Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Is a DNF a thing of the past?

A DNF or DID NOT FINISH in a race may be a thing of the past. It is now the norm in many races to pick up participants whose pace fall's below the races time limit and then shuttle them forward on the course allowing them to finish and receive a medal.

Here's one of the Rock n Roll race series options for runners who fall behind the course time limit:

"Board a “sag wagon” shuttle to move forward on the course, where they may continue to participate in the event, maintaining the minimum pace required."

I personally saw this at the RnR Dallas Half marathon when I was pacing my friend to her first half marathon. She was on pace to finishing below 3 hours but suffered a calf strain and had to limp her way to the finish after mile 8. At about mile 12 we saw a shuttle drop off participants to let them finish. Here my friend was limping to the finish line earning all 13.1 miles for the finishers medal and to see the "move forward" shuttle was disheartening.

I for one would never take the "move forward" shuttle option. I remember during my 2nd marathon, where the course somehow got misdirected, I was worn out and as I crossed the finish line my Garmin GPS watch read 23 miles. They tried to hand me a medal but I shrugged them off and ran past the finishing chute to go run another 3.2 grueling miles around the university to complete my 26.2 miles and rightfully claim my finisher's medal. To me the medal means something. It represents each grueling mile that I had to suffer through to get it. It represents the training that I went through to take the courage to tow the line of that race that 6 months ago I thought I would never complete. It represents many things and that is why you will never see me taking one of those "move forward" shuttles.
From the Dallas RNR HM where my friend had to limp
to the finish line. 

Is a DNF such a bad thing? I've DNF'ed at a race before due to injury and had to limp back to my car. I learned that maybe I needed more time to come back and I should have probably taken it easier to prevent re-injuring myself.  A marathon is supposed to be hard and sometimes it will beat you down to the point where you have to call it a day and DNF. That's what makes it great! Like the saying goes "If it were easy everyone would be doing it."

I'm all for anybody and everybody going out there and running or walking a group run or a race. I've walked complete races with other runners and I've started my own running group to try get the community healthier one step at a time. But please know that when you start a race, you may have to DNF and there's nothing wrong with that.

What are your thoughts of the "move forward" shuttles? Does it rub you the wrong way as it does me? Post a comment below. I'd love to hear your thoughts.


  1. seriously? I honestly did not know these shuttles existed!! I thought if you went to a med tent, or whatever, you might get dragged off the course. I personally wouldn't feel right moving forward in a shuttle, but then again I also ended up in a cast & boot for a couple months because I didn't want to stop when I had severe "shin splints". No, I wouldn't use the shuttle, but I won't end up in a cast again either. DNF to run another day.

  2. I don't think it's fair. I would not take one if I was injured or extremely slow & couldn't finish a race.

  3. Yup it really kinda annoys me that races do this. It's almost an insult to the the ones that actually did the miles in my opinion.

  4. NO WAY!
    I can see a shuttle to take people back to the end if they are in too much pain to make it on their own. NO WAY should they be allowed to jump out and skip across the 'finisher' mat! Why not just do that at mile 1 and then zip to the end? A new PR! Uht-oh, I can imagine R&R instituting that as a VIP perk...

  5. Timing chips should be invalidated when someone gets on the shuttle or takes a shortcut on a course.

  6. I'm a back-of-the-pack marathoner & I wonder how many of those that finished in front of me didn't go the full distance. I don't often look at my ranking, but do sometimes. Especially when 'big birthday' is coming up and I wonder how I'll compare to those in the next age bracket. Makes having a finisher list pointless!

    Scary to think of R&R adding this as a pay-option, but I too can see them doing it. Yet another reason to avoid the big races.

    Thanks for posting!

  7. It doesn't bother me. I think they possibly should get a special DNF Medal. I also think there should beer and pizza onboard for runners that have finished the race already to fill in a mile at a time for runners that get on the bus.

  8. Bogus. More proof that it's all about the medal and not how you get there...

  9. I'd DNF over getting on the bus every time.

  10. I never knew people did that. If I ever have a DNF I don't want the medal because plain and simple I didn't finish the race, the vehicle finished it. That's why I have a problem with the 2014 Dallas Marathon next year giving out 2013 and 2014 medals to us runners who would have run the cancelled race this fall. I won't hang it with my other medals because I never ran or finished the race

    1. I saw they were doing that for the Dallas Marathon. I agree with you totally. The medal has to mean something for me to hang it up alongside my other medals.

  11. Not running the whole distance and still accepting a finisher's medal is called CHEATING in my book. I would not respect anyone who would do so. In the grand scheme of things, it is not nearly as dishonorable as those people who falsely claim military medals; but, it is just as bad in the context of running. However, I don't have a problem with full marathon runners accepting a half marathon medal if they properly ran the first 13.1 miles of the race. Most of my marathons have had timing mats at the halfway point, so there is proof of who finished that distance. My only half marathon medal came from such a case when I pulled a hamstring at mile 8 and had to limp/walk/jog the final 5 miles to the finish of the half marathon. I would not have accepted the half medal if I had taken a sag wagon or shortcut the course. I thought it was kind of funny when I sought out a race official at the finish line to find out where I could report not running the full marathon - he said not to worry about it, they would be able to tell when I didn't cross the "cheater's mat" that was on the full course at the start of the second loop. And I agree with Clay about giving out a 2013 medal for 2014 Dallas Marathon finishers. The 2013 race was cancelled for a good reason & I applaud the organizers for doing so. But giving out medals for a cancelled race makes no sense to me. And, yes, I realize they already have the medals made and paid for - those medals should just be put in recycling for their metal content.

  12. I'm a "front-half-of-the-back-half" runner who loves to run half marathons (and occasionally suffers through a full). Knock on wood, I've never (yet) DNFed or DLFed, though I have ended up walking a couple of times due to injury.

    I'm of two minds on this -- after all, it's a FINISHER'S medal, so it should only go to finishers. But I also understand why Competitor does what they do. The Rock 'n' Roll race series is meant to be fun, a party on feet. And they -- as business people -- want to make sure people have fun. So it is in their best interest to make sure people have a good time. They want people to experience the sheer joy of crossing a finish line. And if that means they have to bus people forward so they can open up the streets, well, then, that's what they're going to do.

    That said, giving people medals seems off. And taking them seems weird. Why would you take the medal, even if it was offered???

    We ran the Tinker Bell 10K and the Tinker Bell Half Marathon a couple of weeks ago. Apparently a lot of people got swept in each race, causing much hand-wringing and whining on runDisney's FB page. They were annoyed at runDisney for actually closing the course when they said they would… and yet they were all still given medals. Maybe they were just annoyed about not being able to cross the finish line?

    Anyway… I see why Competitor does it, I guess I can see why they even offer the medals… but I don't understand why anyone would take one. (Unless maybe they want a reminder that they need to train harder next time?)