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Running Tips to Avoid the Dreaded DNF (DID NOT FINISH)

Three letters to avoid. Here's how
May 20, 2014
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We all want to finish the race. But sometimes you just have to pull the plug…Check out these running tips for finishing a race and knowing when to be OK with DNF.

Three letters. Three tiny letters that strike fear in athletes and marathon dabblers alike. These three letters next to your name make you wish you’d spent the time and money you put toward training on a holiday by the pool – or a little more time training. What a waste of time.

As Tobias Mews said in his article ‘From Completer to Competitor’ , there’s an obvious desire to want to finish what you started. Of course you want to get to the end in one piece and on top of that, you want to do well, but it’s important to listen to your body. So here are some running tips for finishing a race – and knowing when to call it quits.

Running man

Slow and Steady

Go slow and go steady. It will likely mean you bring in a better time. Your body will be better able to cope with the exertion and you will be able to stay on top of the race.

Be Consistent

Don’t tire yourself out by dramatically speeding up and then slowing down. Stick to a pace and maintain it. I find that timing each of your miles and making sure you stick to the same speed helps you break down the race into miles and monitor your progress. It also gives you short-term goals to work toward, which can make finishing a race easier.

Breathing

Don’t forget to breathe.  In yoga, it takes years to master the breathing. And breathing in sport can help you through ‘the burn’.  Breathing is everything.

Remember to breathe

Ignore your Ego

Suddenly crossing the English Channel wasn’t enough. He wanted to get there in record time. And this meant that he ignored everything he was taught.

Whether you have a large one or not, ego tends to gets in the way of people finishing a race. A friend of mine, Phil Kearney, who attempted to swim the English Channel last year ran into his. He trained like crazy, with long sessions in open pools in the snowy winter with even longer ones at the Dover shore during the spring. He pushed himself to the limit and felt ready. He actually felt more than ready. People started telling him he was going to “set a record,” that “he was going to make it to France faster than anyone else,” and he started believing them. Suddenly crossing the English Channel wasn’t enough. He wanted to get there in record time. And this meant that he ignored everything he was taught. He didn’t pace himself. And as a result he was exhausted, started feeling the effects of hypothermia, felt his brain shutting down and had to drop out after 18 hours in the water. Push yourself, but don’t let your ego take over.

Weather

Weather can become a huge factor in certain races. But unfortunately this is out of your control. Know when to bow out and concede your DNF to Mother Nature – even if the race hasn’t officially been called yet.

Gear

Having the proper gear can be the difference between finishing a race and a DNF, but thankfully, it can be managed a little more than weather. Make sure you have everything you need, know it well from training and are able to fix it all on the go (which means carrying the necessary replacements). Not being able to fix a flat  or other mechanical issue is the main cause of people dropping out of cycle races.

Avoid injury

Injury

As discussed in ‘Running on Despite Injury ,’ training can prevent most race-day injuries. So, try and iron out all potential problems before starting the race. If you have trained properly, you will know what your pain points are and how to deal with them. If something happens on the day, listen to your body and make sure you aren’t causing yourself permanent damage by carrying on.

Whether you’re cycling, running, hiking, swimming or on a pogo stick, make sure you pace yourself, enjoy the ride and do everything possible to get you to the end.

At the end of the day, it’s not the winning; it’s the taking part. Scrap that, everyone wants to finish. So just make sure you do whatever you can to cross that line and avoid the Did Not Finish.

And remember, sometimes things go wrong. Especially when you aren’t prepared. So try and take all the necessary precautions to prevent the dreaded DNF. Because there is nothing worse than spending so long training and preparing, and so much money entering and then not being able to finish. At the end of the day, it’s not the winning; it’s the taking part. Scrap that, everyone wants to finish. So just make sure you do whatever you can to cross that line and avoid the Did Not Finish.

Photo: FCG/Shutterstock.com
Photo: Jacek Chabraszewski/Shutterstock.com
Photo: Martin Novak/Shutterstock.com
Photo: Click Images/Shutterstock.com

  • Thomas

    I DNF’ed El Camino de Santiago because both my Merrell shoes wore through about 300 miles in. Coincidentally met a gentleman from Germany that day doing his 5th Camino in the same pair of boots (2,300 miles so far in them). They weren’t Merrells.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emily Bell

Activities
Cycling, Hiking, Kayaking, Trail Running, Stand-Up Paddle Boarding
Favorite Gear
RAB waterproofs, Merrell Barefoot Running Gloves
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