Chafing 101

Last year I ran the second half of the San Francisco Marathon in July, three months before my first marathon.  The SF Marathon is a great race, not only because they post entertaining trivia questions along the scenic route, but also because they offer two half marathon options, in addition to the full 26.2.  You can either run the first half of the full marathon, or the second half.  At the time I chose the second half of the marathon because I’d run other races in SF that covered essentially the same ground as the first half of the SF marathon and I wanted some new scenery.  I discovered race morning that this decision was genius, for multiple reasons I hadn’t realized when registering.

First, the second half marathon start time was a good two hours after the gun signals the start of the full marathon and first half, and we all know how much I like to snooze.  Secondly, the start line was less than a mile from my house and lastly, it gave me the opportunity to see the kind of shape people were in at the end of the full marathon, and let me tell you, it was not pretty. 

Most people either looked like they wanted to die or they were already on their way.  It freaked me out.  I am going to do this in a couple months?  At this point in my training, I’d never run more than 13.1 miles so I expected I was in for what it looked like everyone else was experiencing.  Pain. 

I saw faces full of anguish, limping gaits, and blood!  Everyone was bleeding!  I was shocked.  Nipples, love handles, arm pits, inner thighs…you name it, it was chafing.  So this is what happens after 13.1 miles?  Why am I subjecting myself to this torture again?  Shortly after this race, I purchased my first tube of boob lube.  😉 

I learned over the next couple months during my marathon training, that had these individuals trained properly for the SF Marathon, they probably would have had more skin intact at the end of the race.  I’ve learned over the last couple of months while training for my second marathon that once a chafer, always a chafer. 

I actually don’t have it too badly in the chafing department, just a little bit where the seams on the bottom of some of my sports bras rub against the skin but I’ve learned some things I thought I’d share for those of you training for your first long distance race (and there’s a LOT of you now!).

Lesson #1:       Lube up!  I use this which, I didn’t realize until after I purchased it, is intended for cyclists but it works great!  Note to females: sometimes lubing up the girls causes circles of moisture to be more visible than usual on your shirt after you start running therefore I try to wear shirts that won’t show the wet rings so as to not attract unwanted attention. 😉

Lesson #2:       Heal fast!  Chafed skin turns into scabbed skin which will chafe more easily the next time (and stings in the shower!).  If you can heal fast and continue to lube up, you won’t chafe as much.

Lesson #3:       Dress properly!  Running clothes are made a particular way for a particular reason; find moisture wicking, soft, seamless clothing intended for running whenever possible.

Lesson #4:       Take precautions!  When I trained last year for my first marathon, the chafing didn’t start until probably my first 15 mile run.  Now for some reason I chafe more easily on shorter distance runs so I take precautionary measures and apply lube whenever I’m running 10 or more miles.  You’ll be able to figure out what works for you but I’d err on the side of caution.

Lesson #5:       Chafe is spelled c-h-a-f-e, not c-h-a-f-f.  I’m not chaffing.

Lesson #6:       If it rubs when you walk, it’s definitely going to chafe when you run.  Even if it doesn’t rub when you walk, it might chafe when you run so be mindful of how your body is reacting as you build up mileage.

Lesson #7:       Chafing is not limited to rubbing body parts or clothing; equipment can leave marks as well.  I now have a permanent “tramp stamp” scar from where my water belt chafed my back last year.  I also have a little scar where my iPod arm-band straps.   

Lesson #8:       It’s just a little road rash, get over it!  Of all the possible running injuries out there, this is just a little scraped skin, lube up and get on with it!      

I’ve got a 17 mile run this weekend in beautiful Santa Barbara, CA.  Already have the boob lube packed!

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