An Unregretable DNS

Last weekend I ran the Historic Fairview 5k.  I did pretty well but physically something was off.  In all honesty I just felt tired and my legs felt heavy.  The rest of the day I was more tired than usual after a race.  During work on Sunday I felt decent but when I got home, I began to feel sick.  Around 7, I got a migraine and was extremely congested.

I went to bed at 8:15.  I woke up on Memorial Day feeling more tired and sick.  I realized I had a head cold.  I was tired, groggy and sneezing more than talking.

Should I run?  Should I not run? 

One of my favorite races last year was on Memorial Day. It’s a local 5k where they give out wooden awards.  The course is in a beautiful woodsy location and normally shaded. I had a lot of fun last year.

From last year.
From last year.

I knew I liked the race so much I actually signed up for it last week. Normally I try not to sign up for many races until absolutely necessary. This is such a great race that I was sure I wanted to run.

On Monday morning I woke up feeling exhausted and sick. I debated if I would “sweat it out” and run anyways. I was signed up and I knew I would finish the race. Maybe (in the .01% chance) I would surprise myself…the glimmer of hope!

The question became: Should I run while exhausted and probably getting over a head cold? Heck, my legs didn’t even feel great either!

…But Liz and I were planning to warm up before the together.

…But I knew the course was flat, fast and fun.

…But I had already payed for the race.

Ultimately there were no updates on my social media accounts. There were no races to be run and I texted Liz and said I had to bail out on the race.

Did it stink and was it a hard decision?

It was a much harder decision than I would like to admit. There is no benefit of running a 5k that I didn’t feel anywhere close to good. I could finish the race…but I would be more miserable and probably would have delayed healing.

It was a 20 dollar 1 hour nap. While I’m glad it wasn’t a bigger race, I don’t have any regrets about not showing up. I’m lucky it wasn’t a race I was training longer for or even a race that I had traveled too. Even if it was, my health is always the most important to me.

The final thing I thought about was how fortunate I am that my life, career and well being doesn’t revolve around running.  I am not an elite athlete and my race choices are not analyzed.  Unlike Hall, no one cares if LOLZ decides to race that day or not (only I really care).  I’m not all over flotrack because I skipped a race (and thank goodness of that).

Just like running in general, a DNS or DNF doesn’t define you. 

It’s always more important to put your health and well being in front of hobbies and events. Running is life long if you allow it to be.

Question for you: Do you race when sick?


  1. You made the right decision. In the end, it is just a 5K race. It will be held next year and there’s probably a 5K for you to run tomorrow if you wanted to. Plus plenty of chances to run with friends.

    I have raced sick a few times and ultimately it slowed my healing or I just felt worse. That was a year or two ago and when I got injured, I kinda learned my lesson. I have DNSed a few, including some that were paid for and never regretted it. Yes, it stinks to feel like you lost money but maybe some of your $20 went to a good cause and you honored your body.

    No race is worth getting injured over (or more sick) because this is a healthy hobby and IMHO, if a run isn’t benefiting your health, you shouldn’t do it at all.

  2. I’ve run 3 marathons with bronchitis and I kick myself for it every single time. It’s always a struggle because in my head I’m thinking well, I paid for this flight and the race and I don’t want to waste the money, so I’m just going to suck it up. But the reality is I end up miserable and hate the entire experience, so I have sworn never to do that again. I think I’m finally grown up enough now that I’ll listen to my own good advice 🙂 Smart call on the DNS!

    1. I cannot imagine running a marathon hacking up a lung. Now that we are married…that must mean grown up right?

  3. Bummer you couldn’t run the race you really like- but sounds like it was smart decision. Also glad that you are feeling better!

    Your career does revolve around running a bit- you DO work in a running store 😉

    1. While work revolves around running, it doesn’t revolve around my training which keeps it separate. When I was injured all of last year, I wasn’t put out of a job! 🙂

  4. “Running is life long if you allow it to be.”

    YES! This x 1 million billion! 🙂

    Too many young people seem to forget this – and as I’ve been running for more than 26 years I can attest that running can bring you a life of joy, just remember that for 99.99% of us it is simply a fun hobby and part of a healthy lifestyle. So rare opportunities for seeing friends and family, taking care of responsibilities, and listening to our bodies should *always* come first!

  5. I really respect your decision. I know I have a hard time not going out for an easy run when I’m sick, so having a race on your schedule can only be more difficult. I usually will still run if I have a head cold, but as soon as I am coughing/have congestion in my chest, I take time off and try to focus on proper rest and recovery. Hope you have a great weekend!

  6. I think you are the right decision. Like you said, you could have finished the race, but what would the point have been if you hated every minute of it? You might have even worn our body out to the point where you’d just get more sick. So yeah. Big applause for putting your health first. That’s definitely the best way to make sure that you’re running for a long time 🙂

  7. Sounds like you listened to your body and made the right decision.

    I’ve DNS’ed a few races due to sickness or injury and don’t regret it.

  8. I have raced when sick. If it’s a head cold or allergies, I usually just go ahead–especially if I’ve paid for the race in advance. If I feel like I could get in a training run, then I just use the race as that, and don’t go all out. If I’m injured though–that’s another story. I have had a DNS or two over knee issues. 🙁

  9. An un-regrettable DNS is so much more preferable than a painful DNF.

    That said, I’ve raced sick and I’ve run sick. Sometimes, I think I’ve actually felt better afterwards – especially when it was just a head cold. (Something like the stomach flu…or malaria would make it a bit harder) However, choosing to sit it out is never a bad choice.

  10. Great post, Hollie. It is such a tough situation. I applaud your decision! As you said, you know that you could finish the race. But you showed extreme maturity and wisdom to listen to your body and know that your health was the priority!

  11. Sorry about the DNS but it was the wise choice. For sure nothing good comes from racing sick, but it’s still a tough decision to make. I’ve raced easy coming back from being sick but never really feeling bad.

  12. While I wish we could have raced together, I’m glad you made the smart decision and listened to your body. I tried to race with strep throat one time and ended up fainting on the car ride over (thankfully I was not driving!) Now, I know better than to try and race when I’m sick. It’s absolutely not worth jeopardizing your health for one race when there are so many more races to run in the future!

  13. I do tend to race unless I’m really ill (as in, unable to walk in a straight line or being physically sick), but that’s because I worry that I’ll be missing an opportunity if I suddenly feel better. I also have a complex about being weak and/or giving in too easily, so I tend to try to push against that.

    You have absolutely nothing to prove though, and you obviously made the right decision regarding your race. It’s so much harder to know when to back away and make the mature choice than it is to blindly run on through injury and ill-health. It actually makes you a tougher and mentally stronger person not to race, and that’s a lesson I need to learn and apply to myself more often.

  14. Thankfully, I’ve never DNS’ed a race due to injury or sickness, but I am being much more cognizant of how I’m feeling in these post-bike accident days. Last week especially, I was really tempted to resume my normal training schedule and “double up” and log multiple workouts a day. But after talking to my coaches, I realized resting and healing were more important. It’s cliche, but it’s really important to listen to your body. 😉

  15. I love the new layout lady!! Very fun 🙂
    I have learned the hard way to not workout/compete when I am feeling run down. In spring of 2014 I ran myself into my own grave-at least it felt that way. Right before a big vacation I woke up unable to get out of bed for 2 days. I was just beat… now I listen to my body even if it’s not what I want.

  16. I had to DNS my first marathon (it was supposed to be last Saturday). I was really bummed about it, but like you, I am not elite and will live to run another day.

  17. I’ve DNS’d a handful of races I signed up for — mostly the summer I signed up when I started PT. Oh well. Better to be safe than sorry! I struggle with last minute race sign ups though. I want the cheapest price and all the swag!

Comments are closed.