What does it mean to DNF?


A couple weekends ago, I got my first DNF. I have dreaded the DNF since I started running ultramarathons nearly four years ago. Up until now, it hasn’t happened, but that dreaded Saturday morning down at Apollo Bay….it hit me….rational thought.

There is nothing rational about running ultramarathons. The reason I have never DNF’d before is because a little black out, dehydration, a kidney infection, these things were just par for the course. I have always been prepared to go there for a finish. Don’t get me wrong, not every race is about reaching the lowest of lows but for the mid pack runners who spend a bloody long time out on course, chances are something might go wrong. I have always been prepared to run through the wrong and deal with the consequences later.

Saturday, I just wasn’t prepared to go there. I could not be bothered, so I did not bother. I pulled out after a lazy 32km.

I thought I was exhausted and had nothing in the tank, but once I got to the finish line to hand in my GPS tracker and officially pull out of the race, I started to feel guilty for not doing stuff. So I volunteered to help set up the finish line. I raked the finish line oval with a broken rake. I woke up the next morning with a bloody sore back, but I certainly had enough energy to do that. So I probably had enough energy to finish the race…. BUT….I couldn’t be bothered.

I have always believed ultra marathons are a mental sport. It’s why so many of us who are not naturally gifted athletes can have a real go. Never have I believed this more than following my DNF. My mind was not prepared to race that fateful Saturday and so my body did not have a choice in the matter.

Now, to get philosophical, why couldn’t I be bothered?

I was stressed. Life was being a bit of a bitch. The race had been the furthest thing from my mind. I hadn’t mentally prepared and got in the game.

Now post DNF, what has this reflective time taught me?

Well I’m still stressed. Life is still being a bitch.

I was out running on Sunday and I thought to myself, funny how I haven’t even thought about the DNF too much since the race. Running just isn’t that big a deal in the whole scheme of things.

Then as I continued to plod along in my run my stress caught up with me. I was thinking about work. Having arguments with people in my head. Reflecting on hurtful things people have said. I was getting anxious and I started to run harder. Then I started to think about all the times that running had gotten me through. I started to think of running as an unconditional BFF. Through all my terrible times, running has always gotten me through, always brought me some happiness.

In fact all the other things in life suddenly didn’t seem so important. Work – fuck it! A holes – fuck them! Money – who needs it? All those things on my to do list – fuck em!

Running is so important for no other reason than it lets me forget all those stressful things. It lets me connect with nature, with my running community, with myself. It makes me happy.

And so to running, my unconditional BFF, I say to you I’m sorry. I’m sorry I put all those grown up things that adults are supposed to prioritise above you. They are not more important than you. In fact, I only survive in this adult world with you by my side. Thanks for being a great friend through all these years and I promise to give you more attention, to treat you with the love and respect you deserve.


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About tashytuffnut

ultramarathon runner, desert runner, trail runner, musician, vegetarian, tattoos, lawyer.

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