does DNF warrant redemption?


“Straighten up an lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near”. [Luke 21:28]


The status updates start rolling in after a big racing weekend. Injury, hypothermia, lack of training, lack of mental toughness, strict cut-offs – whatever the reason, the racers are reeling. They are hungry for redemption.

“I will be back”, they scream, all Terminator-like, shaking their fists and enviously eyeing the medal they never got.

The word redemption in the racing community came to mean finishing a race that you have attempted but failed to complete in the past. Those three letters “DNF” seem to light a special kind of fire in the hearts of many.

After being misdirected on course at the inaugural Ultra Beast 2012, a small group of racers formed a private Facebook page, vouching to go back and finish what they started. They called themselves “The Lost Tribe”.

The themes of sin and redemption seem common in extreme endurance. Perhaps, it’s something about seeking out voluntary punishment, as if in an attempt to cleanse yourself, to find a way to be good again. To be reborn.


Yet, outside of obstacle racing, redemption is defined as “a thing that saves someone from error”, or “an action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil”.

And I can’t help, but wonder:

Does DNF warrant redemption? Or simply another attempt?
In other words, is DNF a sin?

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines sin as “an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law”.


In seeking redemption, we are seeking… forgiveness?

You did not finish the race. But did you commit an immoral act? Did you make an error? Did you violate the divine law? Did you sin?

Even if you withdrew from the race voluntarily, quit, walked away, was the act so heinous as to warrant redemption?

I spent years in pursuit of DNF. As the races got longer, harder, tougher, I kept looking for that one. My perfect DNF. The one that would break me. That one that would bring… yes, redemption.

After 15.5 hours… #survivalrun #fya2015 #ometepe #Nicaragua #dnf #myperfectdnf

A photo posted by Ekaterina Solovieva (@k_solovieva) on

DNF is not a sin. Finally finding your limit, your wall, your edge – now, that’s divine.

And the journey from being bad to good is about more than just a medal.

“In the end, it is our defiance that redeems us”, Mark Rowlands reminds us in his book, The Philosopher and the Wolf: Lessons from the Wild on Love, Death, and Happiness.

Be defiant. And you will be redeemed.
Medal or not.

Liked this post? Check out my essay about the special misery that a 5k brings, and about the hardest workout ever.


Posted October 7, 2015


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I know all you have been talking about is that lake swim. Amirite? Meanwhile, I am realizing that, perhaps, the one thing that is harder than running the Tahoe Spartan Beast is getting out of the car after running the Tahoe Spartan Beast. Oy. Here’s what you had to...
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Reading Roundup: What’s New in Obstacle Racing Lately

The latest coming to you from Squaw Valley, California. Another World Championship is in the books – Robert Killian and Zuzana Kocumova are the new reigning champions. Be on the lookout for my race recap. Meanwhile, here’s your Sunday reading: IORF World Congress // Obstacle Racing Media International Obstacle...
Posted October 4, 2015
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John Wall at 10:20 am Oct 5
Like your recap post! On David's post, he answers the question in the quote you show here. OCR isn't going to die...not by a long shot. But in 2016 it's going to continue to change...opening up niches at various levels to meet the demands of the elite, journeyman and casual racers. It will also see major competition within these niches and it will be interesting to see which race promoters try to fill each one.

Spartan Race World Championship 2015 – some preliminary info (including distance)

I am toeing the start line in about 3 hours. Two things on my mind? 1) It’s freaking cold, and 2) there IS a swim. I guess everyone has their pre-race ritual – obsessing about core temperature seems to be mine. Some preliminary info that has been shared about...
Posted October 3, 2015
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