012 Olympic logo as an example. Dennis cut the paper logo out and split it into 4 pieces with a centerpiece to connect the 4 pieces together. He didn’t know that I spent an entire week at a conference in 2007 listening to graphic designers rip apart that very logo shortly after it was revealed. I laughed when I saw it, but the connecting centerpiece was just what I was looking for.
I was certainly intrigued and my mind was racing, but it was September 2013 and I had other priorities on my mind. I had recently sold my house and I was packing like a madman. We had just chosen our first crew of ambassadors and I was about to expend a nice chunk of cash outfitting them with gear. I also needed enough cash on hand to fund the Tennessee Ragnar Relay team in late October. So, I switched gears and gave Dennis a test run with the 2014 Interstate Challenge medal.
I was at Walt Disney World for the marathon weekend in January with a suitcase full of Grand Slam and Hat Trick medals when I received a text from Raffi telling me the Interstate Challenge medals had arrived. She sent a picture, but it just looked a lot like the proof. She joined me the next day and delivered 3 Interstate Challenge medals. They were easily the nicest medals we had ever put our names to and they were very well received by the surprised ladies who actually earned them that weekend.
The first Interstate medals are awarded to some happy (and tired) ladies at Disney’s Contemporary Resort.
Confident in SymbolArts, I began wracking my brain for some kind of theme. I couldn’t get off the “4 seasons challenge” idea, but creative ideas for the individual challenges were not coming. I came up with names like “The Autumn Quest” and “Old Man Winter’s Ultimatum”. Nothing was really coming together. So, I presented the concept to the DigitalRunning.com ambassadors and asked them for ideas.
My original concept art. I was at the graphic design conference in 2007, but I’m no graphic designer.
Gigi came up with the “Time of the Season” concept and suggested a clock or an hourglass. I thought it had potential and I mulled it over for a while. I liked the idea of the clock and comparing the different seasons to different times of the day. It reminded me of my favorite book trilogies when I was younger: The Dragonlance Chronicles by Margaret Weiss & Tracey Hickman. The three books were called Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Dragons of Winter Night and Dragons of Spring Dawning. I came up with a very rough concept and named the challenges the Spring Dawn, Summer Day, Autumn Twilight and Winter’s Night in homage to the trilogy.
One of our early proof revisions from Symbol Arts – the Summer Day medal originally featured a sand castle.
The ambassadors really liked the idea so Raffi (who is a graphic designer) mocked up a much better concept that included a cut out rim with the names of the months on the top of each medal and the DigitalRunning.com logo as the centerpiece. We sent that off to SymbolArts. Their artist worked on it for a few days. What came back can only be described as overwhelming. There were five proofs with weird colors representing different depths. There was so much to see. I was excited and confused all at the same time.
I presented the proofs to the ambassadors. We all agreed that the centerpiece looked great from the first proof, but we ultimately went through about 5 or 6 revisions of the medals themselves. The Summer Day medal took the longest. When the other three medals were settled, I still wasn’t willing to sign off on the Summer Day. I just wasn’t in love with the sand castles.
I spent a week trying to think of something else to represent the summer. I don’t know what finally brought the palm trees to the front of my brain. Maybe it was a Corona ad. Maybe it was the fact that I live in Florida and there are hundreds of them growing in my neighborhood. Everyone was anxious to wrap the design phase up.
“Change the sand castles to palm trees and I think we’re finished,” I told Dennis. I was mostly right. When I saw the final proof of the Summer Day medal, I was ecstatic. It went from my least favorite of the 4 to my favorite.
I signed off on the proofs and crossed my fingers. Because of the nature of the medal, all of the molds had to be made in the beginning to make sure they would interlock even though I only needed the Spring Dawn medals right away. Dennis seemed confident that everything would fit together well, but I kept thinking about how it had never been done before. I was selling the fact that people would get this awesome “super medal”, and there was big potential for disaster if the centerpiece concept didn’t work out well. As with any start-up such a large failure in the early stages can easily be the end.
So, you can imagine my relief 6 weeks later when Dennis received the medals from the factory and emailed photos to me. The medals looked fantastic and they fit together beautifully. When they arrived on my doorstep a week later, they looked even better. I’m very proud of these medals. From initial concept to production, it’s been a team effort. SymbolArts did a great job bringing the vision to life. I’m looking forward to being able to award them to runners in a few short weeks. There’s still time to sign up!