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President’s Corner: Nov 2012

By Mark Frankel

I’ve been a bit depressed lately: the FexEx box of my wife’s schwag from the London Paralympics arrived recently.  And, of course, she dutifully reviewed its contents with me.  All of its contents.  And the contents of this box was just of the schwag she couldn’t fit her suitcase.  The other stuff came home with her on Labor Day, which, of course, she also promptly displayed for me.

It’s not that I’m not proud of her.  I am.  It’s quite amazing to see your wife competing on YouTube.  But in just one meet, she outschwagged me for, well, like forever.  In fact, if you had a hundred runners collect all of the schwag they could for the next ten years they probably wouldn’t even come close to what she brought home.

My wife, of course, received her fair share of shirts and jackets emblazoned with “USA” on them, but she also brought home some stuff you’d never find at a race, like dresses, formalwear for the opening and closing ceremonies, cardigans, and even a comforter with “London Olympics” printed all over it (I bet Michael Phelps doesn’t even have one, since when all of the open Olympians leave the Olympic Village, the organizers leave it standing for the Paralympians).

My wife and I love to acquire schwag, and have informal competitions between ourselves to see who can get more.  We’ve actually  incorporated the use of schwag into our lives.  It can be quite productive.

For example, I haven’t had to buy a pen in over a decade.  Granted, the stuff I pick up is cheap, but when the ink goes it’s no problem to throw it out and reach into my schwag drawer and get another one.  And for all of those people who like to run the Interclub Challenge, you’re using some of the pens I’ve accumulated of the years.

Band-aids are another thing I never buy, although I think I did buy a box a few years ago.  Of course, I didn’t know what to do with it.  Purchased band-aids?  I wound up donating it to the Wayne Interfaith Network’s food pantry (they take much more than food).

My kids actually look forward to when I run a race.  It’s not that they care so much about running, but that they care about the schwag I’ll bring home.  Perhaps there’s something they can play with.  With their imagination, they can turn a simple thing like a water bottle or a back-scratcher into an adventure or a toy.

I’ve actually gotten some weird stuff too.  The one that stands out was a set of magnetic poetry advertising some kind of car.  I’ve also picked up small stuffed animals, umbrellas, pill-boxes, and even a lobster pot.

Even though I keep most of the schwag for everyday use, give to the kids, or keep in a drawer for some potential future use, some I actually donate.

The biggest item for us runners is, of course, is race tee shirts.  For most of us, we wear them once after the race and then throw them away.  For me, though, rather than throw them away I put them in a pile.  I used to donate the pile to the Salvation Army.  Now I donate them to Peter Engelhardt.

Peter, in addition to being one of the top runners in the Clifton Road Runners, is also the Director of Physical Education at Greystone Psychiatric Hospital.  As he once explained, the uniforms that the state issues to patients aren’t of the best quality, and that the tee shirts are a big improvement.

Last year, when I first heard that he was collecting shirts, I have him four garbage bags filled with about seventy tee shirts and five pairs of used running shoes (which he also takes).  At the Interclub Challenge this year I also brought in a few pairs of old pants (it’s amazing how much a little weight work in the midsection can make even a pair of pants I bought last year no longer fit well).

The best story, though, was when my synagogue had some kind of food or clothing drive for their youth group two years ago.  They were going to go into New York City and directly give the goods they accumulated to homeless people.  One of the items they called for was re-useable shopping bags.

Now, whenever I go to a race or any event giving out schwag, and I see a draw-string bag or a burlap bag, I take one.  Ostensibly, the purpose is to use them at the local supermarket for the discount (note: draw-string bags store less than burlap bags, and hence require more of them, which means a larger discount).  I can only use so many of them, though, and hence have  a huge collection of them in my basement.  So when I heard that there was an opportunity to get rid of them and give them to people who could use them I jumped at it.

My wife didn’t think the synagogue would take them, but I emailed the director of the program and she wanted them.  So I gave her about forty bags.

I’m lucky to live in a town (Wayne) that has two great schwag events during the year: Wayne Day in June and the Health Fair in October.  Races, even though they don’t produce nearly as much schwag as the aforementioned events, are still my favorite things to do.  Schwag at races is just a nice sideshow as far as I’m concerned, but it does have benefits.


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NYC Marathon Bus

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