My trip to Morocco was pretty special to me as I had gone through a bit of a hard time after my DNF at UTMB. Dropping out during the race wasn’t something I had prepared myself for. I had to drop out after 110k due to pain in my trachea, I couldn’t breathe properly anymore which is a bit of a problem when you run in the mountains…
I felt so strong during the first half of the race and I was on target pace but after Courmayeur things started to go wrong. I could feel the pain coming and had to slow down to the point where I was unable to run anymore… On the way down to La Fouly, I made the decision that I was going to drop out because I wasn’t enjoying it and this wasn’t the race anymore that I had trained so hard for. I was also concerned that I would cause damage to my body and the weather conditions were not helping either.
So, before I got to the aid station, I rang my parents who were crewing me to tell them to come and pick me up, but I couldn’t speak; tears were running down my face. I was heartbroken. I only managed to say “I cannot breathe. Come to La Fouly”. This race meant the world to me… For those who don’t know me, I quit my job back in December last year to dedicate my life to running and to train for UTMB. I trained as hard as I possibly could and sacrificed so many things for this race.
But my body had failed me… When I got to the aid station, I went straight to the drop out desk and got my bib number cut… By the time my parents arrived, I somehow had managed to convince myself I was ok with the decision I made and we drove back to Chamonix where my bed was waiting for me. After all, this wasn’t something I could control.
The following week was good as I was busy. I moved out of Chamonix and I volunteered at UTMR so I had no time to reflect on the race. Then, I went to London to stay with a friend who needed a little help. But when I got there, everything started to spiral down. I didn’t feel like running anymore. I also didn’t want to see anybody. I felt a bit like a failure and no single day passed where I didn’t ask myself why I dropped out and why I didn’t push on.
I didn’t realise it at that time, but I was in a way suffering from a kind of post-DNF depression. I never thought something like this could happen to me. As an ultra-runner, I have a strong mind and like to think that I can overcome anything… I couldn’t have been more wrong! I kept it all to myself and would simply pretend that everything was fine. But it wasn’t and it and it ate me from the inside.
My trip to go running in the Atlas Mountains came as an eye opener. This is why I love the mountains so much. You can only be true to yourself when facing their stillness and power, or they will break you. I had to look deep inside to figure out what was going on and then it came to me. I have DNF’ed but this is not the end of me, if anything it will make me a better and stronger runner. There is also no shame in not finishing a race. I had given everything I had on that day and made the right call. My journey to UTMB was the most amazing and that’s really what mattered – I have grown so much as a person and a runner, and I have learnt a lot about myself along the way. This DNF is just another lesson I had to learn and it has brought me one step closer to becoming the runner I want to be. Strong, humble and passionate.
DNF is a thing and I will not make the mistake again to not prepare myself for this possibility. I was confident, in great shape, and so full of excitement that it never even crossed my mind I might not be able to finish the race. Well, you live and learn! You can’t take these big races for granted as the physical challenge and the constant battle with your mind will get the best of you from time to time. I have learnt for myself that it is ok not to finish a race as long as I have given my 100%.
At the end of the day, the race is just the end of a journey but no matter what happens, you are left with a beautiful experience.
I also would like to say thank you to my teammate and running partner the beautiful Svenja (aka Peanut) who helped and supported me during this tough time. She is such an amazing person and a great runner. An ultra-running machine in the making! Just a piece of advice if you want to stay in her good books – never get between her and a can of coke… or ever push her onto an electrical wire (the ones you can find around fields), she doesn’t really like getting electrocuted for some reason… I am still laughing about that one though, sorry!