Do Not Fear The DNF

*DNF stands for did not finish.

For all of those of you who fear not finishing a race, I’m here to tell you that YOU WON’T DIE if you don’t.

In fact, you may be able to continue living your life just as you were before your DNF. Yep, totally possible and probable.

I’ve DNF-ed races on purpose because I needed and wanted a supported long run. I’ve also DNF-ed a few because I didn’t make a certain cutoff. I admit that those times stung hard. It was especially difficult being pulled off a course because I was too slow—a huge blow to the ego, especially after I had trained for a particular race. I may have even cried once or twice. But you know what? I got over those times real quick, because there was always something else on my race calendar to look forward to.

To me, there’s no use in perseverating about what could have been, but it’s always useful to reflect on the past. Yet still, some people believe that DNF-ing is akin to committing an act of moral turpitude. It is not. Here’s why:

  • There are literally THOUSANDS of other races to sign up for so why the fuss?
  • Every race and every training run is an opportunity to learn something about yourself, so get to learning!
  • If your running friends judge you by whether or not you finish a race or not, maybe they shouldn’t be your friends…why do they care so much?
  • Sometimes, it is not your day. Sometimes, you are in pain. Sometimes you are just not about that life and that’s ok. Save your energy for when it is your day, when you’re not in pain, and when you’re feeling it. We all have off days—we’re human.
  • And perhaps most importantly—if you’re a trail runner, most races are opportunities to drink beer and eat pizza, DNF or not. Pizza is morally uplifting.

Don’t let a DNF ruin your life. Cry, yell, punch the wall and then run on. There are races to do!