Why I don’t think DNF is a four-letter word

Those three scary letters

Well, because it’s an acronym, first off…so not funny, I know.

But in all seriousness, in my “race” this weekend, which was just an ugly slog through 13.1 miles, I was tempted many times in the early miles to just DNF. I knew a mile into it that my legs weren’t going to cooperate. Still, I went ahead and finished the day, probably more out of sense of pride than anything else. I can run 13.1 in my sleep; how on earth could I even contemplate not finishing?

Yet, when I looked back on the race later in the day, and as I felt my aching muscles, I decided that this might have been a time when DNF was the smart move. I can’t say I have any real feeling of accomplishment for this one. Really, what the heck did I accomplish other than a bad time? Even worse, however, is the fact that I probably dug my hole even deeper. My legs didn’t need any more damage, and yet, that’s what I did to them.

In endurance sports, a DNF is the ultimate badge of shame, the scarlet letter(s) of our sports. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people say “I’d never DNF,” and  how many times I’ve seen one athlete judge another for this tough choice. No one who DNFs ever feels good about it, so maybe we can all just back off a bit and figure that sometimes, there are legitimate reasons for not finishing.

If you haven’t noticed, the elites do it quite often. Neither of the 2011 Boston winners finished the 2012 version in the heat. I haven’t seen or heard any backlash against that–why do we give them the pass but judge our fellow amateurs harder? I personally know three people who DNFd Boston this year, and it doesn’t change my opinion of them as a person or athlete one bit. They are not defined by that moment. Yet I know at least two of them struggled, badly, in the aftermath of their decisions. It shouldn’t be that way.

So now you know where I stand on the issue–what are your thoughts? 

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  1. says

    I copped that after I DNF’d my first attempt at an OD. And it wasn’t through fault of my own it was through a bike malfunction.

    My partner is a “finish at all costs” kind of person.

    This is why he spends three hours in medical after every race. I can’t tell him otherwise. He now does understand, however, if I get tormented for a DNS (of which I’ve had a few because of injury) or a DNF his life won’t be worth living 😉
    Tri-Jess recently posted..Done deal!My Profile

  2. says

    I’ve never DNFed but last year I did not want to do the Nike Women’s Half, I got into the lottery, got selected but got hurt training. I was so sad I couldn’t run it and to be honest angry. I tried so sell my bib, but couldn’t. So I walked it with the urging of a friend. The people at my work totally laughed at my 16 minute mile pace, and I felt bad about it for a few days until I realized screw em. In the end I still got my finishers necklace even if it was snails pace. Everybody has a hard time sometimes. Not every day is a perfect performance. I don’t know if that is really the same as DNFing but at the time I totally felt like a loser.
    Amber recently posted..Completely Naked Running *Viewer Discretion Advised.My Profile

  3. says

    I had a DNF twice, both due to extreme heat. It was the right decision at the time, otherwise I would have ended up on the road because I would have fainted.

    But I felt terrible both times. Not because I was ashamed, the conditions were something I couldn’t control. But because of all the training I put into it, I was ready and I could have finished if it wasn’t for the heat. Both times I was hit hard mentally and the second time even took away my love for running for a while and it took me months to refind the joy in running. This happened last October and at the beginning of this month I can say I love running again.

    I made the decision though that if it’s going to be extremely hot on race day next time, I just won’t start. It’s not worth it.

  4. says

    I have not DNF’d before but if you are going to make you legs much worse, I have no issues with it. People are running for themselves – not others – so who care what everyone else thinks. I heard it was a hot one down in Cleveland. Great job pulling through it.
    Jeff recently posted..Scarpa Spark Trail Running Shoe ReviewMy Profile

  5. says

    I’ve DNF-ed in two marathons – once because I sprained my knee at Mile 11 (uneven New Orleans pavement post-Katrina) and hobbled to the halfway point, and the second because I woke up with a lung infection that morning and still thought it would be a good idea to line up at the start.

    In neither occasion did the decision haunt me. When I stopped racing, I was mentally ready to let it go as much as I was physically, and I’m still positive both were the right decision. The sprained knee was a no-brainer, but could I have finished Philly the year of the lung infection? Probably. But it was my ninth marathon. I knew I could cover the distance and didn’t need to prove that to myself, and after a long season, I also didn’t have much interest in just plodding through 26 miles for the sake of doing it. I was out there for a PR and knew that if I pushed myself for that, I’d have been laid up for a long time.

    I pulled out of that race at mile 5 and told myself that it was a sign that I was done marathoning for awhile and wanted to focus on adventure racing exclusively. But you know what? The next November, after a really long adventure racing season, I was back out for Philly. And that year, I had a 9-minute PR.
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  6. says

    I have no issue with people making that decision. I know at some point I’ll probably have to make it too. But as a total back of the packer, my real goal of any event is to finish and a DNF signifies an attainable goal that I just didn’t get to and that would frustrate me terribly.
    TriMOEngr (Christina) recently posted..Gravel = Bad, Friends = GoodMy Profile

  7. says

    I do not see DNF as a badge of shame nor would I ever judge anyone who DNF’d. How could I possibly know how someone was feeling physically and mentally when they made that decision? More often that not, I suspect DNF is a very wise move. No shame in being wise. At. All.
    Teamarcia recently posted..Race Report: GOTR 5kMy Profile

  8. says

    I agree – DNF shouldn’t be a badge of shame. Things happens on race day that we can’t control and I think it’s so much smarter to listen to your body. There’s always another race but why risk hurting yourself or worse. I totally understand the “finishing as a point of pride” because that’s what I’d likely do but as I’ve gotten older, I think I’ve become smarter (I hope?) and know that that’s not always the best decision.
    Christine @ Love, Life, Surf recently posted..Why I should write for YOUR magazineMy Profile

  9. says

    I have a few DNF’s to my name and I am not sorry or ashamed at ll. One was a marathon and the rest ultras. The ultras were all after 60km (37miles). I think everyone needs at least one DNF to actually be a complete runner. It really teaches you to respect the sport as well as get new respect for other runners.
    Johann recently posted..Another Nice Trail RunMy Profile

  10. says

    I think that sometimes just finding the courage to drop out of a race when you really need to is harder than the actual race. Especially when it’s something you’ve been training for for a long time. I have such a hard time with that…I have to listen harder to what my body is saying…and make the smart choice. (I’ve never been able to do it though, even when I should have!) People have no grounds to judge someone who DNFs, regardless!
    Kara recently posted..You’re Not in Kansas AnymoreMy Profile

  11. says

    I have yet to have a DNF but I’ve never thought of it in this way. Very valid points. I think people get too hung up on the little things, need to look at the big picture, and listen to their bodies. I’m sure I’d be/will be bummed if/when it occurs to me but I won’t let it hang me up. =)
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  12. says

    Unless I had a straight up injury… I would not DNF. I figure I can just walk to the finish — which I did a lot of walking on Sunday. Part of the reason being I hate to waste money on a race entry, and there are many people who walk races purposely. Am I better than them to think it’s shameful to walk? No. So really no shame in doing so.

    However, I have not ran a marathon. I think it would be a different mindset wanting to stop and knowing it would take you several more hours to walk. That’s another story! I think the cutoff Sunday was you had to walk it within 8 hours or they close the course.
    Holly recently posted..Race Recap: Rite Aid Cleveland Half-Marathon (2012)My Profile

  13. says

    Ive DNFed 2 triathlon, and I am her to propose an alternate viewpoint. DNFing is fine if youre experiencing symptoms that are abnormal (lightheadedness, physical illness, dehydration) that could indicate a serious condition. But if your legs just hurt, this isnt the last race youll ever do where youre slow and your legs hurt. I guarantee Ive done more races with slower times and more hurt legs than most anyone youll ever meet, and ive never DNFed a running race. because the only time you have to beat is you, and if you cant do that, you make it a training day and change your goals. Quitting always makes it easier to quit the next time because youre releasing yourself from suffering sooner. Sure there are times to quit when its smart, but based on the information provided, this doesnt sound like one of those times.

  14. says

    DNF sucks! However it is a personal decision to suck it up finish no matter what and pay the consequences (been there done that) – lost 6 months one time because of it, but I finished that race MCM in 1983. Now I have a different view, if I have given it as much as I can and I know that I will only hurt myself more, I will wait for the “meat wagon” and get a ride back in.

    There is nothing wrong with DNF if you are staring at a probable long-term injury by finishing, if it just sucks out there and you don’t have it mentally – physically you are okay, then you have to learn to suck it up, otherwise DNF becomes too easy.

    There is a fine line and it depends on the race, the conditions, your body and why you are running that day.

    Each DNF situation is different and just like every race you don’t know until you are there whether it is the right decision or not.

    Not really an answer, but DNF is a personal decision (most of the time) based on the moment not a set of if than statements.

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  15. says

    I completely agree. I don’t think there’s any shame in having a DNF. Especially when finishing means injury or potential harm to our bodies. It’s funny that we work so hard to improve our bodies but would be willing to damage them just to finish a race. It’s all about pride when it comes down to it. I just wrote about this but I’d be more ashamed of a DNS than a DNF!
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  16. BDD says

    I do not have a DNF on my record, but I have a couple DNS, either way, as much as it sucks to have to decide either, its smart to pull the plug to race another day then to keep going sometimes and risk not racing for a long time or possiblly never again

  17. says

    I’d never think less of anyone that DNF’s as you never know what that person was going through, but I do think people that refuse to give in when it’ get’s tough deserve more credit.

    Now I’m not talking about continuing when you have seriously hurt yourself or at clear risk of permanent damage, but in life we all get way too many opportunities to throw the towel in, so continuing whether other’s call it a day shows courage and determination in my books.

    Elites have a reason to DNF, they have specific goals to hit as this is their job and are not doing it for fun, so it’s understandable in my opinion.
    Martin recently posted..6 weeks to goMy Profile

  18. says

    I think it’s probably way harder to DNF then to finish a race because of how hard it is to actually make that decision. I agree though, there are probably a lot of times that it’s exactly what we should do, especially if we know that continuing will result in an injury or mess up the rest of the season. I definitely don’t think there’s any shame in a DNF or a DNS for that matter.
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  19. says

    I agree that a DNF is a really hard choice to make. I wouldn’t want to have to be a runner trying to decide whether I can carry myself to the finish or not, so I certainly wouldn’t scoff at anyone else who had to make that decision. I only race 1-2 events a year but if I had a fuller calendar and more races to look forward to, I don’t think a DNF for one of them would be that big of a deal.

  20. says

    I think it makes sense for those who are actually competing in a race and against other people to sometimes take the DNF. For those who are just competing against themselves and their own mind, the DNF is not really an option. I fall into the latter group at this point. :)
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  21. says

    I have been tempted to have a DNF on a couple of races, but slogged my way through because I don’t like quitting. I think if my pain was really, really, really bad I would stop and take the DNF. I figured if I can walk the last couple of miles in pain, I will finish. The one race where I almost took a DNF was Boston 2010. I walked a lot. It hurt, but I finished and got my medal. :-)
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  22. says

    So far so good. I’ve not had to DNF yet. Praise the Lord. But I’ve learned never to so it wont happen. Most runners dont DNF unless it is the only alternative left to do. Great post

  23. says

    I am a newer runner, so the concept of DNF is not one I have had to contemplate…yet.

    I think there is but one valid reason for mortals abandoning a race mid-course—injury. I hear that the elites drop out if they are not performing well and I guess I get that because they don’t want to waste a hard effort when they could save their energy and put it toward another race. However, for the average joe, not finishing because you aren’t satisfied with your pace is not okay to me.

    Now let me say – I would be the FIRST to quit if I was not happy with my pace — because “if I can’t win I don’t want to play” in most areas of my life. But with running, I just think you need to finish what you start. If finishing is adding to a suspected injury, then STOP and take the DNF. But if it is just because you aren’t doing as well as you’d like, well, I just don’t think that is a good reason.

    We teach our kids they have to finish what they start. They sign up for baseball or soccer and then get bored or aren’t great at it and want to quit. But we don’t let them. So why would we allow ourselves to quit?

  24. says

    Such a good post and great message and I totally agree!!!! I DNF-d in a marathon in 2008 when I was on track to PR and was in what I perceived the best shape of my running “career” yet. But I knew something was wrong with my knee before I even reached mile 5 and it just got worse and worse and I called it when I saw a medical tent at mile 20. I ended up needing surgery and was told I would’ve done more damage had I kept going…..but it definitely made me feel as though maybe I didn’t push through the “wall” or the pain or whatnot. When I was gearing up to run my first post-surgery marathon I got really apprehensive about it and asked my husband several times if I needed to stop them or if I just buckled and didn’t push through and he had to reconfirm me. Anyway, not to go on and on about my story, it’s just a sensitive subject within the running community and I think the message in your post is an important one!
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  25. says

    Interesting. I have occasionally contemplated a DNF but I guess I have never been quite there. The one time that I probably would have ended up with a DNF I decided that a DNS would be the way to keep from getting injured because of undertraining.
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  26. says

    There is no shame in not finishing, our health is more important. However we have the second option: to slown down a lot only to finish.
    I DNF twice: the first because there were 4 laps of a hilly town with a long uphill on the flight of steps and the second because in that period (1994/1995) I fainted 3 times during the workouts and I didn’t want to repeat the “experience”.

  27. says

    it takes more courage to go through with a DNF. i never think differently of runners that DNF’d…as long as it doesn’t become a habit.

    top ultra runners DNF all the time. why risk the added stress of a 50 or 100-miler and save your legs for the next big race? i definitely think it’s more acceptable in the ultra world.
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  28. says

    Watched your post race video. Wonder if taking last year off from running kind of messed up your body’s recovery patterns and you are still trying to get everything back in check?

    I can understand your frustration. Mentally I am the same way. DNF… NEVER! However, after reading one of my buddy’s reports, he had a HR of 185 during the marathon. If my body was at that state, I would have pulled out in no time.

    I talked to a friend about this. Ultimately, the professionals will pull out of a race because their body is their equipment. They can’t risk ruining their equipment to prove a point and throw away the next 3 races (or opportunities to make a paycheck) just on pride alone at finishing a race.

    Us as age groupers. We have typically 1 or 2 “A” races a year that we train for months at a time to compete in, for us to throw away that one day where we prove our hard work is devastating to us… to the pros, they have another race coming up, no big deal. I think it isn’t fair to compare age groupers and professionals w/ the DNF status. We do it for fun and for our own competitive drive… they do it for a living you know?

    I hope that makes sense.

    On another note, don’t beat yourself up too much on this one. The 13.1 course is awesome. The full course sucks haha. Sorry we didn’t see you out there, the 10k walkers were still on the course after you finished 😉
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  29. says

    Great post Amanda! I could not begin to judge someone’s DNF – only they know their body in that moment. As someone who’s struggling with a possible DNS for my race Sunday, I find it interesting that a couple here say they’d rather DNF vs DNS – wonder why? Is there more valor in toeing the line just to say you started even if it still may not be a wise choice?
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  30. says

    I agree with you on this. I don’t think we should ever put anyone down for a DNF, it’s any athletes nightmare. I think if someoen decides to DNF, they are doing what’s best for them and are making a smart decision for themselves. It’s really none of our business why they decide to stop and it really shouldn’t matter. I think we should respect everyone and just assume that is what needed to be done.

    Bc then what about a DNS? What’s the difference if someone quits before they even begin? At least that person with the DNF and gave it a go. I feel just as crappy about a DNS as I would a DNF but I don’t think anyone should judge. Whether it be injury, inadequate training, weather… it’s a good reason that person is throwing in the towel or not towing the line.
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  31. says

    DNF is absolutely not a dirty word.

    My DNF was in the swim leg of a tri — I had trained well, and had raced plenty before, but the ripcurrent on race day was much stronger than I was. What’s better, a DNF or a Do Not Resuscitate?

    To me, the answer is clear.
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  32. says

    I think that the most important thing is to keep i mind the BIG picture of your health and your running. I would hate to get a DNF, BUT, if I thought that finishing would hurt me in the long run (no pun intended) then I probably would. There will always be more races and more opportunities. So as hard as it would be to choose to DNF, if I was feeling an injury or something and continuing on could do long term harm, then I think pulling out would be the smart thing. As for just feeling bad or tired or miserable (and not really injured)… if I didn’t quit in Boston, I don’t know that I ever will. I can’t imagine being more miserable than that! :)
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  33. says

    I have no problem with DNF’ing in general, but I would have a hard time making that choice. “Damn it, I spent the money to be here. I’m going to finish.” I’m stubborn like that. But you are 100 percent right. There’s nothing wrong with it, and sometimes it is absolutely the right choice. Cheers!
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  34. says

    I think it’s harder for we amateurs to quit because the elites do it for a living–their training horizon is, well, forever, and each race is just a chapter in that long novel for them. We, meanwhile, sink all our hopes into one four-month training period, so the importance of that one race day seems monumental. Sure, we do this over and over and for many different races, but we aren’t as good at that big-picture attitude. I often feel like race day is The End–it’s even hard for me to plan things that have nothing to do with running afterwards, because it’s so hard for me to see past race day.

    It would be a good attitude adjustment for all of us to adopt–and really a truer commitment to our running–if we could have that elite long-term perspective. We could then more easily say of and to ourselves (and others): 1) I will listen to my body, even if I don’t like what I’m hearing and 2) this is just one race (or one season); I will have many more chances to triumph because I plan to do this until they put me in the home (and if the home has a track or treadmill, I’ll do it there too).
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  35. says

    I DNFed what would have been my 31st marathon. I had a lingering injury that flared up around mile 7, and suffered until mile 17 when I realized I had more at stake to lose than gain in continuing.

    The fact is, after 30 of these races, I KNOW I can complete a marathon. I wasn’t going to gain any sort of additional satisfaction from finishing a sub-par event (I can’t say “run” because I likely would have had to walk in those last 9 miles). However, I COULD do myself more injury by continuing to irritate my throbbing hip.

    Perhaps on some level there was a sense of “she who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day” Except, um, the opposite of running..

    Turns out I was diagnosed with hip bursitis and ended up with some heavy duty anti-inflammatories, PT and some time off my feet. I’m sure that additional pounding would have only made the problem worse… and again, for what?

    I know we’re trained to think that “quitting isn’t an option”, in part because we don’t want to not see what we’re capable of when things get uncomfortable. But I never had the weird mind-shift of letting myself know it’s ok to DNF in other situations. I know that that wasn’t my day and there were circumstances that lead to my decision. And I actually came out of it a much better athlete!
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  36. says

    It takes a ton of courage to start a race and we are all too hard on ourselves. Pro athletes drop out of races and don’t even start all the time, and it’s their job. They are trying to protect their jobs too and therefore must listen to their bodies. Shouldn’t we be as vigilant over our bodies? We won’t loose our jobs if we get injured or sick but won’t we still pay a hefty price? Don’t our families pay an even bigger price when we are sidelined? A sidelined athlete is a grouchy athlete.
    We need to lighten up and not take this whole business so seriously. We do it because we love it, right? Our paychecks don’t depend on it, it is for fun, health and sanity.
    If you need to DNF to keep yourself from injury or illness then good for you for listening to your body. I think that takes a lot of courage too!
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  37. says

    Well stated as usual Amanda. Such a fantastic point. I have just as much respect for people DNF. I mean, they signed up for the race with the intent on conquering while others might not even register.

    We want to run forever not just that day, right?

    I hope you give your body some time to recover!!
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  38. says

    I DNF’d at my first 70.3 triathlon a few weeks ago. It sucked, big time. I cried A LOT. But, in the end it wasn’t the end of the world and I know that I’ve got some work to do before my ironman in July. So, DNF really sucks, but I agree, we shouldn’t judge people or shame them for a DNF (I was SUPER nervous about telling people I DNFd for fear of judgement). There’s usually a story to it and not just because someone didn’t feel like finishing. It’s crap but we learn and move on. Sometimes its for the best.
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  39. says

    I totally agree that sometimes a DNF is the right choice. It’s never a fun choice or one that makes you feel awesome or anything, but if you’ve trained your butt off for a marathon or half and it’s not your day it can be better to bag it and try again the next weekend. I did it once and came back and won a (very small local) marathon two weeks later and totally redeemed myself. I don’t take the decision lightly, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do! (PS I *almost* DNF’d the CLE half last year! I walked through Tremont when I saw Pepper and she encouraged me to keep going. The mile markers must have been way off because I thought I was sucking way more than I was. I couldn’t believe the clock when I finished. Sketchy mile markers: another reason that race worries me for a full!

  40. says

    I completely agree. I think the people who judge are those who have never struggled through a difficult race, injury, etc. I would never think lesser of an athlete who made the choice not to finish, in fact respecting your body is far more important and respectable.
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  41. says

    I think that a true athlete listens to their body/spirit. As we journey towards a real speaking relationship between body and mind, there will be many times we thought we couldn’t finish, but pushed on to do just that. These are the well publicized conversations of “victory” of our circle. Thank you for boldly asserting that the clear instruction from body to mind of “please stop, or you will hurt us” is just as victorious in this development.
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  42. says

    I think sometimes when we have a goal or it’s a first at a new distance the DNF gives us a mental impression that we have given up on ourselves. But I agree that with more experience it’s easier now to see that a DNF sometimes is better than a major injury…yeah I”ve totally done that
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  43. says

    It’s amazing how many elite’s will DNF when they know they are NOT in a position to win. Is it because the higher you go the more risk you have in further injuring yourself and your career? Does that make it okay for me, a 4 hour marathoner, to suffer through a race due to fear of a DNF?

    Who knows… I had my first DNF this past weekend, something I thought would happen due to serious mid-race injury, rather than fatigue and heat exhaustion. I’ve run through worse pain and all it has done is set me back in recovery time. Many runners I know, and extreme ones to note, have at least one DNF in their resume. Great post.
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  44. says

    I think when you’re an elite runner, you MUST DNF or DNS if you are not feeling it, your livelihood depends on your performance and if you hurt yourself running something that feels “off” then you could potentially lose a lot of money down the road. Not the elite of the elitest, who’s money comes from endorsements, but for those who make a living off of race prizes, then this is big. For me, I’m not in that category and if I’m not having a good day, I’ll just pull back and finish it slow than not finish at all. Pride, perhaps, but I just don’t want to show my kids it’s okay to quit when it gets tough.

    A couple years ago I was doing the Mt. Evans Ascent, a 4500′ vertical steady climb and I had an inner ear infection and had some pretty nasty vertigo issues. I got to mile 9 and was so not feeling well….this was the first time I ever thought about dropping out of a race and I actually went back to the check point to tell them I was done. But as I stood there and thought about it, I knew I could finish if I just walked it (the steepest section is the last 5 miles, at 14,000′) and I did, and I was way more proud of that despite a crap time, then the year before when I raced it hard and finished 40 minutes faster. It comes down to grit and I find it much more admirable to finish something than to just quit. Unless, of course, you’re injured or running a fever or similar. Just my thoughts.
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  45. says

    I have also never had a DNF, but have never got to the point where I felt like I needed one. I’m not sure what I would do in that instance. It is definitely a difficult decision to make – if you have the choice. I had a friend at my Tri this weekend that DNF in the swim portion of the race. She couldn’t get her breathing under control and had to be pulled out of the race by boat. I can only imagine how she felt. I felt awful for her, becuase I knew what it would feel like, but in NO WAY did it make me think any less of her as an athlete. She knew what she needed to do and she did it. And, she asked if she could finish the bike and run even though it wouldn’t count and they let her. I thought that took guts. I would have been too upset I think to do anything else. I would probably have just gone home, but she stuck it out and did the rest of the race!
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  46. says

    I have never been one to fault someone for a DNF – elite or not. That said, my human nature has taken over more than once and instead of being smart, I continued on when I should have taken a DNF.
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  47. Ryan says

    I wanted to DNF on Sunday. Through each of the 3 laps of the run I thought, “maybe i should just stop here” Honestly, the only thing that kept me from stopping was that I had bought a 5 dollar water bottle the day before. I don’t know what I would have done with the water bottle, shirt, and stringy back pack thing if i hadn’t finished… Would I have gotten a hat? Would i have written DNF on it in scarlet letters, and wore it just to be contrary? Not sure. I walked it out. I have an IM in November, and i called it practice for if something goes wrong in the future.

  48. says

    You know, this is tough. I was faced with not starting at my last half. I hadn’t run in 6 wks due to injuries. But I was supposed to be running with my husband. It was his first half. So, I didn’t it. I ran. I didn’t stop like I had promised if I needed to. I couldn’t. But in that case, the accomplishment of crossing the line with my husband meant the world to me. Was it smart? Hell no. Should I have run at all? Nope. But, I suppose you live and learn. The key is learning from our mistakes right? And after that race, I realized, there really isn’t (or shouldn’t be) any shame in not starting or finishing when you simply cannot.
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  49. says

    The more I learn and grow in these endurance sports the more I realize that DNF is not a bad thing. You had the courage to start and maybe the day brought on blisters or a torn ACL….who knows but DNF’ing is not the end of the world.

    Now if you are a PRO and you DNF because you aren’t going to win, well I have less respect for you for that reason.
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  50. says

    I’ve never actually thought of a DNF as a badge of shame. I’ve always assumed that pulling out of a race would be as tough for every athlete as it was if I had to do it. And I’ve also assumed that the only reason you’d do it would be for injury or illness – which you would have qualified for.
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  51. says

    One of the posters on the Beginner Triathlete forum has DFL>DNF>DNS, so probably Did Not Start would be the ultimate “badge of shame.” But the past few years in endurance sports has given me a totally new perspective. From Chrissie Wellington DNS’ing Kona in 2010, to watching Melanie McQuaid’s valiant effort in the last few hundred yards of Xterra Worlds in 2011 (and subsequent DNF), to cheering for the last few athletes to finish local races…damn, it takes guts to make those calls. At least you were mindful of your situation despite being in unfamiliar territory…next time (although I truly hope there isn’t one) you’ll be more prepared to make the call.
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  52. says

    Maybe if more people were smart and DNF’d when their body told them too, we would have less race cancellations due to heat.

  53. says

    I had a DNF a couple of years ago when I tried to run a half in the heat following being sick earlier in the week. I got about 2 miles into the trail, and as soon as we hit an open area that was actually less than a half mile from the start, I moved to the side and dropped out. It wasn’t worth my health to push through that.

    Knowing what it felt like to run in Cleveland on Sunday, I’m sure I would have dropped out if the course went anywhere near the start. The way that course was, though, it was just easier to slug through it and get to the finish line.

    Health is priority No. 1 for me, and I’ll never have a problem with a DNF or a DNS. I’m not sure why anyone ever would.
    David H. recently posted..The Cleveland ExperienceMy Profile

  54. says

    Seriously, I agree with everything you said. I think there is this perception that you are weak if you DNS/DNF…when in reality, most of the time it takes more strength and courage to stop yourself before you seriously hurt yourself. A large part of me really really wanted to race this past weekend b/c I was embarrassed to blog about a DNS. But, in the end, my husband talked some sense into me.
    And you are right – nobody questions or ridicules elites when they DNF…so why should it be any different…if you are shooting for a PR and by mile 10 or 11 you know that it’s not your day, isn’t it smarter to just stop and try again – maybe in a few weeks…rather than finish and need a few months to recover?
    Michele @ nycrunningmama recently posted..Founder’s Award and a DNSMy Profile

  55. says

    I agree with everything you have said!!! I think that you are better off not finishing than injuring yourself. I do not think of it as a badge of shame rather I think it is a smart move which actually makes you a better athlete. I had a similar experience although with this year’s NYC 1/2 marathon, I got injured and could only run again the week of the 1/2 so rather than risk re-injuring myself I didn’t run the race. This was a race that I had tried for 3 years to get into and it was quite disappointing but the absolute right decision.
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  56. says

    Good post. I have not DNFd nor do I think I should have in a race I have done. Well, maybe one. Problem is it was a relay and I didn’t want to let the others down. I know there are runs I should have stopped.

  57. says

    It’s funny but true – I’ve often read about elites who’ve DNF’ed without thought when it was best.

    I also have always thought it’s much better to DNF than to DNS (did not start) – I haven’t DNF’ed and hope never to have to… Conversely, I hope that I can put pride aside and DNF when it’s truly best for my health. That’ll be the tricky part.
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  58. says

    Hmmm… good topic.
    You don’t need to be so down about the half marathon. You’re competitive and that’s what the races are all about but what about how much you enjoy running? On days/races when you’re body doesn’t feel as if every thing is in place for a good run, try sitting back and enjoying the experience. Enjoy the crowd, take in everything about the race that you would normally miss if you were going along in a competitive manner. The best thing of all is that you’re not hurt. You’re not laid up for weeks due to an injury. You had a slow race but you’re still running.

    My take on a DNF is only if there is an injury or cramping that won’t go away. I had a horrible Boston Marathon this year. But I’m more proud of my ugly coral jacket this year with my personal WORST time than I am of the GREAT run I had at Boston in 2011. Just sticking it out through tough times and being part of the race makes it worth it.
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  59. says

    Interesting debate on DNF a race. I’ve had 5 DNS over the last year due to injury, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a DNF. I think unless something drastic happens during the race – like getting injured or becoming severely dehydrated, you should try to finish. Because there is no point going forward if it hurts too much or you cause yourself injury. if your body can take you to the finish line safely, you should continue – because there are some people out there who don’t have the choice to finish the race due to injury.

    As for the elites – I think some of them DNF because they are saving gas/energy for the next upcoming race. It is a calculated decision. For us recreational runners, I don’t think we are saving gas for anything – our peak race is that day.
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  60. says

    I had a DNF last October and it was gut wrenching but I am back to training now because of it. If I had finished, I think I would have done damage that would have sidelined me from running forever.

    A DNF is better than a DNS.

  61. says

    I don’t think I have DNF in my life but I did have a DNS when I was in college. I was signed up for pentathlon but didn’t end up competing that day because I had a hip flexor strain. It was so hard to not compete but I knew I couldn’t do my best. My second half marathon I really wanted to DNF but I kept going because I just couldn’t let myself give up. I guess I just feel like if I start, I should finish unless there is really a problem and I am in real bad pain and could do damage to myself.
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  62. says

    I have DNF’d one race and while mentally it was the hardest thing I have done, it was the smartest thing I have done. I was 9 miles into a half marathon and my achilles were screaming at me. I walked to the finish line so mad at myself. And I was mad for days. My achilles for inflamed for at least a few weeks after that so I am afraid if I would have pushed on running I probably would have ended up with blown achilles. It is oK to DNF!
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  63. says

    I totally agree that a DNF should be acceptable, especially because it’s probably often the smart thing to do. We runners always seem to have a hard time understanding the limitations of our bodies. Always running through injuries and making them worse. Sorry to hear your feeling run down. I hope you get the chance to take it easy and re-energize.
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  64. says

    Well, I had my first DNF at Big Sur just a few weeks ago. The choice to DNF was probably tougher than finishing would have been, and that is saying a lot. I flew from the coast of North Carolina to the coast of California to run a marathon, not to DNF. But the cards were stacked against me and I ran with an undiagnosed torn meniscus and Ganglion cyst inside my knee…I was in pain from mile 6 to 20 and for the first time in my racing career I knew I had to stop. Not really quit, as quit would have been a different mental story…me saying I can’t do this….but on that day the DNF meant I came, I gave it my all, I’m in pain…I want to come back next year and take this course….I want to run again! I held my head in shame, and felt envious and embarrassed walking around the finishers area-without my medal. There is no medal for the DNF….but in my heart I knew I trained hard and ran well…and there will be another.

    So now, kind of like having a baby, I wear the badge of experiencing a DNF and I will never scoff or look down on a runner who makes that tough choice…I will extend my hand and help them up and respect their mental fortitude, because sometimes the smart choice is not the easiest choice…..
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