Thursday, September 20, 2012

DNFs...or "That’s it man…game over, man, GAME OVER!"

[make sure you play the video at the end!]

I was speaking to an Ultrarunning buddy a couple days ago, and we were talking about dropping out of races, the dreaded Did Not Finish, otherwise known as DNF.

A couple weeks ago, my friend had dropped out of the Susquehanna Super Hike, a 28.4 mile race in central PA.  The day was hot and muggy, and for a number of reasons that became cumulative and overwhelming, he dropped at the first aid station.  He had was just not his day.

But that first DNF kinda stings.

My first came in a marathon back in the early 1990s, the Great Valley Marathon in Chambersburg, PA.  It was in January and the temperature was cold--single digits--but the killer was that the mostly rural course wound right past my house at Mile 18.  Right then and there I just lost my will to go on and simply ran over to my house and dropped.  I felt I had nothing and simply could not bear to put one foot in front of the other...but within half an hour I felt OK and was kicking myself for dropping.

I've also dropped out of a couple of winter fun runs that were slated to be two 25 mile loops, to yield a 50 mile distance.  But in both cases I stopped at the half way mark due to deep snow making the course simply run too slow.  These cases were qualitatively different than a DNF; I still could go on but recognized that the finish time would be WAY later than expected and just didn't want to deal with those logistics.

Anyway, whenever you pull the plug and commit to the DNF, it almost seems that your mind and body shut down virtually instantaneously.  Like flipping a switch.  All of a sudden, you go from a run to a full stop, and you KNOW you just can't go on.

It's like that timeless quote from the wonderful but underrated Bill Paxton, in Aliens:

That’s it man…game over, man, GAME OVER!
Play it, it's only 30 seconds.  You know you want to.

If the embedded video doesn't work, click here.

Here's to our next DNF!


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