What Your Mother Never Told You About Running Marathons

There are a lot of subjects that many articles, coaches and fellow runners only lightly touch on in regards to the gross t.m.i. side of marathon running. When they do address these subjects, it's often chock full of political correctness with intentions to refrain from offending anyone. I promise you this does no one any favors. I'm going to break it down right here- t.m.i. or no. So you have been warned. If you easily get your panties in a bunch, skip reading this post. I'm writing this with more of a slant toward women, but I think the information is useful for both genders as well as those who are undecided.

1. Feet. Say goodbye to your perfectly pedicured feet. Unless you have the luxury of spending hours beautifying your feet, get used to closed toed shoes and comfort over style. Black toenails don't sound THAT bad because many people think you can just cover them up with a pretty dark colored nail polish. But what's actually going on with that nail? Well, there's a blood blister under it. AND possibly, a regular blister too or even more lovely: a combination of both. You have to pop that blister if you want this nail to go back to normal. How? There are a few ways:
A. Drill a hole in your nail with a teeny tiny drill. Someone on ebay sells them and there's an online store that sells them too.
B. BURN a hole in your nail with a hot needle. Heat it with fire and pierce the nail while it's hot!
C. (My personal method) If you are fortunate enough (like I am) to see that the nail is already separating from the nail bed, sterilize a needle and go right under the nail. All the liquid will ooze out and you can help it by pushing the nail down until the blister is empty. It reminds me of bursting fish roe. But like 100000 times more gross... and probably not as tasty- though I have not confirmed this fact.

Now that the blister is gone, you can wait a day or so and pull that toenail off just like a loose baby tooth. Remember the pain involved in that? It's pretty quick and temporary- but such a necessary self inflicted pain. Keep the new nail-less toe clean and dry and give it a nice coat of neosporin. In a couple of weeks, you'll see a new most likely mutant looking toenail (thinner and wavy and uneven) growing back in it's place. The more it grows, the more normal it will look but it may take months. Good times, no?

2. Joints and leg muscles. Unless you are a stealthy natural athlete (if you are thanks for reading my blog) you are always assessing the state of your joints and leg muscles. (knees, hips, ankles, quads, calves, groin particularly) You can ruin your training runs or your race by disregarding your joints during regular activities. What am I getting at? Intercourse and any other sexual activity. I have had many a training run that was lacking, painful, or even postponed because of my favorite extra curricular activity. I've pulled groin muscles, hyper-extended my inguinal area, worn my knees out and weakened my entire lower body more often than I need to confess the night before a killer run. If you want to run your best, make your partner aware BEFORE activity so that he/she can at least attempt to be sensitive to it. In the throws of pleasure, the last thing I'm thinking about are my knees and my 20 mile run and I almost always find myself screwed the next day when I hit the road. (HA!) Priorities...

3. Sweat. Salt is not a moisturizer. If you sweat like a hooker in church when running like I do, you will usually end a run with a coating of dry sweat on your skin. It's particularly attractive on your face as it will create a white crusty dust like coating on you and concentrate where you sweat the most. My romantic husband has compared the look of caked on dry sweat to other bodily fluids (that only men can produce) but let's not go there. And it gets better, if you go to rinse it off, BE CAREFUL! Dried sweat that is suddenly moistened is like concentrated salt. If it gets in your eyes or anywhere that is chapped or chafed, it hurts like pouring salt in a wound. And if you spend hours with this lovely dry layer of salt on your face (a marathon, for example) it will dry the hell out of your skin for the next few days. Expect to be that person with the skin flakes or dry patches on their face that people try not to fixate on. Moisturize like your OCD depends on it!

4. Urine/feces and the consequences of urinating/defecating. Yes, you absolutely should go when you need to go. I will never advocate holding it in for 26.2 miles. Aside from literally welcoming port-a-john use with open arms, you need to make sure you aren't such a careful germ-o-phobe that you doom yourself in other ways. Make sure EVERYTHING down there is clean AND dry. How does your baby get a diaper rash? Being wet or (worse) dirty and lacking "air" down there, right? It's going to happen to you too. Take an extra second off your marathon time and spare yourself chafing, rawness, and possible infection by wiping really well. And that body glide stuff that everyone recommends belongs in your butt crack too, if you are someone who gets drenched in sweat. If you forget your bodyglide, no need to panic- chapstick is easy to find and works almost as well and is certainly better than a raw burning butt. Chapstick has literally saved my ass.

5. Boobs. Support trumps everything. I know most of you don't like when your cans look a size or two smaller than they are, but 26.2 miles of dramatically bouncing boobs will be enjoyable to only a few spectators and certainly NOT to you. The soreness and pain that follows is not worth showing off your hooters for. (Though I say this with little to no grounds as a barely B cup so it has never occurred to me to show anything off.) Keep your boobs as close to you as possible. You'll have plenty of time to make them a feature attraction later.

6. Period. You can't postpone a marathon you registered and trained for if it's your time of the month. Unless you have debilitating cramps, I guarantee that the movement involved in running and stretching will minimize them. Do not take a heaping dose of advil or tylenol, unless you want to risk hyponatremia or possible kidney failure. The morning of this race (click on the words, silly) I popped three advil (that's a normal though occasional dose for me) in hopes to prevent pain that was imminent because I ran my first marathon EVER only two weeks before. All of my symptoms point to hyponatremia. This can be fatal if you're stupid. And I only speak for myself, but I feel like I lose a few IQ points somewhere around mile 22 every time I run a marathon. So it's safe to assume that you might get stupid and that it's not worth risking your life over. What if your flow is absurdly heavy? Ok ready???? Be open minded! Try this. (again, click the word this if you are curious...)Allow a few cycles of dress rehearsal with these things first because they are tricky when you're new at it. If you have strong kegels or if you strain for a bowel movement you can dislodge it. YOU MUST KNOW THAT CHANGING/EMPTYING/REPLACING THIS IS NOT GOING TO WORK IN A PORTAJOHN OR PUBLIC BATHROOM! But they do last 12 hours even on your heaviest day. These things are a staple for me whether I'm running or not. I've been using them for about 5 years now.

7. Underwear. If you're going to wear underwear and shorts instead of running shorts with a light full coverage underwear-like liner, test run them first. More than once. The last thing you need is to pull a wedgie every five minutes, or run with a wedgie or a droop or a thong that doesn't feel right(that might create chafing and rawness) for 26.2 miles. And do not choose any underwear that has a seam in the crotch (boy shorts often have this) as this will create a lovely uhmm... what is even it called? Crotch wedgie? I cannot even imagine.

You might be offended or grossed out, but you learned something here, I bet. I hope my blunt approach saves scores of people from unneeded pain, trauma, or inconvenience. Somebody had to do it... I dare you to comment...


  1. 8. Spitting & Snot Rockets. Phlegm - yummy!
    Yes, we all have it and also heard your parents say, "Don't do this in public, it is gross and unsanitary. You will embarrass me. Use a tissue or handkerchief"....seriously, while you're running?! No can do! All bets are off.

    For those with sensitive stomachs - please look away or put your fingers in your ears and sing LA LA LA LA LA LA!!!

    There is not much etiquette for this topic, but here are some pointers....
    If your body is telling you it is time to spit, PLEASE take a split second to look around and try to aim with deliberate intention somewhere clear of everything. OH, and check for wind direction!
    Focus and hurl that hot, springy, foamy web of saliva out of your mouth with force on the ground! Try not to spit on yourself or a passing runner or your cheering fans - this doesn't go over very well and your apologies are really not recognized...and you are tagged the '@#&*' runner.

    If you don't have a tissue and you just can't consider your t-shirt as your next best thing to schmear or blow your running nose in it.....well, snot rocket away! Again, check for wind - this is a saving factor for yourself, other runners and your supporting fans.

    Final important tip on this oozing topic - as soon as you get the chance - please wash your hands and check your nose for any left behind soldiers. OH, and don't be surprised if your hair or your shoulder has any shiny remnants from your not so well aim!

    Yup, this isn't the stuff your MOM would tell ya for your run, but I just did. Happy releasing those fluids with safety!

  2. instead soft cups the most awesome thing out there! Aunt Flo arrived on the day before my first marathon last year - I used Playtex sports tampons at the time. Mile 23 I had to stop and change. the wrapper read - no doubt written by a man thanking he was inspiring us women - "Life's a marathon. Keep on running!" I screamed at the wrapper. I'm sure people at mile 20 heard me. I kept the wrapper though, and it is hanging on my bulletin board, and now just gives me a giggle.

  3. Interesting and informative blog post, thank you, but I had to highlight it to read it over the distracting background.

  4. I just found this post via BlogHer. I've been lucky with my black toenails - I've never had to take a needle to them. I've just wrapped the nail very tightly in medical tape and walked around for a day. The blister just popped from the pressure. It was totally disgusting because blood and goo were oozing out from under the nail, but it didn't involve any needles - and for that I'm grateful. :)

  5. Wow. I'm impressed that your toes only take a few days to recover. Mine take about 6 months before they are back to normal. I should try the needle a few days out and see if that assists the recovery speed.

    About the job bra, the pain you can get from chaffing of a loose top is a lot worse than the black toes. My skin used to get raw under the boobs and around my neck where the job bra strap sets. I've moved into wearing a super supportive top that looks like a bra, not pretty, with a shirt over. It's not as free, but it doesn't chafe in the least. Once you find a top that works for your long run, buy 3 of them. They'll go out of fashion and you'll be left starting the process all over again..

    I am thankful I am able to run marathons, black toe, raw skin and porta potties are a badge of honor!!!

    Happy new year.

  6. Thanks ladies!!! So glad to "hear" new voices!

  7. You are not supposed to pop any blister. You risk infection that way.

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