Well, because it’s an acronym, first off…so not funny, I know.
But in all seriousness, in my “race” this weekend, which was just an ugly slog through 13.1 miles, I was tempted many times in the early miles to just DNF. I knew a mile into it that my legs weren’t going to cooperate. Still, I went ahead and finished the day, probably more out of sense of pride than anything else. I can run 13.1 in my sleep; how on earth could I even contemplate not finishing?
Yet, when I looked back on the race later in the day, and as I felt my aching muscles, I decided that this might have been a time when DNF was the smart move. I can’t say I have any real feeling of accomplishment for this one. Really, what the heck did I accomplish other than a bad time? Even worse, however, is the fact that I probably dug my hole even deeper. My legs didn’t need any more damage, and yet, that’s what I did to them.
In endurance sports, a DNF is the ultimate badge of shame, the scarlet letter(s) of our sports. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say “I’d never DNF,” and how many times I’ve seen one athlete judge another for this tough choice. No one who DNFs ever feels good about it, so maybe we can all just back off a bit and figure that sometimes, there are legitimate reasons for not finishing.
If you haven’t noticed, the elites do it quite often. Neither of the 2011 Boston winners finished the 2012 version in the heat. I haven’t seen or heard any backlash against that–why do we give them the pass but judge our fellow amateurs harder? I personally know three people who DNFd Boston this year, and it doesn’t change my opinion of them as a person or athlete one bit. They are not defined by that moment. Yet I know at least two of them struggled, badly, in the aftermath of their decisions. It shouldn’t be that way.
So now you know where I stand on the issue–what are your thoughts?