DNS: Did not start. One of the worst nightmares for a runner, especially at a race you’ve been dreaming of for a while. Choosing to not start a race can be seen as quiting before even trying and can result in crying, eating copious amounts of ice cream, curling up in a ball, and not taking off your sweat pants all week. But sometimes, it’s absolutely the right decision.
But making the difficult decision to either not start a race, or drop down from your goal distance can be really hard. Especially if the race is quickly approaching and you’ve put months of training in. When it is a race you’ve been dreaming of for a while or a new distance you’ve never done, it can be hard to admit defeat. It can seem like the easy way out to chose a “Do not start” option, or drop down to a lesser distance instead of attempting the race. But remeber, there will always be other races, other events and other times to reach your goal distance or run a particular race. There are reasons where a DNS is a better decision.
I recently made the decision to drop down from my first 50 miler race to the 50km distance (which is still a far and impressive race!). I struggled with it for a long time before I finally made the decision to listen to my body and accept the time is not right. A hamstring strain, stressful life factors and decreased training miles all played a part in me choosing to accept a DNS. There will be another opprotunity to do a 50 miler.
Here are some examples of when a DNS is totally acceptable, and how to stay positive through making the decision.
1. You are injured
It is every runners worst nightmare to be injured and not be able to do the thing we love the most. But listening to your body and taking the time to rest and heal will increase the speed of injury recovery time and decrease the chances of a prolonged, nagging injury. If you have pain before you run or pain that increases as soon as you start, it is important to recognize this and choose a pain free cross training activity until the injury heals. Seek out physio to figure out exactly what the injury is and work through it. If an injury is casting on doubt for you to even finish the race, it may be a good idea to sit this one out.
An injury is a great excuse to volunteer at the race. Volunteering is an awesome way to still be a part of the energy of a race, give back to the organization and help out your fellow running community. Help run an aid station and encourage the runners, or maybe marshal at road crossing. It is an awesome way to see the race from a different prespective and appreciate everything that goes into a race!
2. You haven’t put the miles in:
It’s true, sometimes life gets in the way of training, and that is totally okay! Sometimes there are bigger, more important things to deal with and training has to go to the side lines. Any avid athlete will maintaing a level of training to stay sane in the chaos of life, but sometimes that high mileage just isn’t there. If you’ve had your heart set on a particular distance but you haven’t been training for it, it is okay to put the race off until the timing is better. Give yourself a break if you are experiencing stressful life situations. Accept that there will be ups and downs in running and you may fall into a slump. Running a distance you that you are not prepared for can increase your risk of injury or severe dehydration.
If you make your decision to not run your goal distance, see if the race offers the option to drop down to a shorter distance. Accept and embrace the new race goal and adjust your training for the distance. Know that there is always another time to run the bigger race!
3. You are just not ready:
No one wants to admit this, but sometimes it’s true. If you are newer to running, maybe you have bit off more than you can handle too soon. Maybe your body is just not ready for that kind of milage. Relax. The hope is that running is a life long sport. You will have plenty of time to reach your distance goals. It is okay to accept that your body might not be able to handle the distance quite yet.
Stay positve: Take the opprotunity to do another race of a distance you are more comfortable with and start working on speed. Try and shoot for a PR. You’ll be so proud of yourself and it is a perfect way to get you out of a running slump or renew your passion and excitment for running!
4. You haven’t quite dialed in your nutrition:
Once you start heading into marathon territory and beyond, nutrition before and during a race plays a huge factor in sucessfully finishing. There is no way you will get through a marathon or longer race without properly fueling before and refueling during. Knowing when to eat and drink to maintain energy and hydration is a learning process and takes experimenting with what works and doesn’t work for you. Heading into a long race without proper fueling techniques can result in muscle cramping, hyponatermia (water overload), and even acute kidney injury.
Spend more time training and experimenting with different run fuels. Try different flavours of gels or bars and talk to your friends about what their favourites are. Figure out what kind of electrolytes work best, do you need to take capsules, or should you add them to your water.
Check out our blog for fueling techniques: https://runlikeagirl.ca/2015/01/22/3-must-dos-for-proper-race-fueling/