Chicago Marathon, My First DNF

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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….

Thank you for dropping in today for a read! If we aren't already friends on Insta say hi to me @kristinarunning and on Snapchat: @KristinaRunning :).

46 comments

  1. Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine

    Oh no, I am so sorry…I was checking instagram yesterday and was worried about you! It sounds like you definitely made the right decision. 6+ hours is way too long to run in that kind of pain, especially when you aren’t 100% sure what is going on. I know you will be back next year to finish what you started…and I also think you will come back stronger for your February race!
    Lisa @ Running Out Of Wine recently posted…Route 66 Marathon Training Week 10My Profile

  2. Staci @ Hoosier Running Mom

    I was tracking you yesterday and when I got the 10k split I could tell something was wrong. I was immediately concerned! Hopefully your PT has some answers and you will be able to be out the door again soon full force!!
    Staci @ Hoosier Running Mom recently posted…When it sucks to start running again just make GOALS!My Profile

  3. Susan

    Sometimes making the right decision is the hardest thing to do. I am proud of you and have no doubt that thru your PT rehab and new training you will come back stronger than ever!

  4. Ali @ Hit the Ground Running

    You said it yourself: even the best of us DNF. Hell, even professional athletes like Ryan Hall DNF when it’s the right call. I know that may not make it easier, but at least you know you’re not alone and you made the right choice. I’m glad it’s lit a fire in you! And I’m REALLY glad you kept the big picture in mind. You’re right; your summer training won’t go to waste. Heal up and show A1A who’s boss!
    Ali @ Hit the Ground Running recently posted…Race Season is Here!My Profile

  5. Jasmine

    Ah Kristina, sorry to hear you were in so much pain but it sounds like you made the right decision, albeit a hard one. A sign I saw this weekend said ‘la santé avant la performance’, and isn’t that the truth, there are always more races but you only have one body. Look after yourself!

    1. Kristina

      I love that quote, thanks so much for sharing.

      I felt so miserable yesterday after DNFing but everyone in this little running community has really helped me put things into proper perspective today. I love you guys!

  6. Heather

    I’m sorry Chicago didn’t turn out the way it should have. I can’t imagine how you are feeling. It really sucks to put in months of training and then have an injury come up at the last minute to ruin everything. I went through a similar situation last fall when I decided to DNS my first marathon. I felt like I had wasted my time trying to do a marathon and now I was just a complete failure. I feel like the decision to stop part way into a race would be about a thousand times harder to deal with.

    But as hard as it was, I think you made the right call. I know it completely sucks right now, but when you are grabbing PRs left and right this winter, you’ll be glad you did it.
    Heather recently posted…Hips don’t lieMy Profile

    1. Kristina

      Thanks so much for sharing the story of DNSing your first marathon. Yesterday, in the moment, I felt so alone in my decision to call it quits early. I’m so glad to have this blog where I can connect with other runners who can help me put things into perspective.

      I have my fingers crossed that your hips stay loose and you have a great marathon debut!

  7. cheryl

    I know that was a difficult decision, but it is NOTHING to be ashamed about. It is much better in the long run to get yourself healthy. Like you said, look at the elite runners, they DNF more than the rest of us, because they know better than to risk further injury.
    Use that fire to get healthy and push forward. You are a tough cookie!
    cheryl recently posted…Yes, I am still here…My Profile

  8. Jenn @ Running on Lentils

    I’m sorry this isn’t the outcome you hoped for, but I can see many positives–the training you did that will be a great foundation for your next training cycle and your renewed drive & motivation will definitely help you come back stronger. I know you will do great things once your body is healed & ready to give it your best shot!
    Jenn @ Running on Lentils recently posted…Yellowstone: Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, & Upper, Midway, and Lower Geyser BasinsMy Profile

  9. Molly

    Kristina, it really sounds like you have an optimistic attitude about less than ideal circumstances and will be moving forward to great things! While I haven’t DNFed a race (yet), there was a talk about my recent marathon being cancelled due to the planned protests. Luckily, an agreement was reached and that didn’t happen. As I was thinking about not even being able to start the race, I realized that while we make a big deal out of races, that’s not what it’s all about. I wouldn’t have done anything differently if I wasn’t planning on running the race because I love to run and would have done so even if I didn’t have a race on the horizon.

    1. Kristina

      I love your perspective, thanks very much for sharing. You’re so right, there is very little that I would have done differently.

      I’m glad that your race wasn’t cancelled and you went out there and had an awesome day!

  10. Amanda @ Slimplify Life

    Honestly I still think you’re an amazing runner and sometimes the will power to DNF when you know it is best long term is harder than the marathon itself, so I applaud you. You go girl! Maybe I’ll join ya in Chi next year!!!!!!
    Amanda @ Slimplify Life recently posted…Since we last talked (forever ago)…Top 8 Things!!!!!!My Profile

    1. Kristina

      YES! Please come to Chicago! I know you would love it!

      Bring your dad too. From what I remember he’s a pretty good race photographer and I wouldn’t hate a couple of glamour shots on the course! jk jk 🙂

  11. Megan @ Meg Go Run

    I wish like HELL that you did not have to experience all those feelings that came along with DNFing. I thought about you all day yesterday. I am glad you have a fire lit under you and plan to take on Chicago next year. I also know for a fact I would have made the exact same decision you did- I would not sacrifice my body and my upcoming race season to finish the marathon injured. That would have been soooo stupid. Again, I am so sorry this happened. It is unfair.

    And just so you know your readers LOVE you and you deserve all of our support!!! And you better hit us up for Team PAWS next year because it is our PLEASURE to support the animals and you running for them in Chicago!
    Megan @ Meg Go Run recently posted…Weekend Wrap Up!My Profile

    1. Kristina

      Thanks so much, Megan! I saw in a comment somewhere that you are thinking about running Chicago next year ….that would be so awesome! The crowd support in Chicago was really unlike anything I’ve seen in any other races, although I bet it’s pretty similar to what you’ve gotten to experience in Boston.

      There were lots of runners wearing their Boston jackets around town which made me think of you and Heather, the speediest people I know! 🙂

  12. Hanna @ TheMillennialNextDoor

    I’m sorry, Kristina 🙁 I know you worked really hard for this and were so exciting, and it’s not fair that this had to happen to you after all the time and effort you put in this summer. I can’t imagine how hard it was for you to make that decision, but I’m really glad that you did a safe thing and didn’t further injure yourself. You have a lot to look forward to this winter, and I know things will start looking up for you soon. I’m glad you will be back to Chicago in 2016 – I’m thinking about throwing my name in the lottery!
    Hanna @ TheMillennialNextDoor recently posted…Today was a really “meh” dayMy Profile

    1. Kristina

      YES! Please do! That would be so great!

      I thought of you so many times this weekend… every time I saw a Packers jersey! 🙂

  13. Lizzy

    Kristina, I am so sorry to hear that you were in pain, but I’m glad that you decided to listen to your body and be smart about what you needed to do. I was tracking a few of my friends who were running and when your time stopped progressing I got worried. I’m glad that your DNF was because you chose to stop, because you knew that you should in order to prevent any serious damage.

    I’m also really glad to hear that you loved Chicago and intend to be back! I got so inspired yesterday. I’m setting my sights on Chicago 2016 or 2017. I haven’t decided which yet, but it would be great to see you there!
    Lizzy recently posted…WIAW – #BestBlast #1My Profile

    1. Kristina

      Thanks so much, Lizzy. Chicago is such a beautiful city and I definitely intend to see a lot more of it next year. I hope you decide to shoot for 2016 so we can plan a meet up… although I loved the crowd support in Chicago and can see myself doing this race every single year. I’m so upset that I didn’t get to finish this year because I bet the support as runners get closer to the finish is absolutely electrifying!

  14. Jennifer @ The Final Forty

    I am so, so sorry to read this. I was thinking about you yesterday! Sometimes we have to make tough choices during a race, and I can’t even imagine how difficult this must have been for you after all of your hard work this summer. But you listened to your body and that’s all that any of us can do. I hope you figure out what went wrong. Take care of yourself! I know you’ll be back in Chicago next year and will KILL it.

  15. Karen

    Awww, I am so sad to read this. I m sorry you weren’t feeling well, there couldn’t be anything worse than to have face all those miles not feeling well. If your muscles are that tight and hurting it really could have very dire circumstances in the injury department so you made the right call! It is not worth it to be out for months, hopefully a few weeks of rest can get you back in training shape. I am sorry you had to go through that experience.
    Karen recently posted…I Love SunshineMy Profile

  16. Lisa @ TechChick Adventures

    So sorry to hear this happened to you. But, I am glad you were able to see the big picture and keep your plans in mind so you didn’t hurt yourself even more. You did a great job getting through all of the training, which is half the battle. Rest up!!
    Lisa @ TechChick Adventures recently posted…Last long run before Columbus… and StravaMy Profile

  17. Margaret

    That sucks, but it sounds like it was the best decision. Get yourself healthy and you’ll come back be strong doing this next year!
    Margaret recently posted…Recovery WeekMy Profile

  18. Lauren @ Lauren Runs

    Like others tracking you yesterday, I was worried! Sad I didn’t get to see you out there, as I was spectating at mile 12. But I’m sure you made the right decision for you! Focus on Rehab, then Pre-Hab, and can’t wait to see you again next year!!
    Lauren @ Lauren Runs recently posted…Good luck Marathoners and Ironmen!My Profile

  19. Kate @ Kate Lives Healthy

    I was thinking about you yesterday and hoping you would have a great race. While a DNF is not what you ever expected I know that you will come back next year stronger then ever. Take some time and rest up and heal the calves…well deserved rest from all the training too!
    Kate @ Kate Lives Healthy recently posted…WIAW #68My Profile

  20. Andy

    I had a DNF too, in Chicago of all places. Absolutely devastating. My pf decided to make things worse on the day that was supposed to be mine. I dropped out at mile 16.

    There’s always next year. Let your body heal first.

    1. Kristina

      Sorry to hear about your DNF Andy, I know how badly it sucks. I hope that your pf heals quickly with some rest and you’re back to training for your next race soon!

      Looking forward to next year, hope you’ll run it again next year too!
      Kristina recently posted…Chicago Marathon, My First DNFMy Profile

  21. Annette @ Sweating Through Life

    I’m so sorry to read this news, but it sounds like you made the best decision for yourself. Overall, you seem to have a pretty positive outlook on it, it sucks yes, but don’t lose sight of all the silver linings you mentioned. You have a lot to still look forward to, and I love that you are going back next year!!!
    Annette @ Sweating Through Life recently posted…What do I Need an IT Band for Anyway?My Profile

  22. Jennifer

    I know you made the best decisions for Kristina. You are right, all your hard work and training from this past summer will not go wasted and I am sure you will have a great winter season with your upcoming halves. I am so glad we were able to meet and “train” together this summer. I look forward to Miami. Hoping for a speedy recovery and you are going to Own Chicago next year!
    Jennifer recently posted…Chicago Marathon Countdown – Race Day OutfitMy Profile

    1. Kristina

      I’m really looking forward to Miami too!

      And you know, now I really can’t stop thinking about Paris… hmmm!

  23. Maddie @ Dixie Runs

    It must have been devastating to pull yourself out of a race you worked so hard for, but just remember that all of those miles and all of that hard work did not disappear when you decided to pull out of the race. You made the best decision for your body and like you said you will come back stronger and smarter for this!! I love how you said it “lit a fire in you”… this could turn out to be a great motivator! But FIRST you need to get yourself healthy. I’m sure you and your PT will come up with a solid plan… I wish you the speediest of recoveries!!
    Maddie @ Dixie Runs recently posted…Dixie’s Birthday and Why I Want to MoveMy Profile

  24. Chrissy

    Kristina, you are such an inspiration! As someone who has had debilitating calf issues for my whole running “career” I know how frustrating it can be. In fact I’ve pretty much given up on running consistently because I don’t know how to fix my problem. I love reading your blog and running vicariously through you. I know you will continue to do awesome and inspiring things!!

    1. Kristina

      Thanks so much Chrissy. I appreciate your words a lot. I am sorry to hear that you have had ongoing calf issues that has kept you out of the game. I’d love to know what kind of exercises you like to do instead of running. I need to add more cross training activities to my menu so that I do it more often!
      Kristina recently posted…Chicago Marathon, My First DNFMy Profile

  25. Courtney @ Running For Cupcakes

    I was thinking about you all day yesterday! I’m so sorry you didn’t have the race you dreamed of. It happens to the best of us and you are staying extremely positive. I’m glad you didn’t push yourself and make your injury any worse. That is what I did last October and not only was I in PT for 3 months, but more importantly I didn’t get to enjoy my marathon because I was in SO much pain. Chicago is definitely one of those marathons that you want to enjoy and have fun. I have no doubt in my mind that you will come back from this even stronger and kill it next year!
    Courtney @ Running For Cupcakes recently posted…Thinking Out Loud: Things I Never Thought I Would SayMy Profile

    1. Kristina

      Thanks so much Courtney. I remember what you went through last year and I’m so glad you were able to rehab and you’re in a better place now. Being reminded that so many other runners have gone through similar struggles and come out stronger has made me feel tons better today!

  26. Sam @ Grapefruit & Granola

    I am so sorry you experienced this… BUT it is always important to listen to your body. Who is to say that you would have finished and ended up seriously injuring yourself? That would have been awful. I hope your PT can get to the bottom of your issues. Also, just wanted to let you know that your running journey is very inspiring to me! It’s honestly just as inspiring to read about when things don’t go the way you planned.

    1. Kristina

      Thanks so much Sam. I am really glad to hear that! I know I found the ups and downs of other people’s training inspiring and motivating (but writing about my own downs is sort of eh, haha). Watching you come back from your surgery has been really inspiring!

  27. Katie @katiesfitscript

    Oh Kristina!!!! You are going to rock it the next time!!! I’m so sorry and we all know how tough you are so it must have been really hard to do that. It’s just as hard sometimes to do those kinds of things. Cheering for you always!!!

    1. Kristina

      Thank you so so much Katie! I am so lucky to have online running buddies. When I talk about dropping out of the race with my non-running friends I know they don’t really get it. I’m so happy to have this little community to vent to and receive support from – it’s so awesome!

  28. Kristen @ Glitter and Dust

    I was tracking you on Sunday and knew something might have been wrong around the 10K checkpoint. It sounds like you gave it your best but ultimately made the right decision for you and your body. I couldn’t imagine running a full marathon in that much pain — that is what the last couple of miles are for, not 26.2. Sometimes making the decision to stop during a race takes more courage than finishing a race. I know you were probably really bummed and frustrated, but it was out of your control. It sounds like you have a really good perspective on the entire situation. Cheers to next year and all of your upcoming races!
    Kristen @ Glitter and Dust recently posted…Happy One MonthMy Profile

  29. Heather @ GGR

    I am so sorry about what happened to you during the race. I understand how demoralizing it feels because I dropped out of the race one time if you years ago. But it also lit a fire in me and made me more determined. I peered at the same distance a month later because I was so motivated. Keep working toward your health right now and get better. You will come back stronger and more motivated. 🙂
    Heather @ GGR recently posted…The Bank Of America Chicago Marathon!!!My Profile

  30. Helly on the Run

    Oh man, I’m so sorry, Kristina! But you know you did the right thing. I’m sure you’ve heard me reference my own DNF in Phoenix and I totally understand how you feel. It sucks. Major. At the end of the day though, we love this sport too much to sacrifice our bodies for one race. We have waaay too many races in us to jeopardize that. You did the right thing. ♡
    Helly on the Run recently posted…Chicago Marathon {Race Recap}My Profile

  31. Jesica @rUnladylike

    I love your positive attitude and I love that this has “lit a fire” within you. You did so great this training cycle, learned so much about yourself as a runner and have loads to be proud of. I appreciate your honesty and rawness in your words and feelings you shared with us and I’ll be cheering for a quick recovery and swift miles ahead for you. Hearts and hugs! xo
    Jesica @rUnladylike recently posted…What Not Running Looks LikeMy Profile

  32. Heather

    Hi,
    I found your blog because I’m debating starting Chicago marathon this year but I’m injured. I’ve never dropped out of a race before. Do you stop at the medical tent and they provide a ride back to the start? Thanks! I hope your training has been going well.

    Heather

  33. GyGy

    I’m running this year 2016..super excited and scared. thanks for your BLOG!! Love it….umm $100 jacket….eek!

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