When you drop out of a race, do you need to go back and try again? Or should you just shrug it off and move on the next one?
Most every runner who has done enough races will eventually get a DNF (Did Not Finish). You’ve challenged yourself with a tough race, or your day just didn’t go as planned and your race ended before you finished the course. Experience tells you that any race can go wrong with one bad step, a blister, stomach issues, chaffing, or any number of other issues. We are not guaranteed a finish, and the clock may run out on us before we have crossed the finish line.
So is a DNF all that bad? It’s not the end of your running days, but it might cause you to take serious inventory. Once we are done licking our wounds and stroking our sensitive egos, we can take a longer look down the road at what’s next. Every failure has something to teach us, every day is different, and no two races are the same. Whether it’s your training, your planning and execution, your mental strength or something else, we can learn from our DNF.
For some, the next step is planning how to get redemption for that DNF race! It may be years in the planning, training, and waiting, but we feel we must take care of unfinished business. In our mind, we must go back and prove that the trail did not beat us, or that race did not get the best of us. A successful run at it again will surely right the wrong of the DNF we received. It’s like a bad mark on a report card that must be erased and improved.
Others may not feel the need for redemption. They run without the worry of having to prove themselves, feel that it’s a score card that grades them, or have an ego to fuel. Some may have been in over their head, it’s not in their “wheel house,” and they will find a more suitable race to run that will offer them a different experience. Running may just be a pleasure, pure and simple, and they don’t have a strong sense of unfinished business from a setback. If this isn’t the race to finish, they’ll finish the next one, whatever that might be. They sign up for a race for the joy of running it and enjoying themselves along the way. It’s not always about the finish.
But what about the Redemption Runner? Is there really something to prove and is redemption as sweet as it sounds? I received a DNF in several races in 2016. I felt sure these endings were not due to my failure, and I had to go back and receive the taste of redemption I felt was deserved. I knew from the moment I got my DNF that I’d be back to finish what I started, the course had not beat me, and I wasn’t finished with it yet. I wanted to prove to myself I was a strong and worthy runner, and I was deserving of that finishers award. I took a hard look at what I did wrong, changed my training to be much more focused, hired a coach to guide me, and found races that inspired me to run them for the sake of running them. My experience says, yes, redemption is sweet, but maybe there is something more to it than just that. My failed attempts are part of the complete running experience. Maybe we shouldn’t look at redemption as finally finishing a race after the initial failure. Rather, we should look at it as the end of a longer journey that can be even more rewarding.
Publsihed May 2017