Finding An Excuse to Quit

This past Saturday I ran my annual 50 mile race at the Umstead 100 Mile Endurance Run in my hometown of Raleigh, NC.  I have finished the 100 five times and the optional 50 miler 9 times, including this year.  I’m also on the Race Committee and handle registration and awards.

I have chronic elbow tendinitis in my left arm.  I moved a lot of heavy boxes in the days before the race and it started to act up on me.  Usually some icing will settle it down.  Well, on race morning it exploded on me.  Every movement of my arm caused a shot of pain. What a time for that to happen.  All I could do was take some Vitamin I (Ibuprofen) and hope for the best.

Excuse #1.  No one could blame me if my arm hurt too much to continue.

HD Excuse #1.  There is no cure, so what’s the use of trying anything to prolong my useful life?

North Carolina has had an exceptionally cold spring. I’m cold natured and run much better in warmer weather. I was standing shivering before dawn at the starting line with 275 other runners.  None of them seemed to be bothered by the weather. I knew I would feel better once we started to run, but it wasn’t going to be a warm day. The wind would probably pick up to add to my discomfort.

Excuse #2.  There would be no shame in quitting because of weather.  Many people have done that in races. 

HD Excuse #2. Why participate in clinical trials or observational studies? Any treatment or cure would be too far down the road to benefit me or my family.

The Umstead course is a 12.5 mile loop in a beautiful state park near Raleigh.  50 mile runners do it 4 times and 8 to finish the full 100.  Near the end of my 2nd loop, approaching the standard marathon distance, my left shin began to bark at me.  It was fine while power walking, but throbbed as soon as I began running the downhills at my normal speed.

Excuse #3. Maybe I should quit after 2 loops. It would be stupid to take a chance on a serious injury.

HD Excuse #3. Why spend the time and money to start a regimen of possible beneficial supplements combined with an exercise program? Nothing has been proven. There are no clinical trials to back these up. It will be better to wait for proven treatments. 

I started loop 3 in spite of my shin problem. The hardest thing was getting out of the Start/Finish aid station, just like getting out the door for my daily runs. My shin calmed down a little and I could run slowly occasionally.  I realized that I had too much invested in this thing and just kept putting one foot in front of the other. That got me through loop 3.

Excuse #4. It’s going to start getting cold again. I’m not running a good time and I’ll be finishing just after dusk. I’ve put out a good effort so far. Why not quit now and stop the discomfort?

HD Excuse #4. HD symptoms are getting worse with current medications. Why make the effort to seek different medical treatments? The chance of improvement is slim, so why not just let nature take its course?

My final loop was the slowest, but I did finish in 14 hours and 28 minutes. It was a race, after all, and I did beat 10 other people at the 50 mile distance.

I ran into the Race Director, an old friend, somewhere on loop 3. He was taking pictures of the runners and he asked how I was feeling. I told him about my shin problem and be began roaring with laughter. He said, “Everyone has a pocketful of excuses ready. They just need to keep them there. I know you will.” My HD message is the same.