Itâ€™s three little letters, but they make a big mental impact. DID NOT FINISH. Those are three little letters I have strived to avoid, and have possibly even feared. For some reason, I equated those three little letters with failure. Now, after experiencing my first DNF in a marathon, I equate them with strength.
Most athletes spend a majority of their time practicing and refining their skills. They spend hours building strength and endurance. They spend countless moments thinking and planning; edging towards their goals. All this is for a small block of time to showcase just what they have accomplished.
Athletes have been taught to push limits and that anything less is failure. Is this really true? NO! Sometimes the smartest thing an athlete can do is recognize their limits and stop. Why risk a lifetime for a moment?
Not finishing something, or taking a break is not failure. It takes a strong person to recognize what their body and mind needs and be able to look past others telling them to push forward. Not finishing something does not mean you are not capable of the accomplishment. It just means you need to take a break and re-approach your goal.
Take Ryan Hall for example. His fall marathon of choice was Chicago. Closing in on race day he recognized that it was in his best physical interest to not race and withdrew his name. Some criticized him for wimping out, while others acknowledged his difficult decision.
Whether you DNF (do not finish) or DNS (do not start), it does not mean failure. Learning to take a realistic assessment of your abilities and redesign your goals throughout training is something every athlete needs to learn, and itâ€™s something the consultants of SPINW can help you with!
About the Author: Lisa Peetz received an M.A. in Sports and Exercise Psychology. Lisa is an avid runner who appreciates and is addicted to marathon running. She uses her athletic experience in her mental skills training by individualizing skills to be both sports and life specific.