I never thought a DNF was in my DNA. I’m not a fast runner but I think I’m pretty tough. Even DNFing I still think I’m kind of tough. My calves were on fire by 1/2 mile in but I kept going as long as I could after convincing myself that at some point my calves would shake loose and I would run free. Every time I passed a new mile marker and saw my 14.5 minute run/walk pace I wondered what the hell I was going to do.
The answer for 9 miles was to just keeping move ahead and pretend that everything was cool. It really wasn’t though. I knew I trained hard during the hottest summer months to run better than a 6:30 marathon. My pace was pissing me off and so were my calves. Around mile 7 my lower back joined the mix. About a mile after that my right butt cheek joined in and soon after I was done.
The decision to DNF was simultaneously the hardest and easiest decision I’ve ever made. I thought about the other races I want to run this winter and how hobbling to a crappy marathon finish wouldn’t help. In fact it could do some real damage depending on what was causing the pain and then I might not be able to run those races.
I do think finishing a race where you know you aren’t going to meet your goal builds character. If this was my goal race for the year I would have literally crawled on my hands and knees to the finish. While the Chicago Marathon was definitely one of the most important races on my calendar for this fall and winter it wasn’t the race.
The marathon distance is still something of a novelty to me and while I wanted to push myself to meet a specific goal time, I wasn’t really ever racing it. Racing to me means pushing yourself to the edge and hanging on to a pace that is difficult. For Chicago my plan was to run at a pace that would allow me to feel fairly comfortable for 26 miles (well, as comfortable as you can be in a marathon). I can’t race a marathon… yet, but I can race a half marathon, and that’s what I’ll do at the A1A Half in February. The training I put in over the summer will definitely not go to waste.
So, what’s the plan now? I will get with my PT and figure out what I can do over the next few weeks to get myself ready for A1A. I want to fix whatever’s going on with my body and then put in a strong half marathon training cycle.
I will also line up at the start in Chicago again next year. Adam and I really liked the city a lot and have already decided we’ll be back next October.
I have unfinished business in the Windy City and that will fuel my training for the next year. I am determined to own this race. Coming from South Florida I actually thought the weather was perfect and the crowd support on the course was nothing short of amazing.
It’s hard to call this race a failure because with your help we saved the lives of several homeless cats and dogs and that’s really important to me. I’ll definitely run with Team PAWS again next year and look to my family to contribute to my fundraising goals. This year you guys helped me reach my goal so quickly (THANK YOU!) I never had to hit them up for money so next year I’ll be knocking on their doors ;).
All kidding aside, despite knowing that dropping out was the right decision, I just have to say how utterly demoralizing DNFing is. From the time I called it a day until the time I got transported back to the start area was close to two hours – two hours of feeling like a total loser. I know DNFing can happen to the best of us, but it just totally sucks.
I guess because I called it a day pretty early in the race (mile 9) I was transported with a few people who admittedly just hadn’t prepared for the race. I hated that so much because I did put in the hard work this summer. It just felt really unfair even though I know it’s not unfair at all.
It just feels that way. A lot.
I can honestly say the feeling of DNFing has lit a fire in me. There’s nothing I want more than to come back a better, smarter and stronger runner.
Thank you to everyone for all of your support this training cycle. Right now I feel a bit undeserving, but so very appreciative.
Let the next chapter begin….