The day I took a DNS


Signing up, training for, and getting to the start line of a race is an accomplishment in itself. Managing weeks or months of training (injury free) can make the race feel like a completely different entity. It is a finish line beyond a start line.

I ran a fun summer half-marathon. I signed up for the half-marathon when I was full of gusto and inspiration. I was losing a bit of motivation (and speed) by the time the race day came around, but surprised myself by almost running a PB (personal best). I thank the two km’s of downhill along the course for that.

After that I kept running. As usual after a race, my coach ensured I had fun, easy, inspiring, no-time-goal runs. I was reminded of why I love to run.

One day my foot hurt. It was a strange pain under the arch of my toes, like my metatarsal bones were suddenly squished. I stopped, loosened my laces, massaged my foot. It was sore, but I finished the half hour run home.

For the next weeks, between visits to physiotherapy and massage, I kept running. I limped when I wasn’t running. My foot caused me a lot of pain, but in my runner-brain I figured it wasn’t broken so I could probably keep going.



I had a marathon planned in six weeks. My mileage was not increasing. I decided that if I could work up to run three hours without altering my stride to compensate for pain, I would run the race. I was currently topped out at two hours and was (literally) limping from a standstill. (Momentum and adrenaline (and sheer stupidity) helped a lot with keeping me going).

Diagnoses were varied as I could never express my symptoms in the same way twice. It was hard to distinguish root causes from deferred pain. The top of my foot would swell (tendonitis) and the side of my foot was sore (stress fracture) and I would get pain under my toes (intermetatarsal neuroma).

I write this the night before the race. I picked up my bib today knowing that tomorrow will be my first DNS (did not start). It happens, certainly. When I talk to other runners they all have a story of the race -usually races- that they had every intention of running, but didn’t. Such is the nature of sport, and life.

Consequently, I have not spent the last week checking the weather every 15 min.

I do not have three different outfits laid out depending on how I may feel in the morning. I am not wondering how many grams of carbs and protein I am eating. I am not strategizing the least amount of time needed to optimally get to both gear check and the port-o-potty in the morning before the start. I am not counting how many hours of sleep I could get tonight. Or how many I got last night, the more important night of rest.

I am still getting up early. I plan to go and watch friends run and take in the atmosphere. I will cheer on their efforts and applaud their dedication and determination. I will embrace the DNS in a new way: as a Daring New Spectator.

11 thoughts on “The day I took a DNS

  1. Sorry to hear about your DNS. It is better to be smart and run another day.
    I had to DNS a 16 mile race late this winter due to a training related injury. I came back and ran a few PRs this year. Being smart is the smart thing to do. I know it sucks, but it will work out!
    Cheers – Andy

    • Hi Andy,
      I’ve also heard of others running PRs after taking some ‘forced’ time off. Things are slowly improving, there are just days where the ‘slowly’ part is more frustrating than others.

  2. Tania, what a great attitude you have. I bet your friends will appreciate you being there at the race to cheer them on. As for your poor foot, it sounds doing the DNS was the only thing to do. I hope your foot feels better soon.

    • Hi Amy,

      It was fun to see everyone out running and racing and doing so well. And I got to go home and not feel exhausted! Ha ha. But it’s the sense of satisfaction after weeks of training that really do cumulate in a race. I’m trying to be patient and appreciate that I can still walk and that my health is good. Thanks for your kind words!

  3. Sometimes you just have to do what’s best for you. At least you aren’t too stubborn to admit that running that marathon wasn’t the best idea. I have DNS-ed way too many races this year due to an injury similar to yours. When I found out it was a stress reaction (finally, after many crappy diagnosis) I had really wished I took time off instead of trying to run through the pain. Give yourself the time and space you need to get better. When you come back, you will feel so great. I’m sending lots of positive thoughts your way!

    • Hi Martha,
      Thanks for your thoughts and your wise perspective. Can you tell me more about your ‘stress reaction’ diagnosis? I’m sure I took time off probably 3-4 weeks later than I should have but you never really know when you are making things worse, until you DO make things worse. Plus, I thought I could keep going and it would just ‘improve.’ At least I gave up on the idea of the marathon early enough that I had not invested heavily in my training yet.
      I hope you are feeling better now. Are your feet happy now?

      • Mine showed symptoms of shin splints, but only in my left shin. I went to the ER after one particularly painful run and they basically told me no running for 2 weeks and follow up with my doctor. I felt fine in two weeks, tried to run again, felt wretched again, couldn’t get into my doctor until 2 weeks later 😦 she told me stress fracture and ordered an MRI. Had to fight with my insurance company over a month to get said MRI, and by the time I got it, there was signs of a healed stress reaction (after my doctor had to fight with the hospital for a week to get the results.) I’m back to good again, just a lot more cautious than I used to be. But basically I had to take about 8 whole weeks off running (+2 if you count the time in between the ER and the doctor.) ugh. If you think you might have a stress reaction, I highly suggest you go see your doctor as soon as they can get you in. No sense in prolonging the potential diagnosis. I wish you well! Get yourself fixed so you can feel better again!

    • Hi V,
      If my foot was really broken I might feel better about the whole thing. These nebulous, non-visible injuries are like an assault to your ego. But — time is what it needs and it will get better. I’m finding other ways to keep busy, though breathing underwater is surprisingly difficult!

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