I often get asked by running friends what do you think is worst – a DNF (did not finish) or a DNS (did not start)?For me, I’ll always say a DNS is worse.At least with a DNF you can say you tried (unless you are injured and know it would be pointless even attempting to run and risk a bigger injury).Three years ago, I got my first ever DNF and it’s still raw in my memory!I entered the Windermere Marathon only a week before the race. It was a last-minute decision, the thought of running along such a beautiful lake really appealed to me.At the time I was recovering from a shoulder injury so I knew I wasn’t 100% fit (but what runner ever is?!) but I believed I was fit enough to run a marathon. I had a 100k booked for the following month so I was going to treat the marathon as a training run.
On the day I felt excited. My husband Tony and daughter Rosie were there to cheer me on. It was a fairly small race, in comparison to other marathons I had run. I remember I bought myself the finisher’s t shirt at the start, convinced I’d be wearing it later that day (I’ll never do that again, it was just tempting fate!).
It was a red-hot day and I knew within the first 5 miles that I had made a mistake in entering. The weight of my Camelbak was really pulling on my sore shoulder so I even emptied the contents thinking it would be lighter and would lessen the pain. It made no difference -my shoulder was in agony and I made the decision at the 2nd checkpoint to withdraw from the race. I was so upset telling the organisers that I needed to pull out.My thoughts were on next months 100k and I knew that if I had carried on, I would have risked a much bigger injury.I had to wait for a shuttlebus to drive me back to the start, where I was met by my family.I felt so upset driving past the rest of the runners, jealous of their non-injured bodies and cursing my own!I dreaded telling people that I had a DNF – I was embarrassed and upset, thinking I would never be in a position where I couldn’t finish a race. Looking back, I now know I was pretty naïve, the vast majority of runners, especially long distance, get their fair share of DNFs.We like to push our bodies to the limit, to see what we are capable of.
There’s no shame in getting a DNF. I know I gave it my all and there are times you have to simply listen to your body, despite your head telling you to just keep running.Had I carried on, I know I would have paid the price and may not have been fit enough to run the 100k the following month. I know I had made the right decision.Had it been my first marathon I may have thought differently, but I had nothing to prove either to myself or others, as I knew I was capable of running a marathon. I had simply not been able to finish that particular race.
I’d like to say that was my only DNF but alas it wasn’t. I went on to run the 100k the following month but in the October I attempted to run my first 100 miler -St Oswald’s Ultra in Northumberland.I was taking strong pain killers for the shoulder injury and I know deep down I shouldn’t have even been at the starting line for the 100 miler.I made the decision to withdraw only 10 miles into the race.I was feeling so ill and dizzy, I think the combination of the red-hot heat and my strong painkillers were the main factors and the race director had to call for an ambulance to pick me up as I was feeling so sick and dizzy, I could barely stand.I kept telling myself it didn’t matter, that my health was more important, but I was still devastated.That elusive 100 miler is still at the top of my bucket list. It is my ultimate dream to run 100 mile non stop (as in no sleeping in between), and I vow I will accomplish this before I turn 50 next year.I have to believe I can do this.
When I first started running 6 years ago I never would have thought I’d even run a 5k race, never mind several 100kms. I will get that 100 mile belt buckle soon -watch this space!