Earlier this week, Mint discussed that “now what?” feeling after a marathon.
So how do you deal with the “what happens next?” feeling after you didn’t finish that goal race?
My goal race this fall was an attempt at a new personal distance record for me (100K, 62 miles). Unfortunately, my IT band and right knee were hurting a week before the race and I decided to start anyway, thinking I’d rather try and fail than not try at all. At mile 23, I reached the third of four aid stations (the race was two 50K loops), sat down in a chair and cried for a few minutes before handing the volunteers my bib and timing chip. It was my first time my race results would say DNF (did not finish).
In the weeks following, I’ve learned a lot about how to deal with the disappointment.
Focus on rest first. After a DNF your first inclination might be to HIT.IT.HARD. to prove to yourself that you still got it. But first and foremost, the biggest focus should be on rest and recovery, particularly if your DNF was in the later stages of a long race or due to injury or burn-out. Don’t focus on the race result itself and overanalyze the “why” feeling. Take the time off from running to rest, enjoy things that aren’t running and take care of you! Take your mind off of it by doing something else. The week after my DNF, I took the time to hang out with my boyfriend more, go out with my friends more and take more yoga classes. It all helped me relax, rest and take my mind off the negativity.
You don’t have to talk about it. Seriously, you don’t have to put it on Facebook, Twitter, whatever. After I DNF’ed, I had to sit at the race start/finish for about 10 hours until one of my friends finished the 100K and offered to drive me back to Ohio. I didn’t want to talk about it. I was embarrassed and really didn’t want anyone to know what happened. Because of social media, it’s hard nowadays to not have everyone know exactly what you’re doing and what your goals are. It felt like others were expecting something from me, but the reality is, that the only person’s expectations I disappointed were my own. And I really didn’t want to talk about it right away.
But talk to someone who’s been there when you’re ready. The non runners in your life don’t necessarily understand how you may feel after a race is over, no matter what the result. Talk to someone who really understands: another runner!
Get back to your normal routine. After the rest is over and you’re ready to get back out there, I find it best to go back to normal and stick to a routine you’re used to. For me that means doing things like going back to my usual days of the week for easy runs, long runs and speed workouts. Most runners are creatures of habit and getting back to a routine you’re used to can help get you back in the saddle.
Look to the future! Pick a new goal, whether it’s a running vacation (mine!) or another race or another attempt at the original goal, it’s great to have something to look forward to.
Have you ever DNF’d? How did you get over it and back out there?