Who doesn't love recognition?
This can be a compliment, praise, handshake, or a high-5. A physical memento would include a medal, finisher t-shirt, trophy, 'potential winner' card, and the like. To complement your achievement with something physical enhances the experience of completion or competition. These 'badges of honour' remind us of what we have earned - and most times, hard-earned - and may motivate us to go even further the next time.
However, when these badges become more than 'bragging rights', then they present a social concern. If awards and badges result in an 'elitist mindset' or a 'cocky attitude' towards others, then the badge ceases to represent more than its abstract meaning. Every boy-scout knows that for each badge that he earns, it was born of knowledge and skilfulness. He had to demonstrate a competency or skill-set before he could be presented with a new badge, which he wears with pride. Each badge is a milestone of one's 'success', and it is part of a journey of self-discovery and exploration.
My drawerful of race t-shirts and extended merchandise alerts me of the following:
1) I really need more closet space (remind me to go to IKEA).
2) I need more real-world clothes.
3) I need to reduce my credit-card expenditure for travel, race-fees, and merchandise.
4) I should be confident of my abilities and capabilities.
5) I may have to give away some of these clothes, or wear them out (like on 'Survivor', the reality TV series).
6) Review my priorities in my life.
7) Will a race-tattoo replace these material benefits? (if so, which design and location on my body?).
8) Participate in eco-friendly, shirtless, races?
If you have 'been there, and done that', then the continuous pursuit of the same process or activities can mean a lifestyle, demonstration of self-discipline, or the pursuit of excellence. Whatever your reasons or motivations are, be mindful that a badge is temporal than the 'badge we wear inside'. A shoe-box filled with medals is just a receptacle for these beautiful bits of metal and wood, and we should not be weighed down by past glories or a vainglorious past. Instead, we can look ahead of us, determine new goals and experiences, and live them.