The Three Letters Every Runner Fears

Event Stats:
Name Timberline Marathon
Date 09/15/2007
Location Mt. Hood, OR, USA
Event Marathon
Finish Time DNF

Mount Hood was the mountain I saw everyday when I got out the door in my six months in Portland. And it surely is a great mountain too look at. So what better way to end my stay in this fantastic city than to run the Timberline Marathon, a point-to-point course that starts at Timberline Lodge and is mostly downhill.

Arriving at Timberline Lodge by bus, having parked the car near the finish, I notice that is is rather warm, which, at 7 in the morning and 6000 ft. is a good thing. The race, which is rather small, starts in a very informal a-couple-of-persons-at-a-time manner.

The first part is steep downhill, with some cold air pockets on the way; then the course settles into a more comfortable forest track. The going is good (I'm big and downhill certainly is my forte), I pass the first aid-station all right, top off my drink bottles and shuffle on.

Suddenly, at km 12 or so, I feel a sting in my right ankle. Instinctively I stop, lift my leg, and swish whatever it was on my ankle away. Alarmed I see that there are about 10 small wasps (I later find out they are called 'yellow jackets') on my ankle. Within seconds, I have 5 or 6 more stings. Panic hits me, I run full out for a couple of hundred meters before stopping. The yellow-jackets are gone, but my ankle is already beginning to swell. I do have an allergy to insect bites, but the severity differs widely by insect, and I had never encountered this one, so I was very unsure what to expect.

Since swelling is primarily a function of time, I decided I would be best to run as fast as I could towards the next aid-station. I reached that after another 3 km, the swelling at that time had gotten worse. The paramedics had some general creme for insect bites, which I put on, but it was clear very soon, that my race had ended here.

I guess it is only a question of statistics, but nevertheless, before it happens, every runner fears the three letters. DNF. Did Not Finish. Although it bugs me no end not to finish this race, I am also relieved. For one, that the swelling is already back a bit and nothing serious happened. And for two, that I got my DNF (at least my first one) for something that really was out of my control, and not for simply giving up.