DNF: Trying to Find Answers

So. The week after the DNF. I spent some time trying to find answers to what happened during the race, so that I can hopefully prevent it from happening again. I am all about reflecting on and learning from experiences so I was eager to figure everything out. Plus I think it’s important to talk about the aftermath of the DNF as part of the whole experience. So here goes.

The days following the DNF were a little worrisome. I didn’t feel “right” for quite a few days following the race and was having some lingering issues that led me to go to my doctor on Tuesday once we were back in town. I don’t really want to go into too much detail but my female readers can probably figure it out. I also just felt a bit beat up, really weak and tired with no energy. I wanted to get everything checked out to see if there were any red flags that could have caused what happened to me during the race and if it was related to what was going on afterwards.

No running, lots of yoga, walking and stick rolling

No running, lots of yoga, walking and stick rolling

At my appointment my doctor said she wanted to do some blood work to check my iron levels, hormones, and thyroid. She also gave a pregnancy test. I really thought it could be related to my thyroid. I have had hypothyroidism since I was 16 and uncontrolled levels can cause a lot of symptoms like fatigue, weakness, inability to regulate body temperature, etc.- all things I was experiencing. An out-of-whack thyroid can definitely cause the body to shut down in a high-stress situation like a marathon.

On Friday I received the results of my blood work. Everything came back negative and/or in normal ranges. So long story short- I still don’t have answers.

It’s now been a week since the race and I’m finally back to feeling like my old self. The more I think about what happened the more I think my body was still holding on to a little bit of the sickness I had earlier in the week before the marathon. I think it weakened my body, causing me to be more susceptible to dehydration and electrolyte imbalance (despite me diligently followed my fuel and hydration plan). That combined with some of the race conditions- mainly crazy amounts of wind- drained my energy and eventually came to a head, and my body just shut down at mile 21. I am also assuming that all of that stress on my body caused my other issues that happened after the race was over.

In addition to trying to figure out what went wrong with my body I’ve done a lot of reading this week- looking for fellow bloggers’ DNF posts and people with similar experiences. It was extremely comforting to know that I am not alone in the DNF club, and many of the posts by my fellow runners were so similar to mine that I felt like I could have written it myself. I found this article about how to know when to quit a race and what can cause it. It’s basically a thread conversation between different runners. The original author agrees with what I said in my recap post, that there is a difference between pushing yourself and going too far. He says a few of the signs that your body is approaching the point of real bodily damage are nausea, vomiting and dry heaving, inability to take deep breaths, inability to maintain body temperature and uncontrollable shaking- in addition to others- but these are three of the symptoms I experienced. He is an ultra-runner, but what he says is applicable to other race distances as well. Reading this reassured me that I was smart to stop and I was thankful I was able to listen to these messages my body was sending me.

My happiest part of the race- running with Kevin at mile 13

My happiest part of the race- running with Kevin at mile 13

I liked what he said here: “The problem we face is this: We are too often controlled by our brain and not our body. We can trick our brains into believing almost anything, so if we use our brain as a measure of when to push or when to quit, we risk making the wrong decision. The body is smarter than our brains think it is.”

So it’s clear my body shut down. But why did it happen? As far as the reasons why most runners end of DNFing, one person shared the following.

  1. Going out too fast. [Nope- the pace I was running was exactly what I had practiced all throughout my training and felt comfortable]
  2. Lack of adequate training going into the race. [I had my strongest training cycle to date with no injuries at all, running faster paces than ever]
  3. Lingering injury or illness. [YES- I had a sore throat, cough, congestion and fatigue that started on Sunday the week before the race. I took medicine hydrated and slept a ton to fight if off and felt fine by Thursday]
  4. Traumatic injury during the event. (such as tripping and spraining an ankle) [None]
  5. Other reasons not listed.

In conclusion, my best guess is that all of this happened because of my sickness in the week leading up to the race, plus a few of the race conditions that were not ideal. Whatever the reason was, it just wasn’t my day in Myrtle Beach last weekend and that’s okay. Things happen for a reason. There was a reason why I didn’t finish the race, and I know there will be better things coming.

A sweet card and flowers from two amazing friends after the race

A sweet card and flowers from two amazing friends after the race

So here I sit a week later. I am not injured. I feel healthy again. I ran for the first time since the race this morning with my two Kevins. It was 60 degrees and absolutely beautiful outside. We ran an easy 3 miles and I loved every single second of it. I felt amazing.


I am still trained to run a marathon. I feel like I have unfinished business to take care of. But I still don’t know where to go from here. I have a couple local options if I want to make another marathon attempt. There is one in two weeks in Maryland and one in three weeks in DC- both would be new states for me. But I am still not sure if I want to, if I should, if I have it in me physically and mentally to try again. I guess we will see…



4 responses to “DNF: Trying to Find Answers

  1. Amanda marsengill

    I saw pregnancy test and got excited… I was like “called it!” Lol. Glad everything checked out OK… everything happens for a reason… for all we know you were going to fall and injure yourself near the finish or something crazy/dangerous was going to happen, so the powers that be took you out of the situation before you got near it… you’ll get your sub-4 marathon 🙂

    • Haha, and you weren’t the only one who asked Amanda! I had at least 3 other people send me messages about it. Not quite ready for that yet! But I really like your perspective of why everything happened- what a great way to look at it! Thank you!!

  2. What does DNF stand for?

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