Monday, January 16, 2012

DNF and the success of "failure"


For those of you who are newer to running DNF = Did not finish. As in I tried to run this marathon but broke a leg at mile 16 and got a DNF.

DNF is a big scary fear I've had and I would venture to say a fear for many of my fellow runners. Why?  Because in my mind (and possibly others) DNF somehow = failure.

The fear of DNF is what motivates us to train, get out there in sub zero weather and plug away at the miles but DNF has an evil side as well. The fear of DNF prevents many of us from even trying.

And DNF isn't just for runners or running. How many things in our lives do we limit ourselves in because of some sort of looming and scary threat of DNF.

For the New Year it struck me that many people are so fearful of "DNF" that they don't even bother to set goals or resolutions at all. More than once I heard, "I don't set goals because then I don't set myself up for disappointment."

There was something profoundly bothersome to me about that type of statement.

I'm not trying to judge, here. Believe me I was once that person as well.

What I've learned is, we have to get over our fear of DNF. DNF fear holds us back. When we aren't willing to fail we limit ourselves and we wind up living lives less of what we are capable of.

Words To Run By
My friend Sara from Words To Run By, didn't let DNF scare her from signing up for the GOOFY challenge in Disney World.  The Goofy challenge is a two day ultra marathon. One day running a half marathon followed by a full the very next day both taking place thru Disney theme parks. This challenge is not for the faint of heart.

Sara trained, she tried and she gave it her all. You need to read her journey of it, it's amazing.  Talk about strength, fearlessness, perseverance, pride, passion.  She completed her first 13.1 on Saturday and started her day two full marathon in pain, with a blister the size of Wisconsin and very little sleep - but she went into it with open arms.  She was an absolute warrior and stotan thru more than 22 miles until her body gave up and the volunteers made the call to take her off the course. She left it all out there. But is Sara sad that she only (ha) completed 35 out of 39 miles? UM no. Nor should she.

35 miles out of 39 - failure?  I think not. Anyone would consider that a triumph and an incredible accomplishment.  A roaring success in my book.

She fearlessly ran with a DNF hanging over her head.  She didn't reach the physical finish line but shit. She had the courage to try.  DNF shouldn't mean did not finish - it should mean - did not fail. We are never failures if we are trying and dreaming big and going for it with gusto. Failure is placing limitations on ourselves.  If Sara decided to "shoot" for a 5K, 10K, or just the half she would've been "successful" in reaching the finish line… but Sara and her "did not fail" got so much more from not being afraid to dream big.

Someone commented on Sara's Facebook page, DNF is better than DNS (did not start) and that is something that will stick with me forever. I will gladly take a DNF over a DNS any day of the week.

Stop being afraid to fail. If you never fail, you're not aiming high enough.

Along the same theme - I saw this amazing video yesterday:



nikki said...


The Diminutive Runner said...

Great post! I actually felt teary as I watched the video.

What you've said is very true, and I agree that it should be "did not fail"! I'm going to remember this as I brave new challenges this year!

BabyWeightMyFatAss said...

What a great post for Sara!

The Skårtist said...

wow. great post. thanks, for another inspiring (and teary eyed) start to my day!

Anonymous said...

What a great post! I'm completely on board with "Did Not Fail"! I personally have shared running dreams with people and been told, no, that's too much. But I think it's just right, no guts, no glory!

Katie Foster said...

This is a FANTASTIC post! I'm going to link to it in my blog today, if I can remember to.

Anonymous said...

Reposted on my blog. I felt like a failure today for not running to work this morning in -2*. Not so much now!!

Sara said...

Amazing. You bring such clarity to the subject of "failure" and what a DNF TRULY means. As you know, I am still working through a lot of the feelings I have about this race and your post just helps me along that path. Thank you for all of your support and encouragement, friend. It truly means a lot to me!

Thank you for sharing my story. I have learned a lot about what a DNF means, and I don't think I will ever look at it as a failure again. I am going to share your post with my runners - everyone needs to read this!

Sara said...

And thank you for the video - it has me in tears - awesome!!

Erica Gorman said...

What an amazing post and you are right, so many of us may equate F to failure instead of finish. I need to share this with dear hubby as he is about to attempt his first marathon in a few days.

Jason said...

that is awesome and STOTAN for damn sure.

I couldn't agree more about the fear of failure. I have a theory that this is why people say they can't run 4 hour marathons or run a 25 minute 5k or whatever and its the fear of failure but more than that it is the fear of pain.

You have to put your body and mind through pain to get faster and that is still no guarantee that you will be successful.

I tried my damndest to qualify for Boston in Vegas and was unsuccessful. I put my body to the test and pushed as hard as I could and my body told me not today young man but maybe tomorrow. I did not fail, but instead I learned valuable lessons. I know I will never run a marathon where I am trying to qualify for Boston or PR in December after a long year of training and racing. My body just couldn't handle it even if it made it through 22 miles.

Caroline said...

the fear of failure...I am glad I dont have that...I prefer to try and miss than not try at all.

Amanda said...

Just found your blog. What an inspiration.

Unknown said...

Thanks everyone -

Especially Sara who inspired the blog with her willingness to DNF!

:) Love the comments.

Anonymous said...

I am so inspired...thanks for hope, I really needed it tonight

Frøken P. said...

Very inspiring! :-)

dupster said...

I miss my dad.

Maria Simone said...

Love this post!

Like you, I will take DNF over DNS any day. And, a healthy fear of DNF will keep us going - but too much and it gets in the way of fulfilling our dreams.

Emz said...

Ok girl. How did I miss this post. I'm favoriting this post.
It's amazing.
Great post. Great. Great. Great. Post.
And that video.
Tears every time.
Love it.

RunToTheFinish said...

ohh i love that did not fail. i think for me DNF has never been an issue because it means i had the courage to start