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DNF of the Soul – iRunFar

DNF of the Soul – iRunFar

[Editor’s Note: This Community Voices piece comes from Lydia Thomson of the U.K.]

There are such a lot of methods you possibly can slice a DNF (didn’t end). “It simply wasn’t your day.” “You probably did the proper factor.” “Figuring out when to cease is even tougher than ending.” “You’ll come again stronger.” “It’s nonetheless an awesome achievement.”

After I dropped from my first try at working 100 miles, on the 2023 Thames Path 100 Mile, these kinds of encouraging condolences got here flooding in from my associates. I nodded weakly and stated, “Thanks,” however on the time, none of those really sat proper. What did I would like folks to say?

In the course of the hour I spent sitting in an assist station at mile 71, I desperately wished somebody to only stage with me. To correctly hear me out. I do know what a low level appears like, and this wasn’t it. Type hearts pressed sweets into my arms and invited me to stroll with them. “Have some sizzling meals earlier than you determine. Some tacky beans?” My eyes flooded with tears. I may solely smile and shake my head.

My DNF was on account of a specific amount of psychological burnout. I used to be within the strategy of transferring home and altering jobs on the time. About 45 miles into the race, the River Thames overwhelmed me and I had a panic assault. I imagined strolling into the subsequent assist station and dramatically proclaiming, “It’s not my physique that’s injured, it’s my thoughts.”

Operating 100 miles is a fierce and delightful beast, and if in case you have something occurring mentally or bodily, the race will discover it and power you to stare lengthy and onerous at it. It’s not about how far you possibly can run, it’s about how lengthy you possibly can stare.

Lydia Thomson - 2023 Thames Path 100 Mile

Lydia Thomson throughout the 2023 Thames Path 100 Mile. All pictures courtesy of Lydia Thompson.

“That is the place you’ll uncover who you actually are,” one variety runner stated to me. “However what if I don’t wish to know?” I replied, and the entire assist station laughed in sympathy. Nevertheless it was the truest factor I may have stated.

So right here, now, on the sweat-soaked, dribbling finish of the race, nursing a cup of tea, I had no tenacity left to rally. However neither did I come right here for a loss of life march. I used to be right here to do my finest and nothing much less. A fizzing, bright-eyed lady advised me that if I completed this one, I’d by no means must do one other one. However that was the precise drawback: I desperately wished to do one other one, and do it higher.

As I sat there, watching the ladies who had been behind me flood into the help station, I selected to study from and be impressed by them. Subsequent time, I too could be marching neatly towards the snacks, deciding on precisely what I wanted with nimble fingers and laughing with the volunteers.

The time it takes to run an ultramarathon is a extremely very long time. It’s a very long time to be sad. I’m not speaking concerning the regular ebbs and flows, the crushing low factors, the ache cave or bonking. I imply basically having an atrocious day. I’d felt cripplingly low for 10-plus hours by this level. There was no manner I used to be getting back from the lifeless. I had realized sufficient and there was nothing to be gained from me carrying on. It could solely impede my possibilities of doing this once more quickly, and doing it how I wished to.

In case your important purpose is to complete the race, then you shouldn’t drop simply since you’re having a nasty day. But when the wheels haven’t solely come off, however they’ve rolled into the river and been swept out to sea, and also you’ve nonetheless obtained 30 miles to go, you might be allowed to throw within the soggy towel.

I wish to normalize dropping from a race simply since you really, actually don’t wish to proceed. I need a model of this sport the place there is no such thing as a glory within the loss of life march — not in the event you don’t need it. Folks advised me I’d be kicking myself for dropping. I by no means, ever did. You realize why? As a result of that is what my associates additionally stated:

“That was an awesome coaching run. You’ll get it subsequent time.”

I gave myself a while earlier than I booked the subsequent try to verify I’d go into it with the proper physique and thoughts. Three months later, I used to be on the beginning line for the 2023 North Downs Manner 100 Mile, a hillier course that higher suited my soul. I went out at a extremely conservative tempo, and over the course of the day, I moved up the rankings. Within the closing 10 kilometers, kicking with all the pieces I had left, I overtook a girl to place myself on the rostrum. I completed in third place and in simply over 23 hours.

Lydia Thomson - 2023 Centurion Running North Downs Way 100 Mile - finish line

Lydia Thomson crossing the end line on the 2023 North Downs Manner 100 Mile, her first 100-mile end.

Retribution feels fairly nice. It feels notably nice as a result of this was what I wished to be able to. All I wished was to complete sturdy. However the place does that depart the DNF?

One of the hanging issues about Sally McRae’s current movies — “Each Step Ahead” and “Racing Tahoe” — is the way wherein she relentlessly pushes on. Her ft are principally falling off and her abdomen is totally failing her for miles of the races, however nonetheless she strives. Likewise, listeners to Dylan Bowman’s account of his 2023 Hardrock 100 on the Freetrail podcast shall be left totally awestruck that he completed that race in any respect. It’s an astonishing journey of the thoughts.

What is obvious in each of those instances is that they’d a robust “why” for ending. They’d a better objective. And certainly, if somebody had stated to me, “You’ll want to end this race for the sake of the illustration of girls on this sport,” I wish to suppose that I’d have rallied for this objective.

By the way, throughout the 100 miler that I did end, I used to be on my interval, and had a low level after I realized it was 10 miles till the subsequent rest room the place I may discreetly change. And I had cramps. Simply as I used to be knee deep in sulking, none aside from Sophie Energy — founding father of the group SheRACES — ran previous me in the other way, waving and smiling on a coaching run.

Instantly my totally manageable subject paled into insignificance. I used to be not alone with this drawback on this world. I used to be experiencing one thing that she was actively working to make higher. It was simply the tinder I wanted to give up my pity occasion and begin preventing once more.

That’s what resolve felt like. That’s what I couldn’t entry the primary time. Maybe that is the marker of success or failure.

I believe I may solely do any of this due to the DNF. I’m grateful for it. Settled in my new residence within the weeks after the race, and again working the paths, I used to be grateful that I saved my legs the agony of that additional 30 miles. For me — and perhaps for you — dropping was the best respect I may have proven to my thoughts, physique, and objectives that day.

I’m on this for the lengthy haul. I’m all in.

Name for Feedback

  • Have you ever had any DNFs that you just don’t remorse or are grateful for?
  • The place do you draw the road in deciding it’s time to give up?

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