With about 10 minutes left Sunday night, I decided to pop in to #RunChat, even though it was Easter Sunday and I didn’t figure the chat was especially active.
“Especially active” or not, one transaction had me apoplectic within seconds. My husband, who develops the same type of apoplexy when one of his fantasy sports players is failing or some other sports-related travesty is occurring, was looking at me as though I were losing my mind.
What was the conversation?
There were a few more tweets in this back and forth but you get the idea (and I blocked the other individual’s name because although I disagree with her, I don’t want this to be an attack ON her — I’m just still hopping mad and need to rant a bit more!).
Do I agree that someone is a “DNF” if they did not complete a race by the cut-off time? If they completed the race distance, I absolutely do NOT agree!
If you choose to register and participate in a race that explicitly requires you to agree to be “swept” if you do not meet a certain cut-off, then yes I think you are obligated to comply with the race directors’ request.
Otherwise: a finish is a finish is a finish! I understand that race directors may use their discretion in choosing not to list a finisher who arrives after the cut-off in the official results and that they may not award a medal, but the athlete has ostensibly done their best and most importantly, they have completed the distance!
While I could have a lively back and forth with my fellow #RunChat participant about what “finishing” means, it was the “train within the rules” part that had me scratching my head and ranting, especially since she states she is an RRCA Coach.
I would expect a coach to review my goals with me and help me find a goal that is achievable yet a challenge. If I told my coach I wanted to do a 50-mile ultra in four months, I am thinking she would talk me down, because given my current training level there is simply no way to do that distance without risk of injury or other adversities. A coach does so much more than schedule workouts; they help you as the athlete think through and choose your goals, then strive to meet them.
But even the best coaching in the world, combined with the most compliant athletes in the world, will not prevent the unexpected from happening. Ten minutes in the med tent for dehydration, a wrong turn because a volunteer provided incorrect direction, cramps, “bodily waste” issues, the simple fact of grappling with your mental state to push yourself through when it starts feeling impossible. None of those exceptions can be mitigated by “training to the rules.”
When I walked the United NYC Half Marathon in March of last year, my friend Mary Jane and I were within sight of the sweeper bus for much of the race. We watched water stop after water stop being dismantled before we had gotten there. We were “behind” the predicted cutoff. Honestly, I don’t know what the official race rules said about people who arrived after the cut-off. It did matter logistically, because a tunnel in lower Manhattan had to be closed for us and other accommodations had to be made. I was thrilled to get a mylar blanket and a finishers’ medal. I don’t think I have even looked up my official results. I was with my dear friend; I was making a difference via my fundraising for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Association, and I was making memories that were so more significant than the miles.
One More Story
My friend Maria set out in 2015 to do our track club’s ultimate challenge. The ultimate challenge involved doing a group of specific races throughout the year, culminating in the Tallahassee Ultra Distance Classic in December. At the ultra, Maria missed the cutoff by about an hour but I and many others can attest that she traversed the entire 50 miles.
In January 2016, track club member Mike Martinez said this about Maria:
She has blossomed as a runner, faster times and an incredible range in race distances, from one mile to fifty miles.
(and he said a lot more, presented here for you to see the whole picture, as he presented her with our club’s Female Runner of the Year award!)
I was pretty familiar with Maria’s training and I feel quite confident that she “trained within the rules.”
But what happened at the end of her ultra was not a DNF.
I would call it more of a FWC.
Finished With Class!