DNS a Race? 8 Tips for Moving On

By Janelle @ Run With No Regrets | running tips

Dec 15

Imagine this scenario:  You’ve trained for weeks or months, told everyone and anyone who’d listen about every detail about the race, and then you find out at the worst possible time that you CAN’T run the race you’ve been looking forward to after all.  What just happened?

You got a DNS. DNS = Did Not Start.  And it really, really sucks.  But there are ways to get through it and get over it!

Today I’m linking up at Tuesdays on the Run with Marcia’s Healthy Slice, No-Guilt Life, and MCM Mama Runs.  The theme this week is “The Agony of a DNF (did not finish) or DNS (did not start)”.  Go to any of their blogs to see what everyone is sharing on this topic!

By the way, congratulations to everyone who made the lottery for the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Run in DC on April 3, 2016!  I’ll see you there!

How to move on after DNS-ing a race... #runchat #totr #bibchat #sweatpink Click To Tweet

Have you ever had to DNS, or Did Not Start a Race? It's tough, but you can get through it with these 8 tips! Find even more running tips on runwithnoregrets.com

How to Get Through a Race DNS

I can share tips on how to get through a DNS because I’ve gone through it, more than once.  It’s not a fun experience at all, but it’s part of being a runner…

There’s the DNS that happens when you have a legitimate conflict such as family or work obligations or a sudden emergency where you can no longer attend a race.  I’ve never had that type of DNS.

Then there’s the DNS that happens due to situations that occur before you even get to your race, such as a serious injury.  That’s the type that I know best…

The first time I had to DNS was in 2013 when I had a stress fracture in the second metatarsal of my right foot.  I stopped running, wore a boot for months and hobbled around at work and my two grad school classes.  I had to miss the Get Your Rear in Gear 10K, which would have been my very first, and several other races I looked forward to completing.  It was a horrible start to a year that I hoped to do a lot of running.

Things got better and I moved on, but then I ended up having another DNS in the latter part of 2013.  After my return to running post-stress fracture, I experienced plantar fasciitis in both feet that was pretty painful.  I had to take up another round of physical therapy and had to pull out of the Runner’s World 10K.  I was so disappointed.

It was tough, but I made it through.  Here are ways that can help you if you ever have to DNS a race.

Let Out ALL of Your Emotions

It’s so important to process your emotions when it hits you that you have to DNS a race.  Did this race mean something special to you?  Were you running it for a special cause or as a challenge to yourself?  Were you traveling for the race, or running it with a close friend?  Was it super freaking expensive?

You may also like:  My Greatest Life Lessons From 5 Years of Running

When I went to the sports medicine doctor about my new foot pain, he almost instantly diagnosed that I had a stress fracture.  The tests weren’t in yet, but he knew.  I was DEVASTATED and refused to believe him.  I denied it.  I cried.  I was angry.  I blamed my running shoes.  I blamed myself.  Eventually, over time, I began to accept reality (that he was right) and cope with being injured.

It’s perfectly okay and NOT selfish at all to be upset that you’re not going to be able to do what you set out to do.  Be honest with yourself so that you can process the disappointment and move on.

Defer or Transfer the Race If Possible

When you find out that you cannot participate in a race, all may not be lost.  Thankfully, many races now provide options for deferring or transferring your race registration.  When you sign up for a race, read the fine print!

Even though I was disappointed with my performance in the Annapolis Classic Half Marathon in November, this was a really great race.  I appreciated that they offer FREE race transfers (you only pay the difference if you jump from a 10K to a half) and one-year race referrals for only $20.

After being diagnosed with Runner’s Knee in 2012, there was no way I was going to be able to run the Philadelphia marathon that year, so I had to drop from the marathon distance to the half marathon.  I was upset about it, and it ended up being my worst race ever, but I made it through.  Three years later and I still hope to run that race…

To recoup costs, some people like to sell their bibs to other runners, often reaching out on message boards online.  I’ve never done this personally, but it’s actually a pretty controversial topic.  If I did resort to selling my bib, I would at least try to find someone who’s the same gender and age range so that race results aren’t compromised for other runners.

Stay Away From the Running Blogs For a While

If you want to be miserable for as long as possible, keep reading training recaps from running bloggers as they prepare for the race that you were going to complete, but now can’t.

And if you’re a runner who’s injured, it especially stings to hear about everyone else’s races.  How could it not?  Yes, you’re happy for your running friends that are able to do great things, but it’s painful to remember that you have to be on the sidelines.

Don’t give yourself a constant reminder of a perceived failure.  Give yourself time – it may take weeks or even months before you can read or talk about running with other people due to your DNS.

One of the worst things about running is falling into the trap of constantly comparing yourself to others.  Don’t encourage the negativity.

If You’re Injured, Focus On Recovery

Physical Therapy...home away from home

Physical Therapy…home away from home

If you’re injured and you need to take physical therapy, give it your all!  Since I’ve been through physical therapy 3 times in my relatively short running career, I can tell you that the more effort you put into it, the sooner you’ll recover.  If you can go to PT 5 days a week, do it!  If you have exercises to do at home, do them diligently!

Physical therapy also serves as a great distraction, to be honest.  Focus on getting better and stronger with your PT exercises so that when you can run again, you’ll be well-prepared to get back at it!

Can’t Run? Volunteer!

Me volunteering at the ALA Fight for Air Stair Climb

Me volunteering at the ALA Fight for Air Stair Climb

Running isn’t always about your individual performance.  Many races are organized to raise funds for charitable organizations in the community.   If you have a DNS but can still attend the race, volunteer!  I wrote a guest post a while back about why all runners should volunteer at a race because it’s so important to give back.

Volunteering for a race, even a race that you hadn’t planned on participating before your DNS, is a great way to remember why you love to run.  You’ll see families cheering on their loved ones, receive genuine “Thank you”‘s from the runners that you assist on the course, you’ll see strangers from all walks of life supporting each other.

Races are always in need of volunteers.  See where you can help out!

Seek Support From Friends And Loved Ones

Running has become part of my identity.  I don’t know exactly when it happened, but I feel lost when I’m unable to run, especially when it’s due to something that was out of my control.

If you’re struggling with a DNS, or even a DNF (Did Not Finish), it’s so important to seek the support of your loved ones.  You don’t want to go into a dark place.  It may sound crazy or dramatic, but it’s very real!

You can talk to your fellow running friends who “get it”, or you can surround yourself with loved ones who don’t get it, but “get you” and want to be there for you during this difficult time.

Remember Why You Made Your Decision

There is a good possibility that you’ll feel regret for pulling out of a race before the big day.  But you have to remember why you made your decision.

Is compromising your health or even your home and career life really worth running a half marathon in Disney World?

You have instincts for a reason!  If I was stubborn and ran the full marathon back in 2012, I could have done some serious damage, and maybe I wouldn’t even be running today.  Think about the long-term game when it comes to running.

Honestly, sometimes things happen for a reason, and you have to learn to accept that in order to move on.

Look Ahead To Future Races

My first race after a wild 2013!

My first race after a wild 2013!

You can’t change the past, but you can look to your future.  They say that “there will always be other races” for a reason!

There are thousands of races around the world that you haven’t even imagined existing.  Maybe there’s an upcoming race on the same weekend of your next vacation.  Or maybe you can look to do the race that you DNS’d the following year – it comes back quicker than you think!

There are so many opportunities to run again, so do your best to stay optimistic!  Don’t let missing a race define your running potential.

Workouts for the Week:

Wednesday 12/9:  No abs and squats challenge.

Thursday 12/10:  I ended up not working out…it was the first night all week where I coiuld actually stay home and relax!

Friday 12/11:  Since I was lazy on Thursday, I doubled up on the Abs and squats challenge:  40 sit-ups, 50 crunches, 85 squats.

Saturday 12/12:  Rudolph Run!  It was a nice 3 miles on the Manayunk Towpath.  The weather was amazing!

Sunday 12/13:  Abs and squats challenge:  45 sit-ups, 60 crunches, 70 squats.

Monday 12/14:  Boot Camp Class – we focused on the upper body and hips.  Lots of rows, dips, and fire hydrants, plus some fun with the heavy rope.

Have you ever had to DNS a race?  How did you get through it?  

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