When to DNS, DNF or Push Through Your Big Race

What does it mean to DNF a race? What about to DNS a race?

Or perhaps you’ve unfortunately had those letters with your name and now you’re wondering how to know when to make the choice and what’s the right choice.

Fall racing season has arrived, which means for many the months of suffering through hot, humid runs is about to pay off…unless you’re noticing a little tightness here or a sharp pain there.

In fact, over 120 of the 725 US marathons are in October with the biggest weekend being October 13th…all of that is to say in the coming weeks we sill see moments of triumph, tears of anguish, and a wide range of reasons behind pushing through to the finish line regardless of the pain or pulling out to prevent injury.

How to know when to quit a race?

Deciding when to pull out of a race in advance and when it’s just race week taper crazies can be emotionally draining.

We want so badly to get the hard earned result of our work that sometimes we override common sense.

I personally have done this thinking myself “it’s what we runners do, we just push through“.

Certainly during marathon training, you learn a whole new level of discomfort and it can be too easy to ignore what’s really a problem.

A few years ago, three very talented and fast marathon running ladies {whom I also call friends} all experienced one of these dreaded race day moments. I thought their stories might help you better understand and know what decision is right for you.

DNF a race

earn when you need to DNS, DNF or just suck it up #runchat Click To Tweet

Making their troubles in to lessons, here their stories to help you make smarter decisions around your next race!

What does DNS mean?

DNS is short hand for did not start.

In other words, you registered for the race, maybe even picked up your bib, but chose to not to actually cross the start line.

Running Coach, Mommy Runs Fast, decided not to race after battling a nagging ankle pain.

It’s certainly frustrating after months of training to make this kind of decision and might lead many of us to toe the line anyways.“I’m choosing to celebrate the training that I DID do, as that was really the journey and the bulk of the work!”race DNS

Below we’ll give you a list of questions to work through whether not starting is actually the best decision you could make.

ONE BODY, MANY RACES – this is the mantra that I cover with our runners so often. Know that starting and making an injury worse just means the day and that training cycle are all detrimental to your progress.

What does DNF mean?

DNF is short hand for did not finish, which is any time you crossed the start line, but due to injury, illness or other factors do not make it to the finish line before the cut off time.

Long time runner, Amanda Loudin had a small hamstring issue that she was babying and decided to just see what would happen, she pulled out at mile 19 “I’ve learned enough over the years to know that one race is never worth a long lay off.”DNF raceAfter that DNF, Amanda upped her rehab to get stronger and keep finishing races pain free!

Personally, in 17 years of running, I had my first DNF just a few years ago in the midst of my knee injury.

As badly as I wanted to keep pushing, I knew that the pain was telling me going any farther would mean additional months of recovery and there are always more races, one body.

Pushing Through When It’s All Going Wrong?

NYC Running Mama was primed for a superior performance, but had muscle cramps which she decided to push through:

I was tired of quitting. Of making excuses. This is not the kind of person I am. I may not be the fastest runner. Or the best racer. But I’d like to think that I don’t quit at the first sign of things getting tough.”hard race

What’s key to Michelle’s race is that her reason to stop felt largely mental.

You have to use your training to get to know your body, your limits and never ignore your major pain signals.

Not sure if it’s a serious pain or your brain trying to stop you? Read this!

What’s the right decision and how do you know?

Much of it is getting to know your body and being honest about your goals.

Each of the above ladies has been running for a long time and learned how to listen to her body, which is a key factor in ensuring you can run for life and not just one finish line.

A few of the questions to ask yourself if you are trying to decide whether to DNF a race, play it safer and DNS the race or to keep pushing.

  • Has a doctor told you not to race?
  • Will you miss a major life event or will it cause major home front issues?
  • Have you missed a lot of training leaving you ill prepared?
  • Have you been seriously ill in the week leading up to the race, causing dehydration?
  • Will finishing mean creating long term injury? { I chose not to do this 5 years ago and was sidelined for 3 months…try to put your ego aside.}
  • Have you been training for a high performance goal at a future race? Will finishing compromise that goal?
  • If things are going wrong, can you try another race very soon?
  • Is quitting just the best momentary option?
  • Is it your body or your head ready to stop?
  • Are you getting the most from yourself or letting yourself off the hook due to fear?

Learn more about distinguishing discomfort from pain >>Running quote

Once you’ve made the tough decision about your race, it’s entirely normal to go through a wide range of emotions from relief, to anger, to regret.

What to do after your DNF a race?

There are lots of acronyms for DNF to help us mentally get past it: “Did nothing fatal” to “Do nothing foolish”, but in the end just like the marathon itself is a roller coaster of emotions any decision around it will be as well.

Allow yourself to go through those emotions and then come out stronger.

Realize that even a DNF took a toll physically and emotionally, give your body time to recover rather than jumping in to an intense training schedule.
Complete guide to post race physical and mental recovery>>

Open up to someone who has been there and done that.  It always helps to hear that others have had to do it too
Curing an emotional hangover>>

New goals
Get refocused on your next goal, this is going to help you get out of the funk quicker!
Race medals worth the entry >>

What went wrong within your control? Take a look at how you can adjust your training, if you need to do more cross training or would you benefit from a coach?

Remember the race is just a blip in you overall training, enjoy the entire process

Have you ever had to DNS or DNF?

Have you ever pushed through and regretted it later?

Other ways to connect with Amanda
Instagram Daily Fun: RunToTheFinish

Facebook Community Chatter: RunToTheFinishRunning_motivation_thumb

Get more running tips: Pinterest

when to quit a race


When to DNS, DNF or Push Through Your Big Race is written by amanda for

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

You may also like