One of my husband's roommates in college was a runner and when I told my husband I was taking up running, the first thing he said was, "runners are gross." Well, I was not going to be that kind of runner. Little did I know the path I would embark on and just how many rites of passage I would go through to becoming a gross runner. Warning, this post might be a little graphic for some but I will try to keep it safe.
Let's start with the obvious, runners sweat. I used to not sweat. Really, not hardly at all. Never had sweat stains or knew the feeling of getting sweat in my eyes. I just glistened. Come to find out this was probably not healthy but no need to worry, as a runner, I now sweat. All the time. A lot. I feel sweat running down my back just going to and from the car on a really hot day. Lovely. With this sweat, comes a rather pungent odor most of the time. I stink! When I get home from a run, my husband and kids want nothing to do with me until I have showered. If my kids see me coming, the first thing they ask is "do you stink?" Most of the time I do indeed stink but I kind of love working up a really good sweat!
Next, runners spit and most of us "blow" our noses without the aid of tissues. I used to not spit. I actually didn't know how really and my husband used to give me a hard time for what I tried to pass off as spitting. Now, I can spit with the best of them and sling snot like a pro. If you see a runner who is moving over a little out of the way, give them room. Chances are good they are spitting or "blowing" their nose and you will get wet on this ride if you are within a 2-3 foot radius.
Also, runners chafe. The sweat, the fabric repeatedly rubbing against body parts, the strap of a watch or mp3, all can cause chafing. I had not experienced this until my marathon training and, man, does it hurt! I equate it to stripping off the top layer of skin and then repeatedly rubbing the area with sand paper. I usually chafe under my arms and they feel like raw meat after a particularly bad run. Thankfully, I was introduced to some lovely lubrication gel that keeps it at bay. Men seem to have it worse with regards to chafing because women at least wear a sports bar to protect some of our more tender parts. If you see a man with blood on his shirt, you can guess he is the victim of some nasty chafing. Take it easy on him and you should probably also avoid a chest bump for awhile.
Now on to some of the more unsavory things runners do. Sometimes, runners throw up. The heat, the big meal they just ate, the exertion, whatever it is, sometimes runners throw up and then even keep on running. I was told that you aren't really a runner until you have done this but I can honestly say, I have not thrown up yet while running. I came really close once but held my cookies in. I had a very bad head cold and cough and opted to run a race anyway. I crossed the finish line and then, like a wounded animal wondering off to die alone, I ignored my family and hobbled over to an area between some parked cars and willed myself with all my might not to throw up. This is one of the areas I said I would never venture into and so far so good but I also said I would never run a marathon and look where that got me.
Runners lose toenails. Yep, grossness at its best. I was proud that I had not lost a toenail yet but I had also been told that I wasn't really a runner until I had lost a toenail. Well, I can say that marathon training has me on toenail watch. I am sporting a very lovely purplish big toenail that I have been told by many is not going to make it much longer. Just in time for summer and sandal season. Sorry to those who have to look at my nasty toes this summer but this was one rite of passage I was secretly hoping I would achieve!! (Really sick and twisted, I know, but I was starting to feel left out because all of my running friends has lost a toenail already!)
True confession time now, runners squat in bushes or next to buildings or between parked cars or just about anywhere from what I have been told. Another rite of passage I had said I would not partake in and rarely have ever had to stop to go to the bathroom on my runs. When I did, it was always at an appropriate location with walls and a door, but lo and behold, marathon training got the better of me recently. Luckily it was dark and I was very well concealed but not something I want to become experienced at doing. This one is not talked about too often in most running circles. Throwing up, losing toenails, chafing are all considered part of polite conversation amongst runners but this one is more guarded. A runner who knows you well might ask in a rather round about way if this has happened to you but in fairly vague terms. It is just known that it happens, respected for its necessity and overlooked as best as possible.
We also swallow bugs, sometimes have nasty bloody blisters, eat stuff called GU, have seeping cuts and bruises from a fall and all in the name of insanity and sadomasochism...I mean health and wellness. Yep, runners are gross. Turns out my husband knew what he was talking about after all.