Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know About Running

Running is great, right? It’s a virtually free sport, that anyone who has a pair of trainers can do. It’s so easy too, you just step outside your door and off you go! I mean, I don’t understand why more people don’t take it up – sure beats going to the gym, am I Right?

Girl, you are so wrong.

As a multi time runner over almost 5 years with over 20 races and over 5,000 miles under my metaphorical belt, its safe to say that I know a thing or two about this sport – notably, not as much as others, but I’ve run my fair share of races at a number of distances and there are some things I wish somebody had told me about this sport. I absolutely love running, and don’t want any of these to put anyone off ever starting, because it truly is awesome. But be warned, if you run, sooner or later you will run into these (see what I did there? I’m so witty).

You will need to dedicate an entire drawer/ shelf/cupboard to running apparel and such.

Base layers, t-shirts, long-sleeved tops, vests, shorts, long tights, 3/4 length tights, sports bras, runderwear, the free t-shirts from your race swag, fleeces, rain jackets, hats, socks, buffs, headbands, sweatbands, your kit bag, bottles, camel packs, nutrition,…. Yep, all that stuff needs a home, and it all takes up space, even though you will be revolving most of your clothing in the washing machine and your kit bag. And you’ll need to wash it and replace it regularly, because if you don’t it will SMELL OF DEATH.

Below is an example of the kit I had to repurchase before a marathon totalling around £60.

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Trainers will become your most expensive shoe purchase.

My last pair of trainers were Asics trail trainers which cost me a sweet £70, and I go through 2-3 pairs a year. £70 is cheap for good running trainers. When I say “go through” I mean I run until they are so worn out there are holes in them. I guess for some people that’s not too expensive, but when you factor in my next point, it all adds up.

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Free? No. Running is not free. 

Race entries, trainers, sports bras, running gear, KT Tape, anti-chafe cream, seriously whoever told me running was free was a LIAR. it is not free. Race entries can range from £20 – £60, plus if it’s not local, you have travel costs, maybe even a hotel, plus food, plus all your gear on top of clothing like camel packs and gels, its not a free sport. Sure if you don’t want to do a race or splash out you don’t have to, but where’s the fun in that? Plus medals. I mean, look at them.

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You will at some point, be absent of toenails.

Currently I have 6 toenails in total, and I have given up with painting anything other than my big toenail and on occasion the skin where my toenails used to be. Oh and you’ll get blisters, guaranteed. There is no point fighting them, you just need to slap a plaster or 4 on pre-race in your problem areas and deal with them. The skin on my feet is so hard in some areas I can rub them together and start a fire when I’m marathon training. Feet are ugly anyway.

Also chafing. Your feet will chafe, your nipples will chafe, your thighs will chafe and your armpits will chafe. Its all part of running life.

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Runner poops are a real thing (But you can avoid them)

Sorry to be gross, but if you’re training long distance you are going to experience runner shits. Ask any runner who has done a few long distance races and they will be able to tell you a story about a time they had to go “back to nature” on a long run. I’ve managed to keep my stomach pretty tame in recent years and have a good pre race nutrition strategy now to try to avoid it as much as possible:

Carb loading the night before – keep away from any heavy sauces, spicy foods and booze. Drink 2l of water a day in the week leading up to your half and marathons.

Carb Loading the morning of the race – Porridge, toast, keep it plain. After your meal, have a strong cup of black coffee, followed by a pint of iced cold water. The combination helps to get everything out before the race.

During the race – don’t accept every free jelly baby en route. Your stomach will hate you.You’ll feel bloated and shit, so don’t accept them at mile three, maybe in the last 5 miles or so if youre really struggling. Keep hydrated, stick to the nutrition you have practised with -now is not the time to try something new. If you gotta go, use the toilets, don’t try to hold it in because running with a full bowel or bladder is not fun (and guys PLEASE don’t piss up against a wall on the course, its gross).

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You wont always have great race photos. 

I have about 3 good race photos from all of my races, the rest I look like I’m dying, or in a huge amount of pain, or racing against a killer bear. Not cute. But who cares? I don’t even notice the cameras now, and I’ve never purchased any photos because I always look like a tool.

Below are two photos from the same race, and it just goes to show everyone has a bad angle.

You’ll experiment with running Gels, with mixed results. Some good, some great, some horrid. 

I have tried many many gels, bars, liquids and powders and there is no magic formula, it’s all trial and error and to find a brand and combo that works for you. Some people choose not to use any, others only use gels,  I use a combination of gels and electrolyte water, and use recovery powders to make sure I don’t ache too much the next day. I can recommend Science in Sport as its all I’ve used since my first marathon after trying the entire sports shop range,and I don’t think I’ll ever change. Their products really are the best I’ve tried, and I’ve tried some really nasty ones that were so thick it was like swallowing honey. Not great when youre running. They have a huge and comprehensive range for all sports, and their gels really are great.

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If its good enough for our Olympic cyclists its good enough for me.

Some days you’ll have a really shit run.

Some days everything will go right. The weather will be great, you’ll have had a fantastic nights sleep, your favourite gear will be ready for you to leap into, and it will be the best run ever, with PR’s everywhere.

Other days everything will go wrong.

Your stomach will feel like its been through a blender, it will start raining half way through and, surprise surprise, you wont have your waterproof with you. you’ll feel slow and sluggish, and when you’re done you’ll just feel shit.

Bad days happen, not every run can be amazing, but you have to just power through those bad runs, because without them you’ll never try to push yourself to be the best you can. I’ve had many bad runs where I’ve felt horrible and wanted to just give up, but you can’t because then you’re back to square one. You just have to embrace the bad run, take a hot shower and get back out there again next time and go for it!

Waking up at 6am on Sunday for a race will become the norm. 

Yep. You may loathe dragging your sorry ass out of bed Monday to Friday, but on a Sunday race day, your alarm will go off and zombie mode will kick in, and you’ll be up and tucking into porridge before your brain has a chance to catch up. Then the race doesn’t start until 10am, by which time you’ve consumed 4 coffees and had 18 nervous pees, and you’re PUMPED. LETS DO THIS!

Post run you’re exhausted (the good kind) and cant wait to crawl into bed with your pizza and your medal.

When people ask about your weekend plans, you’ll respond in miles. 

Yep, this is more than a meme, this is real life. People will ask me what my plans are and I usually say “well, I’ve got a 10 miler on Sunday afternoon, so I’ll probably take it easy Saturday”. They just look at me with a blank expression on their faces. Anyone who is currently in marathon training will understand just how much running takes over your life. So long wild weekend plans, hello #longrunsunday. Besides, you get some great views when you run 17 odd miles.

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Theres an app for that. 

And a watch, and a smart band, a chip you can put in your shoes,and millions of apps. But you don’t need them all. You don’t really need a watch. I’ve been running for 5 years and never used a watch, just used Map my Run on my phone and it’s absolutely fine. Some people don’t want to take their phones though and just want to run with a watch and guess what? That’s fine too. You record your runs however you want, if you want to at all, it’s not compulsory. However many runners will argue that using a running app like MMR or Strava actually makes them a better runner. I love looking at my race stats and seeing how much I’ve improved, plus strava kudos is like a virtual hi-5 from my fellow runners, and who doesn’t love that?

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Food. So much food. 

You will notice that as you start upping your miles you will get hungry. all. the. damn. time. And you’ll need to fuel this hunger. But as you keep running, your body will start to get used to all the extra fuel and will work harder with it. You’re body is kind of incredible like that. So when you stop running and training for marathons its important to stop eating as much too – that is where things go wrong and any weight you’ve been trying to shift will come back on. This can also effect your performance as you may notice a shift in your speed as you’ll be carrying a little extra weight.

You might start off by rewarding yourself with cakes, crisps and all the goodies you quite rightly deserve, but as you run more you’ll learn that what you put into your body determines what your performance output is. Good, wholesome food with complex carbs and protein = good. Fatty, refined carbs and sugar = bad. It’s all about moderation.

But Post Race Pizza is life.

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You will see your body change.

For girls especially, you will firstly notice that your boobs are gonna get smaller. I went down an entire cup size in 18 months. Yes, I quite literally ran my tits off. You’ll also notice your leg muscles change, my calves and thighs are so solid now its scary, and also annoying because jeans are a real challenge. I never lost weight around my middle much, and my weight has always maintained at around 58-65kgs (not that I weighed in much because who can be bothered with that?) I noticed that my posture has improved insanely, and my back muscles are very strong. I occasionally go to the gym and do some weights and swimming too, just to keep everything in check. Plus cross training is insanely good for runners, including swimming, yoga, weights, cycling etc.

If you start running with the intention to lose weight bear in mind no matter what, you can’t spot reduce weight. Running will help lose weight over all, but you cant pick where it comes off.

This just shows how much your body can change. First three photos are the first 2 years of running, then I stopped running so much and a little bit came back on. But WHO CARES.

People will call you crazy. 

These are usually the same people who take the piss when you tell them how far you are running that weekend. When I started my job, People found it so bizarre that I would go running every Tuesday and Thursday lunchtime, and almost every time someone in my office would comment “You’re insane, I don’t know why you do it” well guess what, its none of their business why any of us run, you just do what you’ve gotta do.

You’ll discover a part of yourself that you didn’t know you had.

Running really does change you as a person, and it makes you look at yourself and really appreciate just how damn awesome your body is. If someone told me at 18 that I would be running 20 miles a week for no reason, I would have laughed. Running doesn’t have to be a chore, and it doesn’t have to be hard work, just enjoy whatever distance you do and embrace how amazing your body is for carrying you over those distances. Also be super smug knowing you can eat all the carbs you want and then just run it off at the weekend.

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You’ll always look a sweaty gross mess post run. Embrace it.

I always, always look (and smell) absolutely disgusting after a run. My face is red, my hair is a sweaty lump on top of my head – you can wring sweat out of it at times – I’m sweating so bad I have wet patches under my boobs, my feet have swollen because they’re so hot – guess what, that means I’ve worked the fuck out to the max, and that’s awesome. There is nothing wrong with being a sweaty hot mess after a work out, it just shows that you have pushed yourself to your absolute limit, and that how you improve! You will find you have to wash your hair a hell of a lot more too, but eh, is that really so bad? (If you have hair like mine, aka huge curly hair, yes it is).

Just look at those curls trying to break free!

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Plus there are loads of others, but if I tell you everything, there is no fun stuff left?!

In closing, running is a physically demanding sport. Training for marathons is time-consuming, if anything, it is life consuming. People who don’t run wont get why you’re doing it, but they will admire you for it. And there are people who come out with the same old running jokes (“Run Forest Run!” yeah, I’ve not heard that one before), and will probably take the piss, but that’s on them, not you.

Running saved my life. I started running at a time in my life when I was lost and didn’t know who I was or where my life was going. Running helped me battle through a broken relationship, crippling anxiety, and was always there for me, though the bad times, through the terrible times, and it still is now, in the good times. I don’t run as much as I used to, because I’m not training for marathons any more (I’ve done 6, I don’t really want to do any more for now) But I’ll still run half marathons regularly throughout the year, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop. To anyone who thinks they can’t run, or that people will judge them, consider this: I am an asthmatic, arthritic, depression survivor who hated PE at school, who’s best PB is a sub 2 hr half marathon – pretty standard really. If I can do it, anyone can. I don’t give a shit if people stare at me while I’m running, I’m too busy trying to keep my breathing in check! and guess what, when I’m done, I’ll go home, have a long ass bath and then eat half a loaf of bread.

So give it a try, you might just surprise yourself.

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5 thoughts on “Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know About Running

  1. very educating! I run too but not as much as you. I started yesteryear. The first time I ran a half marathon, I hyperventilated. One thing I learned? discipline; and yes, you are right about everything.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. very educating! I run too but not as much as you do. I started yesteryear. The first time I ran a half marathon, I hyperventilated. One thing I learned? discipline; and yes, you are right about everything.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fantastic blog 🙂 I’ve had it as a tab on my iPhone since I saw you’d posted it but I’ve only now just read it all. Thank you. I love running, so to read the part about running an inordinate amount of miles, ‘for no reason st all,’ really resonated with me – as did the rest of the piece. I’ve never run a marathon though! My furthest is about 12k. I’ve had several injuries the last year or two, plus I have to have an operation at some point this year, so although I’ve been going to the gym I’ve found running hard. I’ve moved house too, the tiny village (nearer Norwich) where I live now just isn’t as easy to run around as the old railway line I used to live quite close to. Your article’s inspired me – I only went 2k around a local National Trust park last weekend, but doing that and reading this have made me realise just how much I love it. Evenings are lighter, hopefully work-related pressures will make me to run for escape purposes, and I have this to refer to! Keep going 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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