It truly was inevitable. Commit to running over the course of a lifetime and many things will eventually happen. Fun things, scary things, gross things. Also, sad things. Like crossing the start line but not crossing the finish line. The dreaded Did Not Finish. I think I am incredibly lucky to have run for as long as I have and only now experienced a DNF for the first time. Here is how it went down.
The Parks 10k was this past Sunday at West Potomac Park in DC. Full disclosure: I hadn't run since ATM. Spinning a lot, sure, but not running. I spent the three days before the race battling my first cold of the season and lingering pain in my left calf kept my butt glued to the bike. I knew that not finishing was a distinct possibility and I was surprisingly calm about it. MS was running it as well, with a decent shot at a PR, so I saw no reason not to give it a go.
I planned on doing exactly what I did at ATM, a 3:1 run/walk and take it from there. My pre-race warmup felt good and I started the race in the 11-12 mm pace section. I was three-quarters of the way through the first mile (and of course on a walk segment) when I can upon the first race photographer. Oh hey there!
I rounded the corner out of frame and began the trek towards Haines Point. In the span of a minute I started to feel discomfort in my left calf, decided to keep going forward, felt the discomfort approach pain, and then stopped. Just stopped. Turned off my Garmin. Made a u-turn. Took my bib off. Started the walk back to the start/finish line. It was quite anti-climactic, as I suppose most things are if you've hyped them up in your mind long enough.
There was a moment there where I felt like I could have let it all wash over me. Start crying and shake my fist at the sky and wonder why the hell I cannot catch a break. But I didn't. I don't think I consciously chose not to break down. I think my mind knew it wasn't worth the emotional energy, after all the time I've already wasted feeling sorry for myself this year, and skipped right to moving on. I shivered in the rain, watched friends sprint to the finish, and celebrated MS's shiny new PR.
Don't get me wrong, the DNF stung. But it could have been so much worse. This wasn't a goal race. It doesn't come close to what I've got my eyes on. Pushing through could have been catastrophic for the big scary goal to come. I've already dusted myself off and dug into this week of sweaty work. Live to run another day.