For most endurance athletes, running is usually a positive experience. It teaches us that we can persevere and do hard things. It allows us to decompress and process things we may be struggling with. It gives us a community and a socially approved rationale to eat every 90 minutes or so. In spite of all the positives associated with the sport, there is certainly a dark side to running. And with Halloween (my favorite holiday) approaching, I thought it would fun to explore the top ten running nightmares that most runners have experienced from time to time. I also included some tried and true remedies and solutions; to help you sleep at night, of course.
Every seasoned runner knows the distinct feeling of realizing you have rubbed a patch of skin raw the moment you step into a shower. Knives. Electric Volts. Immediate and unexpected pain. It. Is. The. Worst. And you are almost guaranteed to experience it at some point when you go beyond 10k. Basically it is the athletic equivalent of carpet burn, and it is the unfortunate result of friction.
While some runners are able to circumvent the sting through the use of topical lubricants (like Glide or Squirrels Nut Butter), I have a great runner hack that I recommend all my running buddies try at least once. As much as I love my Nathan hydration pack, I did find that I consistently had one spot near my collar bone where the seam rubbed my skin, especially during long, sweaty runs. Sticking a small piece of KT tape over the area protected my skin and required no reapplying, even during my 50k.
Not much needs to be explained here. Basically, when you gotta go you gotta go. And you don’t always have a wonderful amount of warning, especially if you are experiencing one of the WORST runnering nightmares. Runners trots. The cutesy name for GI stress. AKA, stomach issues that will result in pooping your pants like a two year old if you don’t find a bathroom soon.
While I cannot manifest bathrooms (though I would absolutely take that as a super power if offered), I can offer a piece of advice. Always carry at least one serving of Pepto Chewables. You can usually find them in gas stations in a pinch, and they are always at your local pharmacy. They can come in clutch when your stomach takes a turn. Now you may be asking yourself, what if you just need to pee and you’re far from a public restroom? Does that count as a bathroom nightmare? Well, most seasoned runners will tell you finding a bush doesn’t take much effort 🙂
Shoes Being Discontinued
It is often said that in order to start running, you only need one thing, a good pair of shoes. However, people’s feet come in a million shapes and sizes, and finding the right pair that is supportive without being cumbersome is like finding runners gold. Inevitably, the moment you identify the pair of shoe that feels like it was crafted just for your two feet, the manufacturer will come out with a new “slightly enhanced” edition that your feet will absolutely hate.
The solution for this is simple, wait until the “old” edition goes on sale and buy up as many pairs as your bank account will allow. It’s like buying in bulk; hopefully it saves you money in the long run! At least that’s how I justify it when I click “complete” on my 14 pair order.
One of the things I love most about trail running is that while you may have to navigate around out of control cyclists and runaway jogging strollers, you almost never have to worry about actually being run over. In a battle of car vs. runner, the car almost always wins unfortunately. If you run in the dark, I highly encourage you to consider some sort of reflective gear to get drivers’ attention, as well as a head lamp of some kind for your own visibility. They do say that the best offense is a good defense, so be aware of your surroundings and follow traffic laws.
You may read this and think, “this girl already talked about chaffing, why is she bringing up blisters, they’re the same thing.” Well, Susan, they are in fact very different. Chaffing is a simple rubbed raw issue, whereas a blister involves repetitive friction that causes fluid under the skin to build up, resulting in swelling and potentially an open wound at some point.
Few things in life are as traumatic as removing a sock at the end of a run only to realize that it looks like you have grown a sixth toe. And inside of that new appendage is a mixture of blood, fluid, and raw skin. Chaffing usually heals in 1-2 days, but a good blister can be with you for an entire week, and has resulted in many a DNF in the ultra-marathon world.
Again, I would recommend some kind of lubricant to prevent the friction that causes blisters. Recently, I’ve also found the world of individual toe socks. They are a nightmare to look at, but they can go a long way in helping to make sure your toes mind their own business and don’t rub one another into a small volcano situation.
Forgetting to Restart Your Watch
Ever had the dream where you’re trying to get somewhere, and no matter how much progress you think you’ve made, you just can’t get to the damn destination? That is the same feeling I get when I realize I’ve forgotten to restart my Garmin after pressing pause. Have I gone three miles? Seven? Do I need to turn around or keep going? Who knows!
For the most part, I actually run the same routes regularly, and generally know how far one landmark is from another. But for a type-A individual who wants the satisfaction of seeing accurate data and a round number ending in .00 on distance, forgetting to restart the watch is an experience that just gets under your skin. I don’t have a real solution here, just know that runners everywhere have done it. A million times. And maybe if you’re lucky the Strava data on your phone can back you up.
Sleeping Through the Alarm
The majority of runners I know are morning runners. It starts our day off on a good note. Life hasn’t had the opportunity to beat us down by 6am. It’s the perfect excuse for having the breakfast of our dreams, complete with all the carbs our little hearts can handle. It can be a sacred, protected time for those of us hitting the trail or pavement on a regular basis. Waking up to get a run in before work is no easy feat. Hitting the snooze button one too many times can result in a frustrating schedule change.
If however, you are running in South Texas in mid-June, sleeping in 15 minutes too late might just mean spending a good portion of your day recovering from the experience of running on the surface of the Sun. It is 94 degrees by 7am down here for half the summer; sleeping in and running in the afternoon is not an option. My solution? Don’t be average and set one alarm. Set three. And have a running buddy who will lovingly serial text you with curse words and reminders of the days’ heat index.
We use our phone for everything these days, running included. Our phones can track our distance, take IG worthy pictures as photographic proof of our athletic feats, and keep us entertained with music and podcasts alike. It can dial 911 if we feel like someone’s keeping too close of an eye on our every running move. It can also arrange an Uber when we’ve overshot an out and back route. It’s an important part of runner preparedness, and while we can all probably survive a run without our device of choice, it can really suck when we have to. I don’t advocate for extra batteries because those suckers are heavy, but I absolutely recommend charging your phone to 100% prior to any sizeable effort.
Running Out of Fuel
We may train our bodies to be well-oiled machines, but at the end of the day our bodies are living and require nutrition to keep moving. If you are running less than 10 miles, chances are you don’t really need much outside of coffee and breakfast to make it through a run. But once you’ve been moving for longer than an hour, if you don’t put any calories in, it’s likely that you are going to run smack into the dreaded wall. Under-fueling can lead to a host of issues, including cramps (muscle and stomach), fatigue, weakness, and most infuriating, GI distress.
Turns out not eating when you need to may make it more difficult to eat later on. As debilitating as forgetting or running out of fuel can be, I do have a somewhat simple solution for the road runners out there. ApplePay. Generally, if you’re running on the road, you typically aren’t ever that far from a gas station. And gas stations may not carry quality calorie sources, but they do carry gummy bears, jelly beans, and starbursts. All these can be used in a pinch. If you don’t have ApplePay, I suggest packing a credit card along with your fear.
Clearly I’ve saved one of the worst running nightmares for last. Once you have fallen head over heels in love with running, there is nothing worse than a serious injury. Most runners will experience a muscle strain, cranky joints, or over fatigued tendons from time to time, but a true injury that requires weeks of non weight-bearing is the absolute worst. Sure people will tell you it’s temporary, and it’s an opportunity to focus on other important things, but the truth is injuries just suck. They can postpone destination races and kill PR dreams.
And if you are someone like me, not being able to be active substantially increases the chances that you will destroy all of your relationships. I am not a fun human to be around when I can’t run. The one positive of running injuries is that they are a great reminder of just how important it is to do all the boring prehab, stretching, and strength work to avoid them. So my recommendation to avoid this nightmare? Do all those things, and do them often.
One item that makes my personal list is probably not universal; running through a cloud of mosquitoes. The vampires of nature. If you are #blessed enough to experience a run in Texas a few days after a torrential downpour, you will likely revel in your amazing pace. Because you will be running for your life, seeking shelter from the Biblical plague that is Texas mosquitoes.
Did I miss any running nightmares that you and your running buddies have experienced?
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