dealing with the dns

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.

Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash

Be Grateful

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.

jolly holiday

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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