Okay: serious question. Really, I’m serious about this. I want to know. Because it’s a question of etiquette and procedure - and perhaps even metaphysics - that could be on a par with any other threat to the very fabric of the time/space continuum. I need to poll the running world at large (well, at least the four of your that occasionally read this blog). This post is partly inspired by today's post by my blog/ultra buddy, Chris, but it’s a topic that’s been floating around my brain for some time and continues to gurgle up to the surface. So…
How do you rank yourself in the standings of a race? Would you count your finish time among everyone else who finished? Or would you count yourself among everyone who started?
Don’t most race directors flip-flop between those two options? Haven’t you seen some race results list all the “Did Not Finish”s (and even the “Did Not Start”s), and others listing only the finishers? Haven’t you also seen results that even list the distance at which each DNF was recorded? How are we supposed to consider the “finish place” of ourselves and those DNFs?
I mean, if you are the last finisher of a race, then you finished in last place, right? Ah, but what if some of the runners who started the race took a DNF? Didn’t the guy who was the last finisher actually beat all the DNF’ers in the race? Doesn’t that mean that he didn’t actually finish in last place, since he “beat” some other folks who weren’t even able (for whatever noble reason) to finish at all?
If that’s the case, then what if you have a race where a number of people (at least, more than one) log a DNF? Does that mean they all get a “tie” for last place? But what if one person dropped out after 10 miles and another didn’t drop until after 30? Shouldn’t the 30 Mile Guy be “placed” ahead of the 10 Mile Guy? What if they both dropped after 30 miles, but the first guy got to 30 miles in 5 hours and the second guy didn’t get there until 8 hours? How should those guys be “placed”?
What if both guys dropped at 30 miles, and both guys got there in 6 hours, but one of them had a broken foot and the other one didn’t?
Is it just me, or are these questions unanswerable? And is it not possible to assume that any race with more than one DNF in it would become a race with no identifiable “Last Place” finisher? Does that mean we’re all "winners" if we ran that race, being that everyone of us would theoretically have "beaten" someone else?
Shall we not, then, offer a glorious “Thank You” to all the people who drop from a race, as they make all of us champions?
Does any of this matter?
No! Really! I’m serious!