3 letters no one wants to hear: DNF

This is the most painful post I have ever had to write.

I DNF the Donald Half Marathon and it hurts.

So why do I just not ignore it, but instead tell the world about it?

Well… I have always maintained that this forum is for me. It is a record of my achievements and failures. It keeps me accountable and provides an opportunity for growth.

I woke up half marathon morning scared. I mean TERRIFIED. it is something I have never experienced before. I realize now that anxious, nervous and apprehensive are not fear. Fear is a completely different emotion.

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I felt out of my element. I was not ready and worst of all, I was going it alone. I didn’t let myself rely on my team or friends.

I walked to the bus pick-up at my resort and boarded the bus with 70 other would be half marathon finishers at 3:00AM. We traveled together in the dark and sat in somber silence.

When I arrived at the EPCOT parking lot, I searched out my team and felt sick. Sick from fear, sick from apprehension and sick from aloneness. How can you be in a crowd of people you like and be alone? Good question but we have all been there and I cannot explain it. This was my first major race – I don’t count the local races because the volume of people just was not the same. Never before in my life had I run with 29 000 other people. For a girl who does not like crowds, this was intimidating.

I approached my team and the first person to catch my eye was Mitch. Relief flowed though my veins. I saw  Brian and we hugged like long lost friends…wait… we are. Teammates that I had knew but never meet before came and hugged me or chatted, photos were taken and jokes were told and the fear in my belly eased.

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We stood around for a long while before the long march to the corrals began. I was hot – too hot for a night race, the temperatures were typically what I finish my Sunday morning runs at. The humidity was high and my hair was a mass of curls. The mile walk to my corral (I kid you not – it was FAR) was lonely. I was the only one I knew. Other teams were floating around me, but I knew not a soul, nor was I in the head space to make friends like I did the previous morning.

I stood in corral P, the last one. 80 minutes away from the first corral. I remembered what Happy told me about standing – DON’T. So I sat amongst the thousands of people standing. Slowly we made our way to our start. The runners from the first corral were making their way to the finish by now. Soon there would be a winner and we hadn’t even begun.

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Donald Duck and Rudy Novotny sent us off. The crowd rushed forward. Soon I found myself in the middle of the pack. Not last, which was a surprise for me, but middle. My knee was throbbing from my run the day before when I had slipped on the uneven surface. I figured at this point I would be in agony by mile 12. However, at no point did I think I would get there.

We ran past Jack Sparrow and the Pirate ship out on the highway, We ran past puppets and birds and bands, we ran past first aid spots of chaff fixing stations and then we ran through the gates to the Magic Kingdom Parking lot. I was getting  closer to the Castle, my goal for the first part of this race. I ran for a while with the Team in Training Coach. Her calm quiet words soothed me as we approached the mile 3 water station. 3 miles in and I was on target. I was well ahead of the sweepers and I was feeling good except for the throb of my knee. I knew how to mentally block that feeling so I was good to see this thing to the end. I let myself think about seeing Mitch, Brian and my girl in Magic kingdom. I was excited to hear the cheers of people on Main Street.

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As I approached the water station I was shocked at the amount of cups on the road. I kid you not, it was ankle deep. To make matters worse, it was a Power Aid station. The road was slick with water from rain that night and greasy from spilled power aid, the waxy cups on the ground added to the complicated nature of navigating across. I wasn’t as careful as I should have been. Me, the girl who runs on ice, knew this would be fine.

I was wrong.

Half way through the station I lost my footing and slipped. I turned my knee in such a way I was sure I would puke from pain. I walked through the rest of the station, took a deep breath and kept moving forward – which is after all Walt Disney’s famous quote – KEEP MOVING FORWARD. So I did. I started to run again.

With the water station behind me and the 5k marker ahead, I felt my knee cry out in pain be very step of the way. As I rounded the bend in the road to cross the 5k mark, I heard the words of Mike Scopa from Mickey Miles Podcast come back to me. He had injured himself before and kept running with big regrets. I had a week of work ahead of me and I don’t get to sit – how was I going to manage? 3 more strides and I knew I was done. The pain was getting worse. I crossed the 5k mark and stopped. Shoulders slumped and a defeated air over took me.

I hobbled over the the van at the 5 k and told him I needed medical. He pointed up the road and said its 1 1/2 miles that way. I replied with a “I will never make it. I am sure I blew out me knee”.

He was on the radio and in 5 minutes a brigade of first aid cyclers pulled up. One gal talked so calm and kind to me that I just started to cry. I couldn’t hold it in any longer. The disappointment from pulling yourself out from a race was more than I could bear. Even now writing this I am crying.

They asked me questions and and I told the I had tore my MCL before and knew I had done it again. The pain was the same – only this time I knew what it was. They wrapped my knee and asked if I could walk to the van. I said yes but when I actually began to move – I couldn’t get my leg to cooperate. How did I get from the water station to the 5k mark? I had heavy assistance climbing into the van.

The door shut and there was my journey done.

My dream of “One Day – running the Donald was over”

They drove me back to the finish line where the medical tent was. We had picked up people along the way – people who were swept because they were too slow. They were happy and pleased with their performance and there was me – sitting in pity and trying not to cry.

At the medical tent, everyone piled out before me and then people climbed in to asses my knee. I knew what was wrong, I explained what I was feeling and I told them what I needed. Aside from a hug – I needed ice and help out of the van. Stairs appeared and many hands helped me out and over to the bench where a medical personal assessed  further. He wrapped my knee with ice, taped my knee up and gave me water. As we sat there talking and deciding what to do next, a medal appeared around my neck.

I asked what this was for and the gal whispered into my ear “This medal is not for crossing the finish line, it is for the miles and hard work you put into before you even arrived here. It is for the pain and suffering you endured. You earned this as if you crossed the finish line. Wear it with pride.”

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Then I began to cry like my heart was broken. Pain more sever than the MCL injury. Ego is a tough thing to over come.

I made it back to my room, showered and iced my knee some more, took meds and limped over to meet my team. By the end of the day – I had enough hugs and support to feel better until the last one. We were parting ways until later that night when one member wrapped me up and hugged me hard – once again I cried from disappointment but comforted by his understanding. Mitch let me lean on his shoulder and use it in a way I had never relied on anyone before. I needed that sympathy and understanding. Once that was done, I felt better. It no longer mattered that I didn’t finish. It was over and I could move on.

For the first time I allowed myself to feel the disappointment instead of mask it. Feeling it let me move on quickly and look forward to the rest of the weekend. What a huge difference it made.

A week later with some distance behind me, I find I am feeling a bit scared to run. This tells me my knee isn’t ready. It will be soon and I have registered for the next race. I need to have a run with an excellent outcome, I am ready for some good.

Meanwhile, I love my team. Thanks you guys.

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16 thoughts on “3 letters no one wants to hear: DNF

  1. Sounds like you chose a real tough half marathon for your first attempt! Up at 3am, the long walk to the start, heat, humidity and a long wait to get over the start! I thought I was bonkers..I hope with reflection you can see you threw yourself in very much at the deep end and it most likely wasn’t the distance that got you but the circumstance. I have no doubt in a better temperature and a start time of 9 or 10am and a smaller amount of entrants you WILL complete it no problem. Go check out the events listing lady! I wanna hear about the half marathon you kicked ass at. 🙂

    • Its funny that you say that. This was my 4th half marathon in a year and my very first DNF. I am registered for Calgary, Hawaii, Disneyland and Vancouver Rock n Roll. Calgary will have the smallest amount of people 15 000. ha! I will kick some major asphalt but first, I am still on rest. I see Steroid shots in my future – then I will run.
      Thanks Baz!

  2. Sending you the biggest hugs I have to offer. I’m so very sorry that this is how things played out for you. I know how much you were looking forward to this weekend. My heart aches for you. I hope that you heal soon and you’re able to put this experience behind you and move ahead. xo

    • Thanks! I am much better, I went out today for the first time and although it was icy,, my knee felt pretty good. I didn’t do any great distance, but focused on cadence and footing. I will be ready for Calgary half – and a pie run and a buttercup run 🙂

  3. You did extremely well!!! Take special care of your knee before you attempt another marathon.Loved your story

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