Thursday, August 3, 2017

Thoughts On My First DNF

DNF. I DNF'ed. A couple of years ago this would have meant nothing to me. I would have thought you were perhaps speaking a language with which I'm not familiar with, to a certain extent, the language around any hobby, not least sports is very much it's own. But I'm now very familiar with it's meaning in the literal and physical terms.


Did. Not. Finish.

I have cried my way around courses, I have grunted through sprint finishes. I have unlaced my trainers walking through a finish funnel because for some ridiculous reason, the blister that is now in shreds on my heel didn't hurt at all whilst I was running and is now preventing me from walking properly. But I have never walked off a course. I have never not completed a race I set out to do. Until last week.

We're currently two thirds of the way through our internal club championship summer races- three 5k races, three 10k races. I've volunteered at some and ran my 5k PB at one in May (read more about that and feeling a sense of pride in it in THIS post I wrote about regaining body confidence). I rocked up on a sunny Tuesday night ready to rock through a 10k knowing full well I've been on terribly form with what used to be my absolute favourite distance but vaguely hopeful I might be able to cling to someone's tail to get through in around 60mins - not a PB but getting back towards it.

You know, I didn't even think about it too much when I felt my ankles ping in the first mile which covers part of a nature reserve. Not trail running by any stretch of the imagination, but not road either, and it takes me legs a few minutes to settle into a run, my ankles do ping like that a lot when I run on uneven surface. And when that ankle started to pull a bit a few minutes later I didn't really think about that too much either, because it was still inside the 3k mark and it can take me that long to get into a 10k. But then I did start to think about it, and then my foot started to go numb. And then I decided that 1 5k lap of this race was enough. Did. Not. Finish.

I have done a lot of stupid things through injury. There was the time I worked through a chest infection- at the time I worked behind a bar, it was grim. The time I worked through 'it's probably just a water infection' until I needed to go to A&E with a gallbladder infection and a 3 night stay in hospital. There was the time I tried to run on torn ligaments. There was the half marathon I ran 3 miles of with no feeling in one foot. On every single one of these occasions, trying to 'power through' has left me far worse off than if I'd quite whilst ahead when I started to realise something was wrong.I KNOW this is the sensible, grown-up decision to make- I'm not in serious contention for any championship prize, these are free races I enter for the joy of running with my club- in essence they matter only in so far as I allow them to.

So why am I so disappointed? Why am I questioning the validity of preserving my wellbeing and ability to run & exercise over finishing what is essentially 'just' a run where I happened to be wearing a number? Why is there the nagging whisper that  says to me 'it's because you're just not good enough'?

This is a common theme for me, I wrote about running being the best and the worst thing that ever happened to me last year. Running and sports have given me strength and courage. It's allowed me to prove to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to, even if it's not always the straightforward journey or the exact outcome I expected, but the inevitable stumbles an proverbial falls also leave me lost or doubtful. The key, and part of the strength I have gained from running and sport is dealing with it in a healthy way- yes, DNF-ing was disappointing, but it was also the right choice for me. I'm in the fortunate position that I don't have to justify that to anyone except myself either- I'm not an athlete, I'm not in serious contention for any kind of competition and if there's ever time to learn what a DNF feels like, it's a race or a run that doesn't mean too much.

So there we have it, another one to add to my growing list of running experiences over the last 3 years... disastrous marathon... check. Sub 60m 10k... check. 5k thigh chaffing... check. DNF... check. Anyone else care to share a DNF story?

In a shameless plug, I'm also going to remind you that there's a little over 12 weeks left to try out a #RunningDownDementia challenge- 100km means you need to run less than 10km over the course of each week and you could raise some vital funds to help tackle dementia which can be a devastating disease. I'll be dedicating my 250km to my late Great-Grandmother who died last Friday after a 15 year struggle with dementia, aged 95. Read more about the campaign and the work Alzheimer's Research UK are doing in my post Don't You Remember


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