Saturday, May 24th was my goal race for the season: the 10k road national championship. I wanted a sub 37 minute 10k so badly, and I’d told everyone that was my goal, but my body had other plans.
After coming off a successful training cycle and a shiny new 5k PR, I was physically in the best running shape I’ve ever experienced. Shortly after running that 5k race, my calves seemed a bit tight. It wasn’t causing much pain, so I raced another 10k as a tuneup for my goal race. During the tuneup race, the pain moved into my achilles, so I backed off at the halfway mark. I spent the next two weeks trying to get my body to cooperate for my goal 10k.
I did everything in my power to get to the start line, but knew that there was a chance I would have to quit. I didn’t want to aggravate the issue further, and wasn’t going to risk rupturing the tendon or anything that could contribute to a longer layoff from running. Between kilometers 4 and 5, there was an incline, and I could feel pulling in the back of my leg. Nothing debilitating, but also a sign to stop. I knew I had to, and I promised myself that at the next medical flag, I would leave the course. Internally, there was no debate. I made a decision and I stuck with it – which I’m extremely proud of, because normally I am too stubborn to give in and would have kept running, making the injury worse.
I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be finishing the race. It was a hometown event, one that I look forward to every year, and I was in the elite field.
My husband already knew something had gone wrong well before he heard from me after the race. The race was televised, and he and my children were watching on TV. They said that they saw me start, and then saw me around the 3.5km mark. They said I didn’t look like myself. My stride wasn’t fluid, my face was blank.
As I write this, I am still at peace with my decision. I am disappointed because I feel like I let others down, but those people are actually proud of me for not injuring myself further. They would have been more disappointed if I’d pushed myself to finish and ended up with a worse injury. I’m not one to quit, and I always finish what I start. However, the way I look at this DNF is that, there are so many races I’m planning to run this fall, and I may not be able to start them if I don’t get better now. I don’t want to be dealing with chronic achilles pain. I want to be able to run, and chase finish lines, the rest of my life.
So: no regrets. I plan on taking the next month off of running to rest and recover. It won’t be easy, because I truly love running, but I need to get better. My emotions will change a lot over the next few weeks, and I will continue to remind myself that the break is for the best. I will come back stronger, and I know that my goals will still be there, ready and waiting for me to crush them.
Have you ever DNF’d a race? How did you deal with it?