Did Not Fail

Ahhhhhh, Fall! For most of us runners, Fall = running season. Cooler mornings, a race every single weekend until Christmas, and the threat of holiday weight gain urging us to employ our running shoes more frequently.

For many runners, it also means having our sights set on the finish line at some marathon or another.

NYC Marathon Finish Line. Mecca, for a lot of us.

16 weeks of training (or more), weekend after weekend of long runs, the shame of having to wear compression socks to the grocery store on Saturday afternoons, and more attention to our glutes than most of us like to admit culminates with 26.2 miles of foot-stomping fun.

But sometimes it doesn’t.

Sometimes a runner’s dream is dashed only weeks before the Big Race. Tendonitis, pulled muscles, stress fractures, catch-all joint syndromes, and mystery pains can keep the most seasoned marathoner from toeing the line this Fall. The dreaded DNF.

DNF usually stands for Did Not Finish. I hate this acronym. There’s an innate sense of failure in the wording that brings about feelings of deep shame to the individual whose name bears these three little letters on the runner roster.

But DNF doesn’t tell the whole story, nor is it the final chapter in your running book.

It takes courage to defer or call it a day. When you know your body can’t take any more, that running further or for more weeks would only be detrimental to your long term health, DNF-ing or deferring is SMART. In fact, it takes a smarter, more seasoned runner who knows their limits to call it a day.

The smart runner knows when it’s over.

The smart runner knows that one race does not define them.

The smart runner knows there will be more.

The smart runner knows when to ask for help.

The smart runner knows the difference between good pain and bad pain.

The smart runner pushes the limits and is ok when, occasionally, they fail.

The stupid ones (yes, I called you stupid) push through the bad pain and force themselves on the course simply for their own ego. You know where ego gets you? The orthopedic surgeon’s office and then the PT’s clinic for months and months in excruciating pain. Sounds fun, right?

To all of you who have called it a season, despite having paid for a marathon entry this Fall, I salute you. You are smart and brave and I applaud you for taking care of yourself, knowing there will be other races for you to rock.

Have you ever deferred or had to DNF? How did you feel then? How do you feel now? Are you considering a deferment this year? Share with us!

Now go out and run!

The Long Run

It’s a major part of every distance runner’s workout repetoire. The Long Run. Hours and hours of pounding the pavement in the hopes that every moment spent will lead to an amazing performance at the next race.

It’s tough. It’s boring. It’s a time suck. But it’s gotta get done.

People who know me well do not invite me out on Friday nights. They know that Saturday is my “Long Run Day” and that, by default, makes Friday night an early night in for me. I come home, put my pj’s on, eat some dinner and call it a night. Some people can go out and drink and get up and run. I am not one of those people. Maybe I’m getting too old.

At least I’m not too old for my long run.

Long runs aren’t races. Heck, they’re not even supposed to be all that hard except for the running-for-hours-and-hours part. You go out, you run and run and run and run and you’re tired when you get back, but when done properly in your training schedule and at the correct pace, you could have gone farther.

Example: me. I run my long runs around 8:15-8:30 usually. I run my marathons (recent ones) at about 8:00-8:10. If I find myself running sub-8:00 minute miles at the beginning of a long run, I immediately slow down. Not that it couldn’t just be that I am getting wicked fast, but I’d rather be wicked fast at the end than dying at the end of a run. If I am running sub-8:00 in the last quarter of my miles on a long run, more power to me and watch me fly! The idea is that my pace is such that I could have kept going. This is the key to long runs.

If you finish a 16 mile run and you know you could have kept going (even if it’s an absolutely-have-to kind of situation), you have prepared yourself mentally and physically for the next jump in distance: 18-20 miles. When you run 22 miles and realize at the end that you could have kept going, you are ready for the 26.2 on marathon day. And THAT is a great feeling.

This applies for all distances. I remember vividly my first 5-mile run freshman year of high school. I was amazed that I ran five miles without stopping and thought, “Hey, my two mile race doesn’t seem so bad now.” It was a great feeling.

So, yes, it’s a lot of time and energy spent on a Saturday morning when I’d really rather be sleeping in or watching a bad movie on the couch with JB. But it’s marathon season and it’s gotta be done. I’ll live and I will thank myself later for doing it.

You will, too.

Now go out and run!