DNS, or Did Not Start, is something most runners never wish to encounter. Whether due to illness, injury, or just a change in availability, a DNS can become a huge discouragement to any athlete.
After my injury, one of my first thoughts was about all the races I would have to skip. I had already registered for some, and others were on my calendar. In pen. It was frustrating (even enraging) to realize that my race days were over for the imminent future due to a freak accident. I still grapple with sadness, anger, jealousy and resentment, but I absolutely try to take a deep breath and overcome that.
Honor Your Feelings
One thing I am learning to do is honor my feelings. Sure, things could be worse and a missed race isn’t the end of the world, but in the moment it can feel fairly awful. That’s totally ok. Cry, have a good sulk, or call a friend who can empathize and take your mind off things. This is, in its way, a loss, and you have the right to mourn. Try to stop short of wallowing. Small pity parties are ok, and even justifiable, but it’s hard to dig out of the emotional depths if you get in too far.
No matter what is going on, there is always something for which to be grateful. Obviously, I’m not at all grateful for my injured leg, but I am grateful for a family who has dropped everything to care for me and friends who have tirelessly supported me. I am so appreciative of my surgeon and his team, and for my physical therapist. I’m thankful for waking up every morning and for the sunsets each night. Oh, and let’s not forget Girl Scout cookies. It helps keep things in perspective.
Salvage What You Can
I know nothing can ever quite make up for a DNS, but sometimes, you can salvage a situation. Perhaps there is a way to transfer or sell your bib. Maybe you can defer to next year’s race, or another event owned by the same race company. Or…possibly, the race director of an event for which you registered emails regarding a virtual option after the race and when you explain the situation, she mails your uncollected packets for you to complete on your own at a later date. It’s not ideal, but it’s something.
Look To The Future
Yes, your DNS races may be out of your grasp, but there are other races on the horizon. While you’re sidelined, it may help to set your sights on other events in the future. Think about how you might want to make a comeback, or try to hit some other milestone. I’ve got my sights set on the Sweet by Holly Cupcake Run in a month and a half as my 5K return, and on the St. Jude’s Half in Memphis as my half marathon comeback. It doesn’t fix my disappointment, but it helps takes my mind off it a bit.
(Try To) Be Gracious
It’s so easy to fall into the trap of bitterness and FOMO when your friends and family are out there doing what you want to be doing, but remember, these are the people you love. It’s not their fault that you can’t be out there, and no matter what’s going on with you, it’s always good to support those you care about. It broke my heart that I couldn’t be with these three for this Gingerbread race, but I was also so happy that little man could run with his friend, and that we were so blessed to have friends who would take him out when I couldn’t.
The DNS can be an emotional, difficult hurdle to navigate, but it’s just one more rung on the ladder of rehab and recovery. I’m not saying it’s easy and that I always manage to handle my emotions in the most mature fashion, but I try to remember that better days are most surely ahead.
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How do you handle the DNS?
Love this post! I think I should save it for a future DNS if ever I should be injured again. Not doing a race is always a bitter moment and at some point in time most runners will experience one. I bet you’re looking forward to that 5k Cupcake run!
Catrina recently posted…A 10K Race With a Happy Crowd
I am hopeful you never have to experience a DNS. I a so looking forward to this cupcake race.
runswithpugs recently posted…week 4(20): unassisted walking for the win!
Lisa @ Mile by Mile says
Its so hard to have a DNS, especially when you know there will be several of them. Honestly I think thats why I stopped signing up for races really early! A few years ago I felt like things were always coming up (mostly injuries) that would get in the way of the race. Now I tend to pay a little more and sign up closer to race day. However, I would much prefer to have a full race calendar planned out!
Lisa @ Mile by Mile recently posted…3 Ways to Make Sure You Are Running Your Easy Runs Easy
My Type A tendencies really do mean I need that calendar filled up, plus we are so busy with all our schedules that it’s easier to pay and say “oh, that’s pretty much written in stone” than wait and get bumped from the lineup.
Beckett @ Birchwood Pie says
I am definitely too attached to my races and I’ve run a few where I really should have stayed home. Echoing what Lisa said, early registration is both a blessing and a curse in that you get committed to the race. In poker terms, we all need to learn when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em and it’s perfectly OK to DNS.
Beckett @ Birchwood Pie recently posted…Weekly Eats: Child Labor and the Instant Pot
I get attached, too. Running is the one thing I do for me and when that was taken away, it was very hard to come to terms with it. I will still probably register early – in my house, we have to get things on the calendar fast – but I hope I will be able to come back better than ever!
Darlene S. Cardillo says
I wish I could say that I have not experienced this. But I have.
It’s tough. My current injury has had me do a few already.
Looking ahead is the best medicine.
<3 I'm looking FAR FAR FAR ahead.
Deborah Brooks says
I was in prime racing season when I got injured and to DNS for 3 races. It sure is difficult and depressing. I agree it’s important to honor your feelings and then make a plan to deal w the injury. Knowing that you will be back at some point is very encouraging.
I hope I’ll be back. Who knows what it will feel like – running is hard enough for me and I hope I feel the same when I am cleared to give it a try. I know it will be tough climbing back, and I hope all my old support systems are in place.
I guess the lesson for me, last year when I had to DNS so many races during that prolonged RA flare, is to accept what you can’t control. Trust me, I was really upset about it. But I did try to do what I could do and that was shorter races. If that wasn’t an option, then I just had to let it go. I totally feel you. But you’ll be back!
That’s a great lesson. I’m terrible at it, because I’m a control freak, but i guess this is all part of the learning curve. I don’t have to be happy about it, though LOL!
Kim G says
A DNS can definitely be very emotional! I agree that it’s so important to honor what you’re feeling because that’s really the best way to deal with the disappointment.
I do think I feel better with letting myself cry and be angry. I think. I hate disappointment (I’m sure most of us do) and I struggle with getting over it.
These are all great things to keep in mind for a DNS! It’s hard, especially if it’s a special race that you’ve been looking forward to. The thing that’s always helped me is trying to what I can for recovery and look forward to when I can get back to running. Thanks for hosting!
Chaitali recently posted…Falling For You 5k
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I am trying to look forward but it’s hard when there’s no end date in sight.
Nicole Drinkwater says
Thank you for this post! DNS’s can be so hard. I felt so guilty after a few of mine, but I realized I just have to let myself feel all the feelings in order to accept them and move on.
I’ve learned a lot about feeling all the feelings this time around. I’m great at stuffing things down and burying my emotions, but this time, I’ve just let them out. It’s… helping?
I’ve had my share of DNSs. I’ve DNS’d the Philly Marathon TWICE. Wish I’d thought to defer at least. Ugh. Time will heal the DNS pain though, so hang in there. That is the cutest sad puggie ever!
Marcia recently posted…How to Run the Tokyo Marathon from a Back Corral without Getting Swept
Twice! That’s awful! That pug represents me while writing LOL. I couldn’t resist that photo.
DNS, DNF, injury — it’s all a huge bummer. But it’s definitely how you move forward that makes the biggest difference. You’ll be back in no time!
I have not yet had a DNF, and I imagine that it’s own hell. I am a big believer in moving forward, even if it’s super slowly like I’m doing now.
Kimberly Hatting says
DNS’s are painful, no doubt. I had to kiss two big ones “bye-bye” a couple summers ago. But, the future races are a glorious beacon to embrace. Hang on to that gratitude, it will carry you!
I can’t wait for the glorious feeling!
Michelle D. says
DNS’s are so tough – I’ve had more than I care to count. This is always my struggle when trying to decide whether to take advantage of early registration discounts.
Hang in there – you’ll be back soon!
Yeah… I get that. I still do it because I need the motivation of having something solid towards which to work, but it does shed a new light on things.
Denise @ runheartfit says
I’ve only had one DNS when I had a 24 hour bug. I was okay with it because it happened so quick and I didn’t have a lot of time to dwell on it.
Denise @ runheartfit recently posted…Yes, You Can Run! Here’s How To Get Started
And when there’s a bug, the last thing you want to be doing is running, anyway!
It’s tough to have to change plans and skip races that you’ve planned for due to an injury. These are good tips to help get through it. My biggest DNS was a few years ago when we were planning to do the Honolulu Marathon. I fell and cracked my patella about two months before the race and I ended up not only missing the race but skipping the trip altogether. It still makes me sad!
Debbie recently posted…5 Tips for Holding Onto Your Fitness and Running Resolutions
Oh, that must have been heartbreaking! Not only because of the race but because of the whole trip! I feel your pain for sure.
These are definitely great tips for anyone to adopt–it’s hard to have a DNS, but I’m glad you’re going to get to do a fun one soon for your return run! <3
I hope so! I’m going to have that serious conversation with my PT tomorrow.
De Bolton says
I could have used this encouragement when I was in my Boot for 5 months. Watching everyone move but me. I did master my pullup during the time but I can understand the feelings when you’re injured.
Five months in a boot is hard! I was only in it for maybe a month or so, and I was ready to burn it with fire.
Yay for a solid pull up!
I could have written all of this but I’m glad you did so that I can still try to put things into perspective. I am still angry, upset, sad about all I’ve missed since last August. I was in urgent care the night before we were supposed to fly to Helsinki for a Half marathon I was registered for – part of my preparation for Chicago, which I also missed. I missed the Zevenheuvelenloop, I missed the Bruggenloop – I missed so many things. I *am* grateful that it was not so severe that I can never run again. I *am* grateful I still went to Chicago and “ran” the 5K. I know it could have been worse. I’ve been doing my best to support others. My disappointment is still there though and I still cry sometimes.
And… you are the first to know… I’ll run Chicago this year, no matter what. But likely I’ll have to have *another* operation afterwards and I’m looking at 3 – 6 months recovery. Here we go again…
Those feelings are just so normal and natural. We can be grateful and resentful at the same time. Just because we are sad doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate what we have. We are human and we are prone to disappointment. I am so sorry you are going to be having another surgery. It sucks watching from the sidelines and missing out, especially when your friends are there or it’s something you’ve been working towards or looking forward to. I confess to having a few fits and tantrums during this time, because it’s just not fair. Lots of love and support to you.
DNS is so tough. These tips are really good and helpful. Hang on and don’t give up!
Soooo tough. I’m not giving up but I’m so ready to be back to my life.