The hardest decisions in life are not the ones that baffle or escape the mind. They are the choices that lay clearly before us, to which we already know the answer. The ones that lead us against our nature, away from the path of least resistance, towards what we suspect we already knew was the right way. It takes great courage and presence of mind to avoid slipping back at the critical moment. We must rise to the occasion and bring ourselves, despite every impulse within and without, to hear the subtle prodding of our deepest convictions telling us to do the right thing.
The admiration I have for my brother's decision to quit a race after 75 miles is greater than if he had suffered through to the end. He took a difficult situation and handled it with composure deciding not to further damage his knee just for a finishers buckle. Or perhaps more pertinently to avoid a DNF. As he laid there on a cot at 3am trying to decide wether or not to continue, there was a faint panicking voice inside me wanting to pull him back from the edge. The never-quit attitude was at risk and about to take quite a blow. These are the moments. This is what it's all about. This is when we pull together to get him to the finish no matter what. Right? What are we doing out here if not to throw leg and limb at this damn thing? Giving up is probably the last thing I expect from anyone in my family. Had he not appeared so lucid I would have tried to be more of a mental life raft. He seemed completely cognizant of what he was doing and I found it hard to argue with his reluctant determination to make the call.
I hate seeing my brother suffer. It's strange because he's my biggest inspiration when it comes to endurance. He's stoic in the face of extreme mental and physical punishment. Wether it be climbing a mountain in a sub-freezing blizzard or going without food and sleep for several days, his adventuresome resolve is astounding. It's frightening to see weakness in someone you respect. 100 miles has the unique ability unlike anything Ive witnessed to break a man. You will see the toughest fellow weeping in a ball on the side of the trail. Perhaps for this reason it is one of the few sporting activities where quitting is nearly as common as finishing.
Ive always found it difficult to quit even a training run when something doesn't feel right. My brother is just as stubborn if not more so. If you are trying to learn to push through the pain where do you draw the line? We've always been baffled by those that could foster the courage in tough moments to call it a day and enjoy getting back to running without injury sooner. When my brother became one of those people I was humbled. It took more will power and presence of mind to make that choice than it would have been to keep slugging it out.
In a world of losers, everybody gets a trophy. Quitting hasn't all of a sudden become acceptable behavior and everyone shouldn't get a medal for starting the race. Being a 'quitter' and choosing to DNF are different. In life the real challenge is to tackle complex situations by making determined choices. In a race we pit ourselves against heat, sleep dep, and physical exhaustion to see how our brains can cope. My brother took an onslaught of challenges and handled the situation with a composure that I can only aspire to.