becoming infinite

always learning. always growing. always lifting heavy things.

my first DNF, and why it was worth it.


i’m still in my race gear, minus my sneakers and bib. i wanted to get this all down before i lose my nerve or get distracted.

this morning was the bluegrass 10,000. it’s a big local race, been going on for decades. i was a seeded runner – fancy – and had been training since taking a week off after the derby half. my training schedule was lighter than for the derby, since my legs had been feeling pretty beat up, and even then i didn’t feel any pressure to stick to it too religiously. i was just running and having fun.

i’m going to skip ahead to this morning. the race started at 7:30. it was drizzling, moving quickly towards steady rain. not cold, just wet. the gun – this obnoxious ‘murrica-style rifle that was completely unnecessary – went off and so did we. i was shooting for a 45:00ish finish, so about 7:25 pace. my first mile was 7:12.

i never got a second mile split.

we got through the first loop and were coming down vine street, and where it veered left to become main street…i veered right, clicked off my garmin, and walked the half mile to my car.

just like that, i decided i wasn’t going to finish. 35$ and ten weeks of training. and for what reason?

i wasn’t having fun.

not just that – i was fucking miserable.

now, i know that there are athletic purists out there who are sitting, reading this and thinking smugly, “well she’s not a real athlete. a real runner would have pushed through the pain.” so let me clarify something for you all: i didn’t stop because of my legs; they felt fine. i didn’t stop because it was hard; let’s recall that i ran a 7:51-pace half marathon ten weeks ago. i stopped because, quite frankly, i race for the fun of it. and when it stops being fun, it’s no longer worth it to me.

i’m a type A perfectionist. i don’t quit things, as a general rule. so i knew that, when i found myself jogging off the course and felt not the slightest bit of regret or uncertainty, that it was the right move for me at that moment.

i could easily tick off a laundry list of reasons why i “didn’t feel like” running: it was raining, my stomach didn’t feel well (thanks, uterus/ovaries), my mind has been all over the place with grandma’s passing and my pending trip home, etc. etc.. but honestly, that’s all irrelevant. i stopped – i DNFed my first race – for the very simple reason that this thing that i love was suddenly not making me happy. and life is too damn short for that.

so yes, i could sit here and think, “i’m a quitter.” or i could sit back and reflect on the fact that, for the first time in my adult life, i am learning to listen to my heart. could i have pushed through it and run the entire race? of course. would i have been miserable for the entire time? it’s possible, sure. would that have been the worst thing ever? no, not at all. but when i take a look at why i run, and why i race…i run because it heals me; i race because it’s fun. the running part is not always fun – speedwork sucks, long runs wipe out half of your day, there are blisters and sore muscles and black-toe to contend with. but that’s just part of the package, and it’s a part i don’t mind very much at all.

for me, racing has always been fun. i love the energy, i love the anticipation and the excitement. i love training for a goal. but when it is no longer fun…for me, it’s lost it’s purpose in my life.

today i learned a really great lesson. on a day that’s all about freedom, i realized that i am, and have always been, free to decide when enough is enough. i’m sure i’ll race again, maybe in the near future, who knows. and i’ll probably go for a run tomorrow. but today, it didn’t feel right. and that’s okay.


Author: jenn

impossible to define; indefinitely impossible. maybe i'll add more here later.

12 thoughts on “my first DNF, and why it was worth it.

  1. I’m going to echo /skin/ here and say that the foundation of all of our activities, whether it be lifting, running, dance, whatever – is getting to know yourself. We live in these bodies 24 hours a day and achieving a happy accord with the bodies we have is *difficult*. I dare to say that most people don’t achieve it.

    There’s no grades, there’s no homework, there’s really no finish line. It’s a life-long balancing act and there’s really only the ‘now’ to worry about. You did the right thing in your ‘now’ and that’s all that matters.

    Great post.

    • wow – thank you so much, this was so nice to read. i’ve struggled for years to understand the idea of balance and to begin to practice it in my life. today was just one of those “in your face” moments of it!

      thanks for stopping by and commenting – your words made me feel much better. : )

  2. I think I have quit several races when I didn’t feel like everything was’ running in sink’. You are right, if its not fun, its work. Running needs to be fun.

    • i’m glad to hear another runner say as much! i actually felt pretty well-prepared for the race, but i just…didn’t feel like being in a competitive environment that day, i don’t know. bowing out felt like a better decision that suffering through it!

  3. I read this post after your last one. Sounds like you made the right choice!

  4. Aw my friend commented on this first!!! I’m glad you DNFed because it wasn’t fun. That’s what running is all about! in fact, that’s what LIFE is all about….maybe I should listen to my own advice and quit my current job, but really if you’re not happy for whatever reason doing whatever, its not worth it.

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