There are many different reasons why people queue up at the start-line to run 26.2 miles. Laura learns an important lesson from her 16th marathon.


Each marathon I’ve run has taught me something different. My first taught me I’m capable of more than I realised, while my second that the distance needs to be respected. Marathon number five was all about not trusting the weather forecast and the importance of taking extra kit options to overseas races, and lining up for marathon number 16, the lessons still keep coming.

I shouldn’t really call it marathon number 16, it being the first marathon that I didn’t finish; the first that I’ve not made it to the end of, the first that has the letters DNF next to my name.

Bournemouth Marathon

I’d put a lot of work into training for the Bournemouth Marathon. I’d set myself the goal of running 3:30 and I’d been out clocking up more miles a week than I’d ever run before, ticking off my speedwork and getting up early to train before work.

But after my last long run, once all the training was in the bank, I developed a niggle in my right leg that got progressively worse as race day approached. For the last 10 days before the race, running was out of the question.

My taper was extreme to say the least. I stubbornly wanted to give the race a shot though and, despite what I knew deep down, come Sunday morning I pinned my number on and headed to the start.

The race started at 10am under blue skies; the conditions were perfect. As I started running, the eight-minute miles came easily and I was holding the pace that would take me to that 3:30 goal. My leg felt okay, but not perfect, and everything was going better than I’d hoped. But by the time I got to mile 10 I was beginning to doubt my decision to run.


I made it to half way before stopping. As I stepped off the course I felt a bit of a fraud. The marshal who opened the barrier for me to step through asked me if I was okay and the honest answer was, yes. I wasn’t in pain. I hadn’t hit a wall. I wasn’t unwell.

I knew I could finish. I’ve finished harder races in worse states but a 3:30 was looking doubtful. Should I have carried on regardless, toughed it out, got my medal and a time that I was bound to be disappointed with? Different people will have different thoughts on that because marathon running means different things to all of us. We all line up at the start for different reasons.

For me, marathons are something I do for fun. When it stops being fun, it’s time to stop running.

So what did I learn from this race? I learnt that DNFs don’t hurt nearly as much as I’d feared, and a lot less than my slightly battered right leg does.

Laura Fountain is a marathon and ultra runner, a triathlete and a personal trainer. She teaches beginners how to run and helps them fall in love with running.

Follow Laura on Twitter: @lazygirlrunning