Don't Quit Until They Pull You

Ultramarathon mindset coach shares her DNF rule for success at 100-mile running

In 2002 at the Leadville 100 in Colorado, I crossed 12,600-foot Hope Pass and arrived at the 50-mile aid station in Winfield to be told I was only 15 minutes ahead of cutoff. 

I’d heard the same thing at the same aid station the previous year, and dropped. This year, I’d done my best to push the pace to Winfield. Last year wasn’t going to happen again…except it did.

I turned and looked up at Hope Pass. A midnight blue thunderstorm was pounding the top with lightning. Maybe hail. This was an out-and-back course, so I’d have to bust my butt on that climb again and get there in who-knows-what weather. And there’d still be a long way to go with more tight cutoffs.

I dropped again.

Fourteen years later, at the Kettle Moraine 100 in Wisconsin, I arrived at the start 20 minutes late. They let me go and just as I caught sight of the last runner ahead of me, I fell and dislocated my finger, then put it back in place, stopped to pull the ring off that finger, got lost, and got back on course. 

In short, I lost a ton of time.

I concentrated hard for a few sections on making it up but got to the next aid station without catching many runners. I asked one of the volunteers serving food what the cutoff was.

“I don’t know but it’s soon! You’re not going to make it,” he pronounced with certainty.

“Huh,” I smiled to myself, watching him go about his business as I munched a handful potato chips. 

“We’ll see about that.”

I not only finished, I finished two hours under cutoff.

Just like Leadville, I’d been at this race before and things looked grim, except now, I had a firm rule.

“Don’t quit until they pull you.”

(The less-than-poetic caveat is, of course, “unless you’re suffering a grievous, running-career limiting injury.”)

The point of these two stories is that until you tell yourself something’s impossible, it’s not.

As Edgar Allan Poe’s Sherlock Holmes said, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

“Improbable” and “unlikely” may look grim but they’re still in the realm of the possible.  

You don’t know for sure that finishing your 100-mile race is impossible when you’re standing at the starting line. 

Or when you’ve been baking for hours of miles in the afternoon heat. 

Or at 2am when you’re sitting in a chair in front of the warm aid station fire feeling cold, tired and defeated. 

Just because you have doubts and worries about something, or someone told you it’s impossible, does NOT mean it’s impossible

It may take hard work. It may not happen now or as fast as you want. It may happen differently than you expect. But as long as you decide not to quit, it’s possible.

So when you think about that thing you want in your life, choose the word you say to yourself carefully - it has power.

Choose "improbable" instead of "impossible."

And don’t quit until they pull you.

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Until next week,

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