Defining “Finish”

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?

Running Race Rules

Running Race Rules

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!

Running Race Rules

Credit: Pixabay geralt

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!

Running Race Rules

Attacking the 50 Mile Tallahassee Ultra Distance Classic! Photo Credit: Robin Bennett

 

Five Magical Motivations to RUN

So many conversations I have had about running over the past few months as I have made modifications to deal with my tachycardia issues have ended (on my part) with some variation of “but I am still grateful.”

My goal of running a 5K in less than 30 minutes is almost certainly not attainable at this point. Maybe if I checked in to a fitness retreat, ate 100% clean for an extended period of time, trained intensively, put my life on hold and went without the medication that slows my heart rate down and makes it feel like I’m running through mud long enough to pull it off it would happen. It’s not realistic, though, time-wise or budget-wise to put my life on hold. I’m doubtful it would be a good choice for my overall health, and the mere fact that cupcakes exist in this world is some type of evidence that it is possible to deny yourself too much!

Motivations For Running

Enjoying Baked by Melissa “Snowstorm” cupcakes after a run!

Jane Mahoney, a runner in the Kerri On: I Run for Remembrance group, a companion group to I Run for Michael in which members run in memory of people’s loved ones, said this today, after describing a run she and some friends had done in memory of a fellow runner and friend who had died of cancer:

Running is a magical thing, giving solitude, peace, friendship, honor and joy to life. ~ Jane Mahoney

In that one sentence, Jane captured the assets of running which have enabled me, one by one, to put a knot in the rope and hang on when I was almost at the end of my rope with running the last few months.

The Solitude of Running

I won’t lie. Despite the social benefits (discussed below), I still love running by myself. Especially since I am a primary caregiver for my father-in-law and almost never have the house to myself, I love being alone. The repetitive footsteps are like meditation for me; my thoughts have a chance to unfurl and wander, and the fresh air is rejuvenating. I also have the pleasure of listening to various Rock My Run mixes (read here for how you can benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society by downloading this free app!).

Peace

We have a number of scenic running trails here in Tallahassee. A few weeks ago, I went out by myself and ran the Swamp Forest trail in preparation for last weekend’s Swamp Forest Quarter Marathon. It was just me, the trees, gorgeous views of streams, streaming sunlight; and a few animals skittering and fro. No screens to be stared at, no one who needed anything, just peace.

Motivations For Running

The Swamp Forest Trail. Photo courtesy of Robin Bennett.

Friendship

Everyone who knows me knows I am a sucker for working toward a measurable goal. Even though I had heard about groups running from a local running store every Monday and Thursday night, I had declined to join for several reasons. Once a member told me the group was trying to get to 2016 miles in 2016, though, I was in! I joined them this past Thursday night, and Chris (the leader) said “I’ll stay with you.” Now, I have been told “I’ll stay with you” before and many times that commitment, which was sincerely meant at the time, goes out the window when the individual realizes how slow I am relative to them. Not this time. Chris stayed with me every step of the way, and the miles flew by. Three miles later I had a friend and a reminder of why the running community is second to none.

Motivations For Running

The Capital City Runners 2016 or Bust Group.

Honor

I didn’t attend the Gulf Winds Track Club awards ceremony last night, but as the names of the awardees (which are kept a secret until the ceremony) started rolling in on social media, I was thrilled for so many runners I respect who were recognized for their achievements. Although I am happy for everyone, I am exceedingly happy for my friend Maria Matheu, 2015 Female Runner of the Year. Maria worked so hard this year as she ran every race in the Gulf Winds Track Club Extreme Challenge series. Six of the hard miles were the ones she ran for me smack in the middle of a scorchingly hot Tallahassee summer when we ran from Madison Social to Capital City Runners and back, all for a free beer (okay, it was for more than a free beer but still….). She’s another one who said, “I’ll stay with you” and actually did stay with me. She had already run 8 miles that day, and only someone with a bit of a crazy streak would have headed out in the 100 degree heat index day, much less with someone who is going to take FOREVER to get it done. Maria proved (to me) who she was that day. She was (is) a friend. She honored her commitment. No one in our club deserves this award more than she does.

Motivations For Running

2015 Gulf Winds Track Club Female Runner of the Year, Maria Matheu

Joy

So much of 2015  has been spent staring at the screen of my Garmin, trying to figure out if my heart rate was going to behave or not. Over the past two months, it was reading exceptionally high. Skipping past the frantic calls I made to the pharmacist (is this batch of beta blockers bad?) and my electrophysiologist (WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?!), it turns out my Garmin sensor needed to be replaced. Everything is still not perfect, but the malfunctioning electronics had me in a misguided  mental (and emotional) spiral of “this is never going to get resolved.” I have a new strap/sensor which seems to be recording correctly. When I ran with Chris Thursday night, I didn’t look at my Garmin for the whole run. Not fixating on my HR allowed me to be more open to the whole reason we do this: JOY.

Lastly, in addition to those five reasons, my son has started joining me at running events again. This may be pushing me even farther away from a sub-30 finish than my medical issues have, but it has me speeding toward something much more important: miles, memories, and, like Jane, a magical thing.

Motivations For Running

Billy Bowlegs 5K. Photo courtesy of Fred Deckert.

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