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DNF. For most people, these letters have no meaning. But if you see them on your race results, it can be soul crushing. “Did Not Finish.”

Why is it that as an athlete, we feel that a DNF means we’re inadequate? Personally, DNF is a hard pill to swallow. After my DNFs, my negative self-talk really kicks in.

But a DNF doesn’t mean you’re not good; it simply means that despite all the training and effort you put in, it just wasn’t your day. And that’s ok! JUST REMEMBER, you’re not alone. Many athletes share this experience, even pros and elites!

Coping With a DNF:

You were pulled off the course for a reason. It could be that you weren’t making the time cutoffs,, it could be a medical reason, or maybe your body just physically couldn’t do it that day. In the moment, it’s ok to grieve the loss and feel sad. Feel those feelings; it’s ok.

But don’t stay there. When you’re ready, take the DNF and learn from the experience. What can you work on to improve your pace? Could you have fueled more frequently to reduce bonking? Is there anything else you could work on to prevent a future DNF? Could working with a coach help? It’s also ok if there was nothing you could have changed.

Never Give Up:

" Why do you keep trying?" I actually hear this sometimes. “Why not just give up?” Or, “Why do you put yourself through this?”

I simply reply with, “The moment I stop trying is the real moment I fail.” I race and train to maintain my mental and physical health and I really do love endurance racing. I also like to test my limits and after I process a DNF, I think, “Can I improve to finish, or not?”

So, I try again to see if I can finish. And I have, in some situations. I also learned that I cannot function in cold water. I’m also so inspired by others, and I know that if I keep training and learning, I will smash all my goals. That’s what keeps me coming back for more. To some I may seem stubborn, but I prefer to be called determined and tenacious.

What's Next:

Now that you have grieved your loss, learn from the experience and decide what you’ll do next. Every athlete’s journey is a personal one, so only you can decide what that next step will be. But I do have a few suggestions to help you get through it. If you struggled with time cutoffs, find a coach or a club and find others who can help you reach your goals. If you experienced a medical issue, be sure to see a doctor and find out if there are any underlying causes you need to address. If it was a fluke, just train and try again. Whatever your why is, never lose focus or give up on yourself. Because you got this!

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8/8/2023 | 2 min read

DNF Blues

By Misty Utter, LMFT

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