Declaring Your Distance

I got this from the RD of Headlands Hundred, an event I’m running on Saturday:

You risk a DNF if you change distances after the race start. For example, if you are registered for the 100 Mile distance and stop after 50 miles, you do not get an official time for 50 miles but rather a DNF for the 100 mile run.

One of my favorite aspects of this sport is the perseverance and mental toughness it takes to complete the events, whether it be from a runner new to the distance or a grizzled veteran. I respect RDs and events that make entrants stick to their original distance and think it benefits the entire community when they do.

There are many races that allow runners to opt out of the event they signed up for, but still receive credit for running the shorter distance. This is disappointing on a few levels.

First, it puts a tremendous amount of doubt and hesitation in the runner’s head that if they’re going through a bad spot in their hundred, they can always quit and take credit for a fifty. It’s hard enough running past a turnaround for a shorter distance, without compounding it by giving the runners an excuse to bail. “Well, if I can’t do the hundred, I’ll just do the fifty” is not a good attitude to have going into a long race.

Further, allowing runners to enter one race, but finish another, screws up the competitive nature of each. Fine, many people don’t run to compete with others, but some of us do–even if we’re mid packers.

Say you’re running a fifty and your goal is to finish in the top ten. You work your butt off, hit your hydration and nutrition goals, count runners coming back on the out and back or ask aid station volunteers where you are in the standing. You’ve chased down the guy in front of you and fought hard to hold him off from behind. You’ve got this. Sure, you want to finish, but you really want to hit top ten. Elated and sore, you cross the finish line a few minutes behind #9 only to find out that a 100mile runner “wasn’t having his day” so dropped after half way and displaced your standing. Bummer, huh?

It comes down to completing what you said you were going to complete. Getting (not earning) a finish for a fifty when you actually quit a hundred doesn’t make a bit of sense and devalues the efforts of those who pushed through the shorter distance to get to the finish line.

If you’re unsure of how far you want to go or have hesitation if you’ll be able to make the distance, there are some awesome timed events out there and I’d urge you to check them out.

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