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Personalized Participation Awards in Endurance Sports

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August 02, 2017

Times have surely changed in this constant connection, self-promotion world that has evolved during the rapid growth of endurance racing. There is a positive aspect, making your race goal public will help with personal accountability (yes it adds pressure). However, the other side is a constant barrage of personal participation award related information.

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Remembering back in the early years of endurance racing, there was no such thing as a personalized “feel-good” DNF, which is becoming more prevalent today. Of course there were professional triathletes during the days of the Hawaii Ironman W.C. that would DNF if they were having a bad day and could not get enough racing shirt photo time for their sponsors. DNF to most athletes, means failure on that particular race day (could be for a host of reasons for sure) and it would guarantee that the race shirt would be used as a rag to clean the bike, but NEVER EVER WORN. I think we all just hated to have the question come up as a reminder of the DNF if wearing the shirt “I see you did the …. Race, how did it go?” That makes the “DNF” race shirt a better rag than a wearable shirt.

The dreaded DNF was never taken as lightly as it is today. I have DNF’d like many other athletes and it’s just miserable. It’s a lasting numbness of the question, why?

Let’s define a “Did Not Finish” (DNF).

DNF - A DNF is when an athlete does not complete the ENTIRE racecourse in the allotted timeframe. Simply, there is no such thing as doing a race ALMOST.

Interestingly, when hearing athletes claiming that the ”experience” was overwhelming but my knee hurt on day 6 of a 25-30 day race and drops out, it’s a DNF (the race is not 6 days). Sure there are learning lessons that can move the athlete toward overcoming the obstacle in the future event and that’s quite helpful.

Recently, at an ultra running race, I heard an athlete arguing with the sweep crew that at least he made it to mile 40 of a 100-mile race. Clearly, the athlete could not understand that the race was not 40 miles. He argued with the sweep crew then started emailing and posting “How could they pull me from the race, I could of kept going”. At another ultra running event, several athletes remained out on the course after missing the cutoff times and the race director let them go at their own risk. They finished 10 hours after the cutoff and then there was a celebration. It’s still not an official finish. That’s what is so great about races like Badwater and the Barkley Marathons, The DECA Iron, RAAM and many others; there are strict cutoff times that are adhered to by all athletes (just look at the finish of this year’s Barkley race as there was only one official finisher).

Racing has changed and participating is as important as finishing for many and each has his or her own reasons.

3 Simple Phases to the Race:

  • Phase 1 - Participation when you sign up for the event and pay the entry fee (that’s a big jump into the unknown)
  • Phase 2 is the race and experiencing all the challenges, ups and downs
  • Phase 3 is the finish line

We all will DNF at some point, just come back fighting for the next race with the added experience and learning lessons. Most don’t race for a living and it’s purely for fun. Thank goodness self-promoting for a personal participation award is still in the minority. Happy Racing!!

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Tags: accountability coach, coaching and mentoring, triathlete, ultramarathon

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