It’s well past Easter, but I’m not sporting any open-toed shoes. Maybe because I don’t want to explain why only two of my toenails are red.
For those of you who have done a long run or two, you are probably nodding your head and thinking about your own “black toe” and other odd discomforts. If you are new to longer distances, well, read on for the bizarre details. I had forgotten a lot of this! Kind of like labor pains. But over vacation I tripled my mileage in a week since I had the time. Probably a big mistake … one I will be reminded of again and again as I work toward a small triathlon soon.
Curse of the Black Toe
Red under the toenail, or black toes, or even the loss of toenails is a pretty common problem for distance runners. Two sources of pressure are contributing here. The easy one to solve is if your toes are sliding forward or hitting the top of your shoes as you run. Get bigger shoes. Preferably fitted by someone who knows running.
The other pressure is from below. Basically, just pounding the pavement, and especially if you increase your mileage too quickly.
The pressure can be made worse if your socks and shoes are too tight, or if your feet are prone to swelling in the warmer months. Or, you have feet like a duck, like me. Narrow ankles and a wide forefoot may be perfect flippers, but are a real pain for finding running shoes that fit. I leave the top few lace holes undone to give my toes more wiggle room. Even with perfect shoes (and normal feet) black toes still just happen.
Here’s the Rub
When I ran my marathon, I was really grateful to see aid stations with Gatorade and water, as well as gels and bananas. What I did not expect to see was “aid” stations staffed by Army Reserve guys proffering large jars of Vaseline.
Turns out, this was not some kind of proposition for “alternate exercise” in the bushes, but the man was there to help me. After the race, I was walking like a duck on my duck feet since my “delicate” areas were chafed.
Anything that rubs as you run — whether its lycra or skin — will chafe, especially on long runs. You’re best bet for any area you would not expose in public is to lube up, and don’t forget about inner thighs, between the toes and the armpits.
If you do forget, you’ll sure remember once the hot shower hits. Ouch. Try borrowing a little ointment from the diaper-clad family members. You don’t have to admit it if you do. I did a short run today and still might be searching through the cabinet for an old supply …
Run for It
No, not the finish line. The port-o-potty. Up to a third of marathon runners will experience this condition commonly called “runners’ trots.” Being adequately hydrated and watching the foods you eat the day before and the day of a long run or race can help. Dairy, sugary foods and excess caffeine can also be a factor. Unfortunately, the one and only time I experienced this condition? Race day. For all those nice folks in Duluth who put out rolls of TP along the marathon course a few years back, you’re the best!
Hoping I never have this issue again no matter what mileage I get to. Ugh.
I Love You, But …
A good while back, I dated a hard core triathlete. Date after date and never more than a handshake. “Wow, what’s wrong with me?” I thought. He finally admitted, the long hours of training zapped his libido. I felt better, sort of.
Years later, during my own training, I had to laugh and relate to this all over again. My idea of a perfect date then became anyone with a half gallon of ice cream and a burning desire to just rub my feet. Black toes and all.
These days, long hours at work and parenting are enough to zap the drive! If you find yourself on the couch after a long run, bit of time on your hands, watch the movie “Run, Fatboy, Run.” Even if you don’t run, these tips might help you get some of the inside jokes.
So, now that I’ve bared all, chafed bits and everything, what’s your strangest minor injury from training?