DNF = Did Not Finish: Not getting to the finish line of a race, either because you have withdrawn or because you didn't make a cut off in time.
First time I DNFed was the Summer Green Man Ultra in 2021. This was my first ultra race, one I'd spent months training for, scouting out, planning: I went out too hard and crashed at 30k, hobbling off to a Sainsbury's car park for a lift home from my partner.
Second time was a year later at Race To The Tower: stomach issues, dehydration and poor fuelling stopped me dead at 72k, only 10k from the finish. Ended up shivering in a country lane calling my folks to come get me.
Both of these were my "flagship" races for the year, ones I had focused my training around and looked forward to completing. I took both times hard, doubting myself, my training and my ability to run ultras.
Yet both times lead to something wonderful.
If there isn't a real possibility of failure,
you've not chosen the right challenge.
After DNFing the Summer Green Man I went out and did it solo a few weeks later, helped by friends and family on course. I learned so much about pacing yourself on an ultra and running your own race, hard lessons, but essential. Because of the DNF I signed up for the double Winter and Summer Green Man the following year to prove I could do it.
After DNFing Race to the Tower I learned how to fuel properly during a race, what worked and what didn't, and most importantly how to recover and keep going when things go wrong.
If I'd have completed RTTT I'd likely have called it a day for the year, but because I felt like I needed a second chance I signed up for the EDDUM, then the Gower 50. The motivation and drive to do both of those came from that initial failure.
The EDDUM ended up being my proudest achievement: a brutal course that needed the mental fortitude I lacked when things got tough at RTTT.
Whilst the Gower 50 was the most confident I'd felt at the end of an event thanks to better fuelling and pacing.
If you succeed you learn a little,
If you fail you learn a tonne.
If you end up not finishing a race, for whatever reason, it is a gift! It means you took on a challenge that pushed past your limits, and now you can use what happened to learn how to break them.