(We) Don’t DNF

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The marathon humbles

I went into NYC knowing that I needed to toe a fine line between belief and respect but, man, I did not think the race was going to go like THAT.

This is the story of how I ran my worst race ever.

It was absolutely not what I’d wanted. I truly felt that I was capable of more – I’d convinced myself as much – but that is why we run the damn race. I wanted this to be a story of faith in one’s ability, but it quickly shifted to a story of survival.

And honestly, I am just as proud of this race as I am of my 2:31.

Why? Some quick context: I had a hip issue in early 2020 that knocked me out for four-ish months, and that same issue reared its head in the heart of marathon training. I missed workouts, revised my plan multiple times, left multiple empty days on my training calendar.

When I was supposed to be instilling the most fitness and confidence in myself, I was instead holding onto the idea of simply making it to the starting line. The return of the majors, the 50th edition of the race, my hometown race – I wanted to be part of that.

But I didn’t want to just toe the starting line, I wanted to do something in NYC. The running community that raised me, the race that made me believe I could do bigger things in the sport, I wanted to give it everything I had because of everything this city has given me. So I devised a plan: 1:17, or close to it, at the half and go from there.

Easier said than done.

“My mindset shifted – I was living cheer section to cheer section, giving what energy I had left back to the community that had raised me, that had made me into the runner and person I am.”

Tim Rossi


I cruised through nine miles, feeling like I could run forever.

6:11, 5:33, 5:46, 5:51, 5:56, 5:56, 5:56, 5:55, 5:57.

And then, quite suddenly, things got HARD.

You go through patches in the marathon; it’s one of the unique things about the race. It is long enough where you can feel great and horrible multiple times; you come out of the patches by running through them. For two more miles, I drove forward.

5:46, 5:53.

Nothing was changing. I turned to my group of six and told them I’d be falling back, wishing them luck. I slowed, hoping that I’d adjusted early enough to save my legs. Eleven miles into a marathon is very early for things to go south, and I was hoping I could save myself.

It didn't work.

5:53, 6:00, 6:02, 6:21, 6:27.

I’d made it into Manhattan and moved to the centre of the street, watching as runner after runner streamed past me by having better judged their fitness.

Sixteen miles in and I knew I was cooked – there was no coming back.

Things got dark, and I thought about dropping out. I went through a variety of emotions – disappointment, sadness, frustration – all the while debating what I should do.

And honestly, I was sure I was going to drop.

If I could hold on for three more miles, I thought, I might see some friends at mile 19. I told myself I could get to them and then drop out. My reasoning was that from there I could let everyone know I was okay but I would be able to save myself from the 10-miles-plus death march that I would have to go through to get from where I was now to the finish line. I didn’t want to run 3:00; I didn’t want to fall so short of the goals I had set for myself.

6:21, 6:45, 7:20.

I walked through water stops, chugging Gatorade to help with the lightheadedness. I saw friends having great days, and I used what energy I had to tell them how good they looked. (Knowing full well how bad I must have looked).

And through those 20 or so minutes I got over myself.


My legs were fried, but I was physically okay. I wasn’t injured; I just wasn’t as fit as I had believed I was. This sucked, which sucked to realise, but, at the same time, I had waited two-plus years for this.

I thought about how mad I would be to step off, to literally give up.

Shit happens, but I was in control of how I’d respond.

(This is also where it is worth noting that I did not see my friends at mile 19 so my hand was forced a bit.)

I decided to get to mile 20 and the Boogie Down Bronx cheer zone. I kept walking through water stops, interacting with the volunteers, waving to spectators.

7:22, 7:19, 7:09.

Finally, I saw Boogie Down’s Lenny Grullon with his megaphone. I ran right over, high-fived everyone, gave Lenny a massive hug, and continued upon my death march.

My mindset had shifted – I was living cheer section to cheer section, giving what energy I had left back to the community that had raised me, that had made me into the runner and person I am. And they gave that energy right back.

We Run Uptown at mile 21, the Boulder fam at 22, and Brooklyn Track Club at 23 (with a sweaty hug from my girlfriend, to whom I could only say “this sucks” as I left to finish what I had started). Not to mention the countless other individuals and groups who quite literally carried me across that finish line.

Times didn’t matter anymore – this was a celebration.


Don’t get me wrong. I am still very disappointed in my result, but I am not disappointed in my performance.

I went for it, running what I felt I was capable of on the day. I never want to take toeing a start line for granted and will always want to give 100% of what I have. If I do that, I’ll never be upset.

But I am most proud of my non-DNF. I was so close to stepping off, to balking at the combination of physical exhaustion and mental disappointment.

And it hasn’t been all positive. I spent a long time building the confidence and belief in myself as a runner, the idea that I was capable of things that once felt impossible. And I absolutely have been struggling with that confidence being shattered. Yes, I’ve ran 2:31 – but I’ve also run 2:48, 2:52, 2:46, and 2:49. Now, 2:31 feels like more of an outlier and less like the stepping stone that it did before NYC 2021.

I also understand why people DNF – especially if something is physically wrong, you should not run another 10-plus miles or whatever.

This was different for me.

After 18 months of things being taken from everyone, I was going to get there.

All we got is all we got.”

So yes, there is lingering frustration. But also a newfound perspective, on perspective itself. I was given lemons on the day, and my dreams were not going to come to fruition, but I persevered and made the most of it. It was worth it.

Wouldn't change a thing. Onward.

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