I’ve never been much of a runner. As a child my throat always felt like sandpaper and my knees ached as if I were my grandmother’s age after a long run. Sometime in middle school I decided that I was firmly a walker, a fast walker, but a walker still. Fast forward two decades and I’m married to a guy who’s run not one, not two, but a half-dozen marathons. Fate is funny that way.
My nuptials to a marathon runner led one person after another to ask me if I planned to start running. I resented the question, not just because I didn’t identify as a runner but also because I couldn’t believe that people felt I should start running simply because my husband did. Still, my husband and I worked out together all the time, compromising by walk-running rather than doing one or the other exclusively. When I worked out alone at the gym, however, I began to notice something: I was walking faster on my treadmill than many people were jogging on theirs. It dawned on me that if I could walk 12-minute miles there was no reason I couldn’t run.
The opportunity to run came last summer when an acquaintance of mine, another marathoner, asked me to jog around the Pasadena Rose Bowl with her. That’s approximately 3.2 miles. I wasn’t sure if I could run the entire thing but accepted her invitation anyway. It was difficult—I could barely talk during the run—but I managed to loop the entire Rose Bowl in 30 minutes without stopping. Now I run all the time. I haven’t run a marathon and don’t intend to (a 10K is more my speed) but I get a bit antsy when I’m forced to give up running for a few days. Suffice it to say that today I think of myself as a runner, but there are a few ugly things about the activity I wish someone had warned me about before I caught the running bug.
Runny Nose: As if sweating profusely weren’t gross enough, my nose starts to run whenever I go for a jog. It’s a condition called exercised-induced rhinitis (EIR) and it affects about 40 percent of endurance athletes, according to NBC News. The symptoms of EIR mimic allergic rhinitis, or hay fever. EIR is more common in people with allergies and during the wintertime. Exercising outdoors puts runners at risk for the condition as well. What’s to blame? Pollution from car exhaust may play a role, but the good news is that nasal sprays may help your symptoms.
Bruised Toenails: Running may mean bidding farewell to your pretty toenails. I can’t count how many times my toenails have turned black and fallen off since I’ve started running. My doctor recommended going up a half shoe size because she suspected that my feet swell when I run, causing my nails to graze the front of my shoes. I tried that and when that didn’t work I went back to my normal shoe size. No matter what I do, my toenails still get bruised from time to time. About.com’s running site recommends keeping your feet dry and wearing wicking socks during runs rather than cotton ones to prevent your toenails from falling off. I tried that and I think it’s helped.
Cake Sweat: Ever finish a run and notice white streaks dried to your face? It’s called cake sweat, according to Runner’s World magazine and can be quite embarrassing, especially if you have dark skin like I do, making the salty streaks stand out all the more. Runner’s World says that people who eat a low-sodium diet are more prone to this problem. The magazine recommends simply adding salt to eggs, meats and other foods. If you’re at risk for high blood pressure like I am, check with your doctor before making this move. You can also drink a sports drink while you run.
Acid Reflux: Heartburn is the last feeling you want to have as you huff and puff your way to the finish line, but for many runners it’s a reality of the pastime. According to Web MD, exercise causes heartburn when the lower esophageal sphincter muscle is weak or too relaxed, causing stomach acid to make its way back into the esophagus. Certain foods such as tomato sauce, orange juice, coffee and alcohol can trigger exercise-induced heartburn as well. WebMD recommends cutting out the offending foods, eating two to three hours before a workout or eating something soothing, such as a banana or yogurt before exercising, to name a few.
Chafed Nipples: Thank God I don’t have firsthand experience of this problem, but it’s no secret that athletes who run for long distances put their nipples through the ringer. If you’re planning on running a marathon, you might want to invest in some nipple guards. Male runners are more prone to this problem than female runners. Using Bodyglide, Band-Aids or unscented deodorant on your nipples may prevent this unpleasant byproduct of running, reports Runner’s World.