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When a race doesn’t go as planned

Races are a constant source of highs and lows. When you have a good one, nothing can top the feeling of the course and reaching a goal. If you have a bad one, it’s easy to beat yourself up and stew over what went wrong – particularly if you’ve trained long and hard.

This happened to me quite recently. I trained all summer and diligently for a half marathon with the goal of a PR. It was my fifth official half marathon race and second since having a baby 14 months ago. Then, a comedy of errors occurred. A sinus infection that had derailed any training the last two weeks that didn’t get better, awful weather conditions and a weird shin thing that flared up recently. As you can expect, the race ended before it began – well four miles in, but close enough.

At first, I was devastated – as this is a distance I’ve run dozens of times, I trained and ran and got up at the crack of dawn, with nothing to show for it. Well, fortunately for you all, this is not my first ride at the DNF (did not finish) rodeo. Here are some tips to make it through this trying time:

  • Allow yourself to “grieve” – This could be crying in bed, being pissed at the world, eating a ridiculous amount of fried food – even all three. Allow yourself to feel frustrated, disappointed and the range of motions that come with dropping out of a race.
  • Reassess training approach – An upside to a DNF is that it forces you to reevaluate your goals and expectations going forward. What can I do to strengthen my immune system? How can I better mentally prepare for conditions that I wasn’t planning for? Sometimes a hard reality check is what’s needed to develop an even better approach going forward.
  • Take a breather – For me, sometimes the grind of training and missing my expectations means I need to do other things. Over the next month, I’ll probably focus on yoga and other group classes to take my mind off the disappointment. Some time away will get me pumped for when I’m ready to return to running.
  • Move on – A DNF is just one day. There are many other things to be proud of in your life. Sure it’s disappointing, but think about how validating it will be when you conquer that race in the future.

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Lauren Stewart
By: Lauren Stewart

Lauren Stewart is a freelancer writer from Michigan. She enjoys writing about beauty, health and fitness! She is passionate about learning new ways to take control of her health and wellness and is a makeup and skincare junkie! You can contact her by emailing