Have you ever DNF’d a race? That’s the acronym for Did Not Finish. It’s that moment during your race when something inside your head says, I am done. No mas. The legs are either completely wasted under you from grinding out several miles of trails or it’s that feeling you get because you realize how little sleep you have had for the last several days leading up to your race and all you can think about is hitting the sack. Or it might even be those alarms going off in your head that says I bit off more than I can chew with this distance. Whatever it is, it’s that moment when you can’t go any further and you stop. Well that happened to me last year at UROC 100k in Auburn, CA. It was my second UROC event and I was going back to see if I could place one spot better than the 4th overall I had taken the year previous. I was so convinced I could WILL myself to recover quickly after running Leadville 100 in Colorado just 4 weeks earlier.
The reality was I couldn’t recover fast enough. As a result I started UROC and while I felt great for the first 50km. Things began to unravel after mile 35 and the next thing you know I was overheating, cramping up, and by mile 55 was ready to call it a day. I remember running thru the Cool Fire Station Aid Station and saying to my crew, “ I will run this loop and see how it goes”. Roughly 3 miles in I nearly stepped on two large coiled rattlesnakes lying in the middle of the trail side by side. It was as if they were having a chat just waiting for some exhausted and mentally fried soul like me to sink their venomous fangs in to. Well I saw them before that could happen. As I leapt off the tail they sprang up rattles shaking wildly to warn me they were on high alert. No worries I thought, I am done. This race is over. And it was. I walked carefully back to the aid station and proceeded to call it a day. I admit that I was disappointed in myself for running all that way and then quitting. I thought why did I think it was a good idea to run a race so soon after running Leadville. Well that’s the problem, I really didn’t think it through. I didn’t think about why I would sign up for the race to begin with.
Herb Elliott one of the best middle distance runners who broke 4 minutes for the mile a whopping 17 times said,
“ Motivation should not be based on money, fame, or glory. If that’s an athletes motivation to compete they will be sadly disappointed when they fall short.”
He believed the purist form of motivation should be driven out of a desire to SELF IMPROVE!
When it came to his own competitions he said,
“ I am going to do this as hard as I possibly can because it will make me a better person.”
So it really goes beyond motivation. Athletes will talk about the need to push themselves before and during competition because they think this is what competing is about and is what makes a winner. But, does the need to hurt have to be the measure used to feel good about your training or your race? I think Herb had it right. If we can evaluate where our motivation comes from and base it more on an opportunity to engage in the experience and use what we learn to refine our character then we can prepare for the best possible outcome. No matter what the end result may be.
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