Question for You from Runner’s World Magazine: Drop Out or Tough it Out?

Posted by Filed Under: Polls

Gigi’s last question to CRN readers was so successful she’s back for more. Here’s today’s question from Gigi – a journalist working on a story for Runner’s World Magazine:

Has anyone during a race faced some physical challenge so severe that you’ve seriously considered dropping out? This could be anything from severe knee pain to a really nasty fall. If so, what did you do? (If we’re talking about pain or cramps, I don’t mean the usual, which will wear off within a mile or so…). Some races you may run to qualify for a bigger marathon–so in those cases, when the stakes are high, what do you do?

I’m looking forward to reading some drop out tales and war stories.


Leave your comments below with a valid email address in the email field (it is not published on our site) so you can be contacted for Gigi and please let us know if you get a mention in Runner’s World.

About Mark Iocchelli

Also known as the "Running Blogfather", I'm a 40-something marathoner who has beaten stress fractures and terrible shin splints. Now I'm running double the mileage with no pain - and I'm getting faster. I love to talk about running form and Arthur Lydiard. I also enjoy taking photographs, have a beautiful (and very patient!) wife, and am the proud father of two crazy kids. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments about the site.

  1. Jon (was) in Michigan on April 1st at 4:03 pm

    I definately considered dropping out of my marathon in Detroit. I was already overly exerted and when my right ITB went “twang” I began looking for the sag-wagon. It was really brutal running on it, and doing the run-walk thing was exceptionally tough because starting up again was really hard. I thought about having only five more miles to go and tried to think how I would get home. Eventually, I decided it would be too hard to find a ride home (no phone, no money for a cab) so I just kept going. I finished but wouldn’t want to have to do that again.

  2. Tammy on April 1st at 10:13 pm

    Seriously, if I didn’t have at least one moment where my mind told me to quit, I’d know I hadn’t tried hard enough. That’s the true challenge… to keep going when every fiber of your being is screaming for you to stop.

  3. Nancy Toby on April 2nd at 6:12 am

    The decision point for me is if I’m doing damage by continuing. For example, if I’m limping badly enough early in a long race, it will probably create a secondary injury.

    When I did Country Music Marathon a long while back, I was limping by Mile 2 and knew I probably wouldn’t finish. I walk/jogged it to the halfway point and dropped out. Turns out I had a stress fracture in my foot that required a cast for 7 weeks – and I have some permanent damage in the ankle from running on it.

  4. Ron on April 2nd at 7:37 am

    St. George Utah 2001, trying to qualify for Boston. My splits had been increasing for the last few miles and I knew it was going to be very close. I didn’t hurt much, but was seriously running out of steam. I made the final turn at around mile 25 and could see the banners and balloons around the finish line straight down the street. Every time I blinked from that point on, I was in serious doubt that they would reopen again. So for the last mile I had only two thoughts in my head, just keep going and don’t pass out! I made it with 48 seconds to spare and all of my skin intact.

  5. Irene on April 2nd at 8:39 am

    I was diagnosed with arthritis in both knees while in the middle of training for the San Diego Rock N Roll Marathon 2005, my first marathon. I was advised to not stop running, but to take things easy, and that I should go for a half marathon distance instead. I still participated in the marathon. Mile 18 and I had sharp,stabbing knee pain and thought that might be it. I still managed to finish, however not as fast as my ego wanted… It was the only time I had experienced that sharp and stabbing knee pain.

  6. Dennis on April 2nd at 12:54 pm

    During my training for Boston in 2003, I was having hip pain and my doc put me on prescription anti-inflammatories. On race day, I took one (an 800 mg ibuprofen, or the equivalent of 4 Advil)about an hour before the start. It was 75 degrees and sunny and by mile 10 I was getting full-on leg cramps of the kind that stop you in your tracks. I was drinking at each aid station, but the NSAID had taken a toll. I stopped at a medical tent and they said I was OK. So I kept going and started having diarrhea. The cramps continued off and on, but I ended up finishing, an hour off my projected pace. I spent the night in the hospital after going to the ER because I couldn’t keep fluids down. I took 4 liters of fluid and the ER doc told me both of my kidneys had shut down and if I hadn’t come in to the ER I likely wouldn’t have made it through the night. Clearly a race I should have dropped out of.

  7. Blaine Moore (Run to Win) on April 2nd at 1:50 pm

    My motto is to run through annoyance but not through pain. And by pain, I mean unexpected pains that are likely to cause (or be caused by) serious injuries.

    A week or two before I ran the San Antonio marathon in 2004, I pulled my hamstring. A week earlier, I got lost on a 17 miler and wound up doing 28 miles (first 10 miles in around 61/62 minutes and next 10 not much slower), and then I was doing 1/4 or 1/2 mile hill repeats in 30 degree weather. On one of the repeats, I came up short when my hamstring went.

    It seemed all right by marathon time, so I ran the marathon anyway. About 11 miles in, I pulled it again. I just slowed down enough that I could use a normal stride and it was an annoyance and not a source of actual pain, and finished the race that way. I still ran a BQ.

    I tend to have a pretty high tolerance for pain; compared to the migraines I used to get as a kid, not much really hurts that much. I have dropped out of a few races when something hurt, but I will usually opt for a DNS rather than a DNF. It is rare that something hurts enough during a race to make me quit that didn’t hurt enough to prevent me from starting.

    In training, I keep a pretty open game plan. Yesterday I went out for a 15 miler that I cut short around 12 miles due to a sore calf. It just isn’t worth risking an injury for the last few miles in the training log, especially with a marathon 2 weeks away.

  8. Anne on April 2nd at 4:13 pm

    I had my first (and only) DNF when I mistook a stomach flu for pre-race butterflies. I finally emptied my stomach at Mile 10 of an unusually warm marathon and reluctantly fell in with the half marathoners, so disgusted (among other things, I reeked of pee and puke!) I turned my running bib inside out to mark me among the spectators, sorta like my Scarlet A.

    Nine months later, I mistook a stress fracture for a groin pull in yet another unusually warm marathon. Not only was that but all the Motrin to ease the pain led to an inability to urinate despite a very full bladder. Still, this time I wasn’t about to drop out when I still had the mind (and a terrific running friend I’d just met the day before) to keep me going — albeit much slower than expected. I didn’t know until later that I’d run the marathon with a stress-fractured right hip and, amazingly, fractured left ankle.

    I coulda kicked myself for being so foolish, but I was out of healthy limbs to do it.

  9. billjank on April 2nd at 8:42 pm

    $80 dollar entry fee for NYC Marathon and fraternity brothers meeting me at the finish?

    Gut out the worst 6 miles of my life.