DNF – Did Not Finish… Did Nothing Fatal
Thoughts on my first DNF and hopefully how I can learn and grow from it.

Sunday was the Brighton Marathon. It was a lovely day, rather hot but I I’ve done hotter and hillier (Stour Valley Marathon comes to mind).

I had a great morning, had a breakfast beer (sometimes I must come across as an alcoholic) and enjoyed meeting fellow members of the running group. The atmosphere in the corral was great. Chatting, joking, smiling and a little bit of dancing. What I do remember saying is that I probably shouldn’t be running, but I’ve paid for it and going to see how far I can go and enjoy what I do. I promised myself and others that I would make the decision to pull out if I needed to. A few of us headed off together and after a few miles we had spread out, we may run with friends but at the end of the day a marathon is one’s own race.

I really quite enjoyed running half way with David from the group, chatting all that way. I was feeling the heat and having to take more and more walking breaks.

Twelve miles in I was starting to feel some twinges in my injured ankle, I had badly sprained it October last year. I was still pushing on, checking my watch on the walking breaks. Just before twelve miles I reached the point where if I didn’t run anymore and just walked I would have got in under cut off.

During the run, I had been noticing that my heart rate was running a bit high, not surprising, it was a hot day after all. As it runs high I always wear a chest strap and keep an eye on it. I was noticing it wasn’t recovering that fast on the walking breaks. Each break this was gradually getting worse.

Just over 23 km into the race I made the decision this race wasn’t my race. I walk for a bit, looking at my watch which was saying I should still be sub 6 hours by walking. However also my watch was telling me that my heart was going as fast as if I was running, my ankle was telling me that I was damaging it. My soul said carry on, get the medal, make everyone proud. My rational side said don’t be silly, you’ve got other races booked, you don’t want to end up in an ambulance, or worse put everyone through the upset if the worse happened. There was a while with the angel and demon on my shoulders battling. Normally in a marathon I end up fighting against the voice saying give up, I remind myself I have done this before, I’ve done longer even; this time I was fighting the voice saying carry on, get that medal. It was odd for it to be that way round.

It was heart breaking leaving the course. I felt like everyone was looking at me and judging me, thinking I’m weak and pathetic, that I’m a quitter. I was crying behind my glasses as I headed back to meet Michelle. I decided to walk back along the route, I may have given up, but I’m not going to give up on my tribe. I couldn’t run, but I could cheer as I walked along.

Rationally, getting over half way is an achievement. Since my injury in October my training had been five parkruns (5k) and a marathon. I was lucky to have been able to blag getting through the Barcelona Marathon less than a month ago, the swelling on my ankle from that had only just gone down.

However I really do feel like a failure. Part of me thinks that even if I’d have hurt myself, I’d have least not given up.

I had a bit of a blip tonight, posted about it on Facebook and have had so many lovely comments. That really helped.

One part of a comment actually put it in perspective; “Was it your first DNF?”. That’s the thing, when you push yourself to beyond where you think your limits are, you’re going to hit snags. How can you test your limits if you’re not going to reach them?

This is a chance to learn and come back stronger.

I’ve still ran 10 marathons (five in twelve months, two in thirteen days), I’ve still ran an ultra-marathon, I’ve still run six obstacle course races (including two in one day, and two at night). Whatever happens, those facts will not change.

Doesn’t stop the upset, doesn’t stop the what-ifs, but those thoughts will fade. I will run more marathons, I will run more ultras. But this time, I will give myself time to heal, I will train properly for my next one.