I've averaged 4000-5000 miles running a year since 2001. The overwhelming majority of those miles have been run on roads in populated areas, so I'm no stranger to running in traffic with cars whizzing by me; it's honestly a minor miracle I haven't been hit prior to Saturday.
At any rate, with my nerves completely frayed, I decided to call it a day at Mile 50, so I DNF'd (i.e., "Did Not Finish") the race. I felt great physically the whole time, and was winning the race at the time I stopped. (I also own the course record at this particular race from my run two years ago). But I just could not muster the motivation to stay on the road any longer; I had no "reason" to be out there anymore.
It still was a great weekend overall. My friend Lauren was in town from Philadelphia (she's also the very first Zwitty coaching client ever), and so Lauren, Alex, and I spent Saturday night at a great restaurant near home, and then had a fun Sunday afternoon with more great friends. I woke up today feeling awesome, and looking forward to a fantastic trip this weekend to Bald Head Island, North Carolina, for the 51-mile Badwater Cape Fear race, with about a dozen Zwitty runners who will be there as well, in addition to so many really good friends from the Badwater family. In other words, I had already turned the page on the debacle of this past weekend.
Then I saw this...
One of my favorite aspects of ultrarunning is that it's an almost-universally positive sport: the runners are not professional athletes, and we participate in the sport to find out more about ourselves, enjoy the activity we love, and -- perhaps above all -- be part of a fabulously-supportive community of people. In large part, ultrarunning is a "judgment-free zone": we all run for different reasons, we all have different motivations, and we all have different goals and aspirations. So it really makes zero sense to attack/call out another runner's decision to call it a day. Zero.
Unfortunately, the subject of DNFs often can evoke negativity among ultrarunners. A small but vocal faction of ultrarunners consider it a "mortal sin" to DNF a race, and would rather drag a broken leg for miles on end than make the sane/rational choice and stop for the day. Which is fine . . . I guess . . . if you want to stick to a "bright-line" rule that quitting an ultramarathon is never an acceptable option, more power to you. I know a ton of people in this sport, and many of my good friends pride themselves on having never DNFd a race. But my friends also would never attempt to publicly shame someone else, or a group of others, based upon their own personal philosophies.
3. "this. sick. beat."
Which is why Mr. Classy's Facebook post really bothered me (initially, before I realized it gave me an excuse to write about the power of positivity). Our sport should be a place where we find solace from the poisonous negativity that pervades our daily lives, not a place where we must confront that ugliness.
Judgment is silly. So don't judge. And when encountering judgment/negativity, I encourage you to follow T. Swizzle's lead and "Shake it Off"!
I have run about 30 races now of 100 miles or longer. I've had great successes (such as finishing a 200-miler a month ago, finishing the 175-mile UltraMilano-Sanremo in Italy twice (and in about 33 hours the first year), finishing the 153-mile Spartathlon in Greece, finishing in the top-5 at Badwater, and running the Keys 100 the past 6 years in a row, winning the men's race in 2013.
I have also had some pretty spectacular failures in the sport (a Badwater DNF, for example). I've finished races I should have stopped (like hobbling the final 45 miles at Iron Horse 2013 with a stress fracture, to "prove" my toughness (pure idiocy, looking back). I've stopped at races I should have finished. And pretty-much everything in-between.
My point is our motivations in any given race are just that . . . our own. For example, this past weekend, I was running to lower my course record by a few hours. But after getting hit by the car (after several very close calls before that), I just didn't care about that goal anymore. Do I have reasonable friends who would have kept going in the same situation? Of course. Do I have reasonable friends who would have stopped? Of course. Does that make one group "better" than the other? Of course not.
We are all unique, and reasonable minds can differ. So why on earth would anyone in this sport want to publicly judge someone else regarding a DNF? It just seems so mean-spirited and counter-productive to why we are in this sport in the first place. Sure, we are all entitled to our own opinions -- after all, opinions are like assholes (i.e., we all have them . . . and apparently some in this community are them) -- but in the sport of ultrarunning I love, public shaming/judgment is just awful. Keep it positive; it's really pretty darn simple.
4. team zwitty.
One final point: Mr. Classy's attack on Team Zwitty was not just silly, but its implication is dead wrong. Since starting Zwitty Ultra in 2014, we have had over 250 runners (living in 43 states and 6 countries) come through the program, making it one of the most-successful coaching programs in the country. Our runners have achieved absolutely stunning and amazing things, from winning some of the most-prestiguous ultras on the planet, to setting distance/time PRs all over the globe, to reaching their own goals . . . by training hard, training intelligently, and having lots of fun along the way as part of an incredibly tight-knit and supportive community.
Along those lines, if you want to learn more about the program, I encourage you to explore this website. And I can't wait to see the dozen Team Zwitty members who will be running at the beautiful Badwater Cape Fear race this weekend in North Carolina!!!