It’s not unusual to have friends come to me for advice when they decide to start an exercise routine that involves running. I am certainly no expert, but I have been hitting the pavement (under duress) for twenty years now, so I am qualified by my experience if by nothing else. My first instinct is to tell the unfortunate, naïve would-be runner NOT to run at all. I tell them that running is torture, and running is brutal. Running is for masochistic loners who are looking for a way to exercise that doesn’t involve eye contact with other humans or team work of any kind. Running is for people who want to bitch-slap tiny, Lycra-wearing exercise instructors and for those of us who just want to get their cardio workout finished sans conversation.
I sometimes suggest that sweatin' to the oldies with Richard Simmons might be preferable to running, or perhaps they might just forget the whole idea and enjoy a stint in the recliner with the remote. Even a bikini wax administered by a surly, disgruntled immigrant cursing you in her native tongue is better than running. They usually laugh nervously at my suggestions. They think I'm joking. I'm not.
If you still think the Nike Life might be for you and that running can't be all that bad, then let me fill you in on the darker side of the sport. These are the harsh realities that seasoned runners usually keep to themselves and that the running industry would rather you not know about. I have picked out a few of my favorites to share, and I'm calling it....
Bad Things That Will More Than Likely Happen To You If You Become A Runner
Chafing: Big deal, right? Chapstick is easy enough to apply. Oh, how I wish it were the lips! If you make the mistake of taking to the road in ill-fitting shorts or a not-so-supportive jog bra or underwear that are slightly too snug (or too loose for that matter), you will find out just how friction works between cotton/spandex blends and human flesh. Sure, you can use Vaseline or a runner’s gel made especially for this purpose, but what if your tube is empty, and you can’t make it to the store before your next run? What if you are just too damn lazy (like me) and decide to run without it? There will be blood shed.
Case in point: I recently ran gel-free on a morning when the humidity topped out somewhere around 147% and sweat was steadily pooling into every crevice of my body. I could tell that I was in big trouble when I went to adjust my jog bra and the movement sent a searing pain from the bottom of my rib cage. When I got home, I started peeling off my wet clothes only to find that area where the bottom band of my jog bra rests was bleeding. B-l-e-e-d-i-n-g. The skin was gone. The fun didn’t stop there, though. I was also bleeding (bleeding!) from the inside top of both thighs where they had been rubbing together for the last ten miles or so as if to start a fire. When I got into the shower and the soapy water hit the raw flesh, I screamed like a little girl. My thighs were so sore that I walked around like Popeye for a good day and a half. The bottom line here is make sure you grease up before you go-go.
Losing appendages: Okay, so maybe I exaggerate here. I haven't actually lost a toe, but let me tell you a little story about toenails. Once upon a time, there was a tired, old runner who could never seem to find a pair of shoes that fit her properly. She noticed that her toes were constantly sore, throbbing, and even turned frightening shades of red, blue and purple! Oh, my! She kept on running through the pain (because that's what the little voices inside her head told her to do), and frequently found blood in her shoes and socks at the end of each run.
One day, the pain was so excruciating that she ended up limping home. In the privacy of her bedroom, she slowly pulled the sock off her right foot, when lo and behold, one of her toenails stayed inside the sock! Her toenail had separated permanently from her nail bed sometime during the run. Just then, she heard someone calling to her from outside. She threw open the window, and saw her Prince smiling from down below. She let down her long, beautiful hair, and he climbed up those golden locks to whisk her away to the Land Where Doritos Don't Make You Fat. (Either that, or she took a shower and hobbled downstairs to get a Band Aid and eat some peanut butter crackers.)
Runner’s Trots: This is a very sensitive subject and one that a Proper Southern Lady should avoid, but I’m telling you this as a warning, so here I go. If you have never heard the term “Runner’s Trots”, you are probably familiar with the other name for this condition: explosive diarrhea. That’s right. You’re running along thinking how awesome you are for dogging some Granny in a baseball cap on that last hill when, all of a sudden, you feel like you’ve been punched in the gut. You start experiencing intestinal cramps akin to the onset of labor, and you realize that you seriously have to go to the bathroom…NOW. This would be a manageable condition except that you are five miles from home, and there isn’t a single public restroom in sight. Once safely off the road and into the woods, you are trying to remember what poison ivy looks like as you squat and chant, “Leaves of three, let them be”.
Runner’s Trots can happen to the best of us. When your body is working hard to pump blood to your legs, sometimes the intestines are deprived of normal blood flow which can cause irritation, pain and the nearly uncontrollable urge to poop against your most determined will. There are even some long distance runners who carry a wad of toilet tissue with them on race day just in case they have to “do it on the road”. The bottom line here is, when planning your running route, make sure you are never more than a cramp or two away from a toilet.
Although these are some of the most disgusting side effects of running, let's not forget shin splints, plantar fasciitis, blown out knees, aching hips, creepy stalker dudes, and rabid dogs. And no, I have never experienced "runner's high", the mythical state of being that would make all the bad stuff seem like butterflies and ice cream.
Even though I hate it, and even though I would rather be a cashier at Wal-Mart on Black Friday, I still continue to do it every. So, what's my motivation? That's easy: Skinny Jeans.