Let’s Talk DNFs

by Kenny Campbell, 2019 DBR Ambassador DNF: The three letters that no runner wants beside their name. So we’re all on the same page, they…


by Kenny Campbell, 2019 DBR Ambassador

DNF: The three letters that no runner wants beside their name. So we’re all on the same page, they stand for Did Not Finish, and anyone who has found themself on a start line knows this is the last way you want your race to end. I choose this topic to cover as, well… I have some recent experiences with it.

For some, ending a race with a DNF is not an option – they will go to every extreme to ensure that finish line is crossed. For myself, however, it is all situational, and my various DNFs can be attributed to a number of different things. Here’s what happened, and here’s what I learned as a result:

Black Mountain 50k: Due to last minute preparation, the day of the race I found myself running straight into a heat stroked mess. It was difficult because I knew the result was my fault – I simply hadn’t planned the day out right.

Death Valley Trail Marathon: This DNF was due to over-training, as the race was right after three others over three consecutive weekends. Another mental error on my part, I simply didn’t listen to my body and went in with a strained and fatigued IT band. Serious props to those of you who bite down and push through – that day, it just wasn’t me.

To me, neither of these situations seemed reason enough to warrant a DNF. As a result, I was hard on myself. After Death Valley, I used my DNFs as motivation, and changed my whole routine to eliminate the possibility of repeating my mistakes.

“I respect the 100-mile distance far more than ‘moving’ to the finish line just to call it a finish”

– Josh Wentzell, DBR Core Team Member, on his recent DNF at the Greenbriar 100 Mile Endurance Run

Next up, the San Diego 50 Miler: Although the race started strong, it all came to a halt at the 18-mile mark for medical reasons. One thing I haven’t touched on is the fact I live (and therefore run) with Type I Diabetes. About 14 miles in, my insulin pump failed, cutting off the one thing I can’t live without.

I made it to the next aid station, called upon my back-up plan of an insulin shot and the application of a new insulin pod, but with the sweat and rainy conditions the adherence wouldn’t stick. It was at this point I needed to make the best call for my health, which meant yet another DNF.

To me, we’re all out there running these races and distances for pure enjoyment. It’s about our motives, coming together, and being part of a community of like-minded individuals.

In the moment, DNFs can feel like the end of the world. Sometimes, however, making that difficult decision of bowing out instead of crossing the finish means you get to come back stronger on the next adventure. Learning my lessons with each one, I feel more ready than ever to tackle my next race.

While I hope none of you have to DNF, if it happens, that negative experience can be transformed into a positive one for the next event on that never-ending race calendar of yours.

Learn the lesson. Use it as motivation. And never allow it to doubt your ability to actually finish the distance.

This is Kenny’s first contribution to the DBR blog. In order to prevent your next DNF, check out our piece on keeping injury at bay!