I started running in 2006 and no one told me about the toenail thing.
Or the chafing thing.
Oh, the chafing.
Runners far and wide suffer for their craft in ways that mere mortals may never understand. Sore muscles, purple toenails, vomiting at finish lines and having to put Body Glide in places that God never intended can come as quite a surprise to the novice runner.
Oh, God On High, The. Chafing.
When I started my running career (read: when I decided that my post mom body, thigh slapping self needed a little overhaul), I went in with blinders on and had NO IDEA about the realities of running. Frankly, I think runners keep novices in the dark on purpose because, really, who in God’s name would pick up a sport after hearing “Yeah, so my toenails fell off after the marathon this weekend and I cannot WAIT to sign up for my next one….right after I can stand up again to walk to my computer”?
While I am by no means a hard core, race winning runner, I do count myself as “experienced”. I’ve run eight half marathons and five marathons, which, after doing the math, is the equivalent of running from my home to Boston, so, I feel qualified to say that I know some stuff. Albeit, when I’m running a race and the Kenyans run by me, I look more like John Goodman running in a pool of peanut butter, however, I still get chafed just as much as Usain Bolt does. And probably in the same places.
Sweet Mama Jackson, THE CHAFING.
So, I’ve compiled a list of things I did not see coming as I entered the world of running. This list is not meant to scare you away from the benefits of running. Rather, this list serves to prepare you for the road ahead and to help you get over those hills as you climb toward your goals.
1). People Will Think You Are Crazy. And They Will Tell You So. A Lot.
Get used to this concept. The minute you tell a non runner that you have taken up running, the non runner will immediately try to talk you out of it. They will tell you that running is bad for your knees. They will tell you that their second cousin twice removed ran a marathon once and died at the finish line. They will tell you that their husband went out on a run and never came home. They will hear the words half marathon or marathon and look at you as if you’ve just announced you are going to jump feet first off the Tappan Zee Bridge. You will tell a non runner the distance you ran during a training run and they will immediately give you five reasons why they themselves didn’t run this morning.
Fact: You are awesome because you run and don’t let a non runner’s fear of themselves diminish the awesomesauce you leave behind on the asphalt.
2). Sometimes You Are The Running Shoe, Sometimes You Are The Asphalt.
Every run is different. Every single run is the sum total of everything that has happened to you during the lead up to the lace up. You got a great evaluation at work? You are gonna be invigorated as you tick off the miles. Had a fight with a friend? Every step is going to feel like you are stepping on her face and you will run angry. Dealing with a loss of a loved one? Cry running it is, then. Just ran a brutal marathon? Yeah, that post marathon run is going to suck no matter which way you look at it. Running can be a salve or the bane of your existence given the day. Running will challenge you and it will calm you. But never in the same run.
Fact: Accept that being the asphalt some days leads to days where you kick asphalt as the running shoe.
3). You Will Lose Your Toenails
No joke. If you’ve run long enough, inevitably, your toenails will suffer. Tremendously. There are blisters, calluses and sometimes even bruises. There are fungi, athlete’s foot and smells from your running shoe that no human should have to endure. You will take off your socks and catch a glimpse of some eighty year old’s toes and realize they are yours. You will go for a pedicure and the cute little lady will say, “You a runner?” and when you say yes, she will get out the Dremel tool to shape down your fungus toes.
Fact: Purple toenail polish does wonders and you are in a good position in the pedicure chair to kick the crap out of the judgy pedicure lady.
4). The Running Community Is Like A Giant Hug
Runners love other runners. Plain and simple. You can be anywhere: an airport, Target, or in line at the DMV and if running is mentioned, there’s instant commraderie. Runners love to hear other another runner’s stories and they love to compare notes. It doesn’t matter if you are Usain Bolt or John Goodman in peanut butter, runners accept each other with open arms. Runners understand the ups and downs of distance running, the agonies of a race gone horribly wrong and the joys of hitting that PR (Personal Record, newbie…it’s okay, you’ll get the lingo). Your running friends and community will be a support system you didn’t know existed and that you will come to need like you need air.
Fact: Find a group of runners that you love and stick with them. They’ll take you places and high five you at the finish when you get there.
5). You Will Have Amazing Races Filled With Unicorns Farting Glitter
Everyone has that ONE race where it all comes together in a perfect cosmic way. Somehow, the exact combination of the new shoes, the power bar you ate at mile 10 and the buddy next to you leads to the race that you will talk about for years to come. The weather was perfect. The crowd support was amazing. The runner’s high carried you those last two miles and you dashed across that finish line with energy to spare.
Fact: Unicorns do exist but you just never know when they will show up. When they do, hang on tight because it’s an exhilarating ride over that rainbow.
6). You Will Also Have Bad Races Filled With Trolls Who Crap On Your Dreams
Sometimes, no matter how hard the training, no matter how much advanced planning, you will have a race that absolutely sucks. You will toe the start line full of promise and you will limp across that finish line feeling like a Mack truck hit you and swearing you will NEVER. RUN. AGAIN. You will reach The Wall. You will let another runner get inside your head and prevent you from finding your mojo. You will find yourself pleading with The Almighty at mile 20 and crying uncle to the spectators who are watching your meltdown.
Fact: It happens. And it’s okay. Learn from it. And come back. Because of the Glitter Farting Unicorns.
7). The Chafing.
As a newbie, I was surprised to find out about running’s dirty little secret: chafing. Chafing occurs in the usual places: under a bra line, along the seam of an ill fitting singlet, or on your thighs from running shorts. What I was APPALLED to find out is that it also occurs in lesser expected areas: between your ass cheeks, your crotch and for men, your nipples. In your ASS CHEEKS, people. Newbies, learn from me: Body Glide is your best friend. And you need two sticks of it: one for the places you can apply it in public and one for the places that you have to be hidden in a closet while applying. And make sure you label them as such, m’kay?
Fact: Buy Body Glide by the case load and apply it liberally. Don’t feel self conscious that you look like a greasy used car salesman because all the other runners look the same way. Trust me. You’ll thank me and so will your ass cheeks.
So, there you have it. Seven Runner’s Realities that newbies really ought to know before they hit the pavement. By using Body Glide liberally, chasing unicorns that fart glitter and being high fived by runners around you, you will grow to love this sport as much as I do.
That being said, though, I’m not gonna lie: I miss my toenails.