A 25 Mile DNF is NOT a Failure

Four years after I was ecstatic to make the list for Bill’s Bad Ass 50K I finally took part in the event. In 2011 I sat out due to my heart condition. In 2012 I sat out due to leg injury and post dog attack issues. In 2013 I ran away to Kentucky for what I thought was a true love story. 2014 was the year I knew despite kidney stones, depression and blah blah blah I was showing up at the starting line…and guess what? I did!

The week before I ate properly and stretched and rested. The day before I drank plenty of water/sports drink mix and carb loaded. The night before I set out my outfit and settled into bed. Then at 700 AM and as the sun rose over the trees, I found myself joining a group of wonderful friends for a day out in the woods. It was about 30 degrees, we all dressed in many, many layers and were thankful it didn’t rain or snow, or get too windy.

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The race itself involves 6 laps around a 5 mile course. After the six laps, runners head across the road to a ridiculous and steep hill about a mile long both ways. Haha. At the top one must collect a piece of candy to prove you made it to the top, and bring it back down to the “finish line”.

Most people bring lots of food and drink to share. I arrived early to drop $40 worth of groceries off. I didn’t need 90% of them, but I never know what I’ll want, and with allergies it’s better to have and not need than to need and not have a choice. I started my morning with half a Wendy’s grilled chicken sandwich. I’ve done this for most of my races this year and I have yet to experience any issues. Along with Megan (pictured above) and Melissa I jogged off into the distance. It didn’t take long for most people to pass us by and Melissa and I were bringing up the rear with smiles and stories.

I don’t know the exact elevation of the course, I don’t wear a Garmin or anything else anymore. I find it distracts from my true enjoyment of running.  AKA I get too competitive and goal oriented. I can tell you at the end of the event my FitBit registered a TON more steps than expected (consistent with the extra movement of trail running) and it thinks I climbed 300 floors. Since I finished 5 laps, that would be about 60 floors per loop? Anyway. Yes, lots of hills, 3.5 water crossings and mud and leaves.

About 2/3 of the way into the first loop, another friend of mine came across the trail. She started late and managed to catch up with us. I went off with her briefly thinking I’d never keep up long and would wait for Melissa not too far in the distance. Amazingly I kept up with Tap and after 2 laps together her friend Randy joined for another 2 loops.

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If you’re doing the math, that puts us at 10 miles with Melissa/Tap then 10 more miles with Tap/Randy for 20 total miles. One of the BEST moments of the whole race happened with Tap on our second loop. During a “flatter” section of the course I pulled out the second half of my sandwich. I hadn’t told her about my meal plan, so when she looked over to say something she did a double take before saying “Where the F*** did you get a Wendy’s sandwich?” And as I was laughing and almost choking she continues “No. For real. I don’t see a F*** drive-up window in the woods” Not sure if the second part is a direct quote though. I guess that is a weird sight, huh?

Near the end of the 4th loop I was feeling FANTASTIC. I swear it was my steady diet of having a grape G2 Gatorade (12 oz) and a package of Golden Oat BelVita Breakfast Biscuits every loop. I had all the energy and strength I could have hoped for and almost pulled a negative split. I phoned my Mom quickly to tell her to expect me for my last loop at 3:30 PM.

Running/walking my 5th loop alone was not a concern. I enjoyed the quite time to reflect and I wasn’t really alone. In fact I was shocked how many people kept coming by on the trail. Both runners and casual hikers out and about on a Saturday. Sadly, the miles caught up with me somewhere between 20-25 miles and I slowed down without knowing it. Mom met me very close to the end of the loop and we jogged in together. It was between 3:45 and 4:00. I missed the cut off and was dropped from the race. The cut off was set to keep all runners and volunteers from being in the dark. Probably a little for safety reasons, but also because it’s an all volunteer (free) event so who wants to be out there that long?


Sure, there was a part of me that was super bummed. A bigger part of me was SUPER pleased though. I just ROCKED 25 realllllllly difficult trail miles. I wasn’t sick, or moody or anything negative and the drop wasn’t my “choice” or “needed”. I COULD have finished if there wasn’t a time limit. Heck I even played the “what if” game and realized if I ran a lil faster and took quicker aid station breaks, I could have made THIS cut off. Yet, I also knew this was the best thing for me. I accomplished my goals.

  1. I showed up and started the race (enough right there)
  2. I gave what I could (had to hold back to keep safe for Philly)
  3. I had FUN

Walking over to Chef Bill’s car, I turned in my $10 to buy a mug since I didn’t earn one for free. I kept a smile on my face the whole time. It was a great event and I did it without hurting myself, meaning I will be good to go for Philly next weekend.

I know it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea to start an event they know they may not finish. I know a lot of people would be embarrassed to post a DNF. Today and for this race, I’m not either of those groups. In my book, a 25 mile DNF is NOT a failure. I was able to enjoy the day with friends I was able to learn about myself and my body, and I’m able to keep being active and healthy, How could that be wrong?

2 thoughts on “A 25 Mile DNF is NOT a Failure

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