Tuesday, December 13, 2011

That Whole DNF Thing and My Next Marathon

So, actually, first of all, let me just say that I am ready to defend my overall Ugliest Christmas Sweater title at the Runner's Roost-Saucony Ugly Christmas Sweater Run tomorrow night. It is very very important to me.

Moving on. Oh wow does a DNF feel horrible. It's one of those things that happens that really makes you question yourself. Did I really just drop out? Am I really the kind of person that just bailed on something I put every fiber of my being into? I know there are a lot of reasons to not finish a race and many of them you quite simply can't control. I couldn't control the injury in Cleveland, and I couldn't control feeling dizzy and ill in Las Vegas. But I keep wondering why I didn't just try a little harder, even if I had to crawl across the finish line, wouldn't that have been better than that glaring DNF? I'm not sure. And I'm honestly not sure if I even had the ability to do that at that point. But I am sure it won't happen again. Short of actually passing out or somehow breaking my femur, I will crawl if I have to. I can't stand that dull, nagging feeling of knowing I didn't push as hard as I could.

I've heard of elites dropping out of races if they don't think they'll get a good enough time. Why put that stress on your body? Why not save your energy for a better race? Well, I understand the logic behind that but I think it's crap. Everyone else paid to be there and everyone else is going to cross the finish line whether they run a fantastic time or not. You're an elite and you can't do better than Average Joe? It's your job and you can't work harder? Really? Come on.

Anyway, just my little opinion. And why I won't ever DNF again.

I've started thinking about my next marathon and what kind of goals and expectations I have for it. I'm debating between a guaranteed fast race and one that would just be more for the experience. I'm a little torn because I definitely want to see how far I can take my potential speediness, but I also want a unique experience and not necessarily the fastest easiest course I can find. Sometimes the ones that are the hardest are by far the most fun! That being said, I'm looking into a few trail races over the summer to satisfy those "experience" needs (a 50 miler in the mix, in fact!) and will most likely head toward Chicago in the Fall (unless I can get into Berlin).

But first! I got into the Canyonlands Half Marathon in March! It's actually on my birthday  - perfect celebration for me. I'm really looking forward to this one. I've had my eye on it for a few years but never took it any further than looking at a few pictures. I'm very excited for some new scenery and a solid race, and, despite all this wondering about running and what I want from it and so on and so forth, I still have a competitive streak and will definitely be in it to win it.


  1. The DNF discussion is an interesting one. I DNFed at RnRAZ last January. I struggled with hip pain starting at mile 7, by the time I got to 18 I was down to a walk. Sure, I could walk it in, but for what? To say I've completed 31 marathons (as opposed to 30)? The potential for further injury - as well as the pain at the time - wasn't worth it for me.

    I know they say that once you've let the DNF Gremlin in, he has the potential to rear up again some other time: the option to quit is right there. But I know for me (and judging by your post, for you as well), the DNF really served as a catalyst for me to make some changes. So that ideally, I'm not in the position to even have to make that decision again.

    I'm nowhere near as competitive-slash-fast as you are, so perhaps I don't feel the same pressure on myself as you do. But I read in this that you feel that your decision was a sign of weakness: that you should have been able to push harder.

    Certainly, there are times to give a race everything you've got. But sometimes, it's not your day. You speak of elites: I recall the first ever marathon I spectated: it was right as I was starting to get into running, the 2001 World Championships in Edmonton (where I grew up). The best in the world were there, including world record holder Khalid Khannouchi. He DNFed. It was at that moment that I realized that we participate in a TOUGH sport. Sometimes, the course wins.

    I think running some different 'challenging' events could be great for you - I know that's why I so adore the Pikes Peak marathon. It's not just about the runner and the field: the mountain and the weather are also very worthy adversaries. It's always an adventure.

    Anyway, I feel like my comment is getting to blog-length standards so I'll wrap this up. I just feel that while a DNF is nothing to be proud of per se, it's also not the end of the world. Blah blah blah insert cliche about failure leading to success here. I have no doubt in my mind that you put out the best effort you could that day, given the circumstances. And that's all anyone can do.

  2. I DNFd my first marathon attempt. I had been on Boston pace and I was really upset about it. But it was certainly the right thing to do rather than trying to jog/shuffle/crawl my way to the finish. As it was, I had been really ill leading up to the race (shouldnt have attempted to begin with really) and ended up losing 15 pounds. I can't imagine what I would have done to my body had I forced myself to run the last 12 miles

  3. I DNF'd twice myself, in consecutive marathons, and while I hated having to do so, in both cases it was the right thing to do. I also agree that dropping out just because you won't make your goal is lame. It's one thing to need an Olympic qualifier and having the option of racing again to make it, but because you're not running fast enough? Weak.

    Running alternative races for place rather than time is challenge enough. Trail races, hilly marathons, etc. are great challenges. A tough marathon I did earlier this year was the Deseret News Marathon. Starts at 7500' but over the entire course drops about 3200' and gains almost 1000'. Up, down, up, down. Tough but well worth it.

    Good luck this next year. Always have goals but don't lose track of the experience while attempting them. Hope you get into Berlin!

  4. I have never DNF'd in my 20 years of racing but there were times I should've. In the end, it is just as much a part of racing as anything else and should be viewed as such.

    I don't give the elites as hard a time. When you get paid to run, you probably view things differently. And they usually do it more in "tune-up" races.

  5. I probably would have DNFed at Bergen Peak last year (after getting lost, summiting the peak we weren't actually supposed to summit but doing it tTWICE looking for the path anyway, being lost for 30 minutes on the clock, then finding the path and just eating trail rocks and dirt all the way down...oh and losing my car keys and having to go back to find them...yea, that was a great race, I was bloody, and by about mile 8 out of 11, I was extremely dizzy and seeing lights, but I didn't have a choice, there was no one in sight and the only way to get help was down at the finish, so finish I did, blood and all!!! , I'm going back for revenge next year, but perhaps, a little humbler hopefully. It's a part of the sport, and a part of life, I admire your courage and tenacity, I love that running refines and tries that in a person for all the other parts of their life. You're doing great, don't be too hard on yourself girl!!

  6. You were running a very good race headed into the old downtown Las Vegas area -- and with your increased pace seemed bound to catch up with Melanie (who just barely missed 1st). After that point, you should blame your bicycle escort for, among other things, (1) failing to sufficiently help you ease your way through the throng of half-marathon runners, and (2) failing to provide you the boost and recognition you were due by loudly touting the presence of one of the leading elite marathon ladies (a belated realization). Between the cold, the questionable water (Vegas water is bad enough on its own without the need for "assistance" from fire hydrants, hoses and trash cans) and the post-race fiasco, it was a tough night. Glad you made it through relatively unscathed...and without hitting the pavement.

    And Japanese tourists in Vegas? They have a well-documented knack for shooting things Americans never would. You are surely the talk of some Japanese neighborhood right now.

    Good luck with your future running/racing.

  7. Love the perspective on the DNF issue. I have never had DNF but considered it in my first half marathon but managed to gut it out. Happy to see that you are already planning your next block of races. Best wishes on all of them. I'm going ahead with my racing future of which there is a 15k prior to moving back up to the half marathon distance and then in the approaching future ... this will make you smile ... my long awaited debut in the marathon. Happy running!! :)