No Category selected Having trouble counting

    Having trouble counting


    As I have been catching bits of the coverage of the Olympic Games and hearing results and stories in the news, I have been considering all of the stories of great triumph, as well as the stories of bitter disappointment. While I am not going to pretend I know what it’s like to not finish an event at the Olympics, I do know a little bit about bitter disappointment – after all, I did DNF a marathon at the 30K mark.  Well, that’s not entirely true – I stopped just short of the 30K timing mat.

    I can honestly say that I am mostly over it – only one or two questions linger on, one of which is, how do you count it?

    …carry the one…

    When talking with people and they ask, “how many marathons have you done?” I am left with a dilemma – and when you’re in this position, you notice people rarely say “how many marathons have you run,” it’s always, “how many have you done?”

    Races covering the distance forty-two kilometres, one hundred ninety five metres, crossing a start line and a finish line and having the medal to prove it? Four. I have finished four marathons.

    But races covering six months of dedication, training, rest, nutrition, injury, recovery, weird dreams, blisters, blood, sweat, tears, joy, GI discomfort, extreme heat, extreme cold, going to bed early, getting up early, being abstemious, being gluttonous, being completely and utterly absorbed with every fibre of my being? I’ve done that five times now.

    Now don’t worry, I never answer the question “how many marathons have you done?” with five, because I haven’t finished five.  Like earning a diploma or certification, you can’t say you’ve got it if you’re one credit short – either you’re certified or you’re not – and I don’t have a problem with that.

    But at the same time, saying I have run four marathons seems to cheapen everything that went into that other marathon, which was every bit as much effort as the four I’ve finished. After all, I was 6 months and 30K into the race, with only 12.2K to go.  But saying “I have finished four and dropped out of one” seems stupid – even as I type this it looks stupid.  So suddenly that race is like Alan in the first “Hangover” movie – you can’t leave him behind, but you don’t really want him tagging along, either. Or the 4+1 bedrooms in the real estate listings – that +1 can’t be called a bedroom for some legal reason, but it’s there, by golly!

    When I started writing this post, I was thinking, “The marathon I didn’t finish was my second, so I have completed three since then – get over it already.”  But as the post unfolded, I realized, I am over it. I don’t feel the need to make it all complicated and awkward – after all, I can honestly say it isn’t so much an emotional hang up for me anymore.  It was important to me at the time to mention that I had been through it all again; that crazy answer to a fairly simple question became more habit than logic.

    So having said all that, I have a new answer: “I’ve finished four.”  After all, I am not embarrassed to say I have a DNF in my history, and the story really comes in handy more than you might think. The people who need to will pick up on the strategic placement of the word “finished.”

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    A runner for just over four years, Karen has already completed a marathon, two half marathons and a variety of 5k and 10k races. She describes her first marathon - the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon last September - as "a nightmare." However, she met a very interesting person in the process - a man named Sydney who was running his 152nd marathon! Although the race didn't go as well as planned for Karen or Sydney, he showed her that no matter how experienced a runner you are, you can still have a bad day. "Does that mean we shouldn't bother to prepare, or maybe just shouldn't bother at all? Of course not!" says Karen. "In the end, it is what we make it." We like her optimism!


    1. Great post (as usual!) I have a similar experience; I actually had a last minute DNS because if a family emergency. When people ask me how many marathons I have done, I reply, “I have run five marathons but have trained for six.”

    2. Thanks Beth! I’ve used that line before too – it kind of sums it up.

      In the end, the race itself is like a victory lap, a celebration of all of the hard work you’ve put into it, then to not finish – or not start – regardless of the reason…it’s disappointing because it’s like reading a great book only to get to the end and discover someone’s torn out the last few pages!

    3. Karen, I got a DNF on my first Triathlon last week, bike breakdown, not human breakdown. I will try again Sept 1 but for now I say it was a test run for the real thing.

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