DNF or Push Through – How to decide
When it comes to racing you line up at the start ready for the gun to sound having no idea of the outcome. You know you are well trained and you are well fuelled. You are anxious and excited.
On Saturday 25th I lined up for my third Surf Coast Trail Marathon, 43km of surf coast trails and beach; Torquay to Fairhaven running the most scenic parts of our Southern coast line.
During the race brief, the words that stuck with me were those of Chris Ord, Tour de Trails Race Director ‘sometimes races don’t go to plan and if you have to drop out, please let a marshal know so we don’t have to go searching for you at the end of the day’. Not sure why I heard those words the loudest but it was to be an omen for the day ahead.
Staring on the beach at Torquay we headed out to run 2km of sand before we hit the trails. It was fresh, a cool 2 degrees perfect running conditions. I felt good despite the past 2 weeks battling a cold so I was just going to run within myself and see where the day took me.
I was holding a good steady pace, about 80% of my maximum, which was where I should have been especially as I had 43km ahead of me. Start slow and build up that way you don’t burn yourself out. Then about 10km in, something happened my guts started to play up. I think the technical term for this is ‘runners trots’. Struggling to run, I limped into Bells Beach only to find no toilets within easy reach so I just had to keep going towards Pt Addis but this wasn’t as easy as it sounds. I knew then my race was over. Having to do a pit stop along the way in the bush, I then walked 2km to Pt Addis where I thought I could continue, I had to give it one more go, my goal now was to get to Anglesea, 27km mark.
Deep down I should have stopped at the 20km mark but its not easy pulling out of a race so onwards I went. Very quickly I was walking again it was then I officially called it a day. So why is it so hard to pull out of a race?
You have trained for it
You have put in the hard yards now’s the time to rep the rewards. You want the reward for your hard earned training sessions so being faced with the thought of a DNF isn’t something you have ever thought of. After all we are runners, we push through pain and discomfort, this is what we do.
When to tough it out
There are just some discomforts in a race you can push through; muscle fatigue, cramps and the mental voice telling you to ‘just give up, your tired’. But the more you run the more you learn not to listen to those excuses your mind is telling you, you are not a quitter and you don’t quit the first sign of things getting tough. What doesn’t break you makes you stronger. So push through the mental and pain barrier and tough it out.
How to decide to DNF
Sometimes the decision is made for you, especially when its got to do with bodily functions which can be extremely uncomfortable not to mention embarrassing. If the decision is due to an injury what you have to tell yourself is ‘one race is never worth a long recovery period’.
Consider the consequences
Calling it a day early can prevent you from wasting your training and thrashing your body. The decision to keep going when deep down you knows you should stop; long term is the sensible thing to do.
Learn to distinguish discomfort from pain and injury. If you can run, run but if you are limping, hobbling, shuffling or even walking because you can’t run this isn’t running anymore so time to stop.
Was it the right decision?
The more you run, the more you get to know your body, your mind, your mental strength. You will know when something just isn’t right, this is just part of being in tune with your body. Know your body, know your goals and trust yourself.
It’s OK to be upset
It’s normal to feel a wide range of emotions: anger, relief and regret. A rollercoaster of emotions makes you realise just how much you love the sport of running. Its never easy but remembers with every decision you will come out stronger. Now’s the time to:
- Analyse the race and what went wrong and how you can learn from it
- Focus on a new or the next running goal
- Be thankful and happy; its just small set back but this doesn’t define you