The two sets of letters runners dread the most must be DNS and DNF. I’ve done both and I’m about to do one again.
I qualified for Boston last year at a poorly run marathon in Eastern Canada. It was the fifth time I’d qualified, although I’ve only gone once to date. Qualifying this time couldn’t have been any more stressful. Long story short: I ran the Eastern Canadian marathon a week after I DNFed in another 26.2 race. Things actually went well until the course in the second marathon turned out to be a full kilometre over (race organizers continue to deny this, but numerous competitors in both the full and the half complained). The result was my second slowest time ever (since my first marathon, in fact).
Still, I qualified for Boston again. Training this winter went well…until about a month ago – coinciding, ironically enough, almost to the day I began this blog. I developed a nagging case of plantar in my left foot.
The good news is, I believe it’s gradually, very gradually, getting better. I’ve iced the hell out of it. Its been painfully stripped in massage. I’ve rested it. I’ve tried different shoes, but the inflammation has hung on. Yesterday I ran for the first time in eight days and had to cut my attempted five km short at four. Walking back to the gym, I hung my head in defeat, cursed the band of tendon running the length of my foot.
You all know where this is going.
This year Boston will be a DNS for me. That’s been hard to swallow, but I’m okay with it now.
But I came to a realization: qualifying – and I know so many people out there work so hard for that dream and still have yet to realize it – is only the start. Making it onto the starting line is every bit as hard. Injury fells a lot of people, so does the training through winter, job stress and more. To all of you going this year, congratulations. Run it hard and soak up the experience. I’ll cheer you on from here.
In the meantime, I’m on the bike a lot and actually contemplating swimming lessons – and you know where that will end up, right?
I’m just waiting for the foot to heal so I can get back at it again.
I’m far from the only one to experience this sort of thing. James Fells, a freelance writer and fitness trainer, wrote in the Los Angeles Times about seeing his ankle swell up from a combination of his running form and speed work. He feared he wouldn’t make it to the start line. As it turned out, he did. (You can read about Fells’ experience here: http://lat.ms/zXtoW5.)
Not starting, not finishing, those are tough. But looked at the right way, analyzed and parsed for their lessons, we can learn from such experiences and come through them stronger than before.
DNS, DNF – they’re just letters. Nothing scary about those. The human spirit is bigger that that. Failure is not a word in your vocabulary; experience, however, enables you to grow.