Tales of Running: The *Gross* Body Edition

So I've talked about the many great and amazing things that running affords me:  achieving new goals, making new friends, feeling the power of my body to propel me into the future.  All of that's great!  Despite my bright-eyed and bushy-tailed approach to running, there are some more ugly aspects of running that people don't always talk about.  I'm the first to notice the positive physical impact of running on my body but like many, there is a hesitancy to discuss the less appealing elements of running.  But here we go!

I imagine many runners face this but particularly because I run in Vibrams that I see a lot of callouses on my feet.  This is actually really good for several reasons (internal foot cushion being better than external when it comes to running, at least for me).  But I will definitely never be a foot model.  In and of themselves, they're not particularly caustic, but one becomes mildly aware of them.

Again, it's something all runners must deal with but one that has the possibility to be exacerbated by Vibrams.  This is where callouses actually prove useful.  I find that the callouses actually reduce the amount of blisters I get (which makes sense) but also, reduces the pain or annoyance that are caused by the blisters.  But especially if you're new to running and trying long distances, you can anticipate your fair share of blisters.

Chaffing, or what I like to call it, "the motion that burns, but in an annoying non-STI way" is a challenge for many people but particularly for us that are of a larger nature.  Typically, it's the thighs and groin area chaffing away.  Chaffing doesn't always happen--some circumstances can improve it or make it worse.  Cooler weather can increase chaffing since there is less sweat to easy the friction.  There are ways to work around this by using spandex or other types of tight clothing to ease the friction, but they don't always work well and you can still end up with some tender skin.  Sometimes, you don't actually notice the chaffing until that supremely disappointing moment when you peal off your clothes and get into a hot shower and find various stinging throughout your body.

I would imagine at this point, you're not particularly grossed out.  After all, these top three topics are fairly common challenges had by most.  However, the next three might have you feeling a bit squeamish, so I'll understand if you feel the need to depart at this point.

I blow my nose like an elephant.  It's loud and abrasive and some people go looking for the pachyderm when they hear me clear the nasal passage.  I can't help it; I need an unobtrusive nostril for maximum breathing.  But I find in running, particularly in colder weather, I'm regularly snorting back snot because I don't have anything to blow my nose on.  There are many different ways that people deal with this.  I'm still trying to find my preferred method.  Some of the methods I've seen used include:

Some will carry tissue or napkins with them to pull out and use.  Others will grab the bottom of their shirt and pull it up to blow their nose.  In colder weather, I've seen people wearing cotton gloves blow their noses into them.  By far, my favorite (at least for drama, not necessarily to try) is the Snotrocket:  The runner moves to the side of the road.  The runner blocks one nostril and blows with all of his or her might to send snot projectile out the open nostril and then repeats with the other nostril.

Hot Air
There's also gas to contend with.  All that shuffling about and sure enough, we have the potential for some serious gas.  That can vary depending on what foods you loaded up on prior to the run, but it's likely to be there.  Now, depending on how you run and where you are in the race, it may not be an issue.  After all, later in the race when things are spread out a bit more, you may never need to pause to let loose.  However, some races don't necessarily allow for much spreading out (depending on distance, pace, and number of participants), which then makes releasing a bit challenging.  If you're in with a good group, they are going to understand and probably be relieved if you relieve yourself first as it gives them carte blanche to release their own (like something out of a Mel Brooks film).

That's not a food stain up
on the right there.
Bleeding Nipples
I remember watching the movie "Run Fatboy Run" with Simon Pegg and learning about bloody nipples.  I had never been at the point of such an experience until last year, shortly after I completed my first 30K.  I've experienced it several more times this year.  In fact, I became so aware of bloody nipples (which in fact is just a more extreme version of chaffing) that when I ran the marathon I prepared for it.  First, by making sure I had a loose shirt.  Tight shirts will exacerbate friction against the nipple which is likely to be erect for much of the running.  I also took to putting petroleum jelly on my nipples before and during the race.  They were still sore and tender by the race's end, but they were not bleeding, which was the important piece.

Waste Removal
Ok, this is a challenge I know that plagues a lot of people because new runners and old have these conversations with me regularly (and I swear, I don't seek out this line of questioning).  But when it comes to the long runs, balancing the body's needs is challenging.  3-4 hours of running means you're not only taxing your body a lot, but you're processing a whole lot too and your body is going to need to an exit strategy for said processing.  Urination is fairly easy for men; they often find a tree and have at it.  Women typically need to rely on the toilet stops along the route, though I've known many to take to the side of the road (slightly removed) to take care of business.  But the big process is just hard to balance, especially if the route is more public than you might otherwise like.  Sometimes, that works to your advantage and you can pop into a gas station rest stop, but sometimes, it's just miles of residential and no toilet in sight.

So what other body issues do you confront when out on your longer runs?

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