Bleeding nipples, raw thighs and tares… oh my.
Like I have stated before, I would have stopped doing this a long time ago if I was only doing it for myself. Marathon training is demanding and exhausting on a physical and mental level. Many people have asked me what I believe is the most challenging part about doing all of this. Many things are challenging, but I would say that the tole all of this takes on my body is one of the most exhausting pieces to this journey.
Until I lose enough fat off my thighs, I typically develop a rash from engaging in long runs. When I start focusing on a marathon, some of the first few long runs result in a raw rash on my thighs. After about 3 weeks of intense running, I will lose enough fat so that my thighs no longer touch nor rub against one another in any way, shape or form. This can become uncomfortable during my runs, but it feels the worst when I step into the shower. This burning sensation will usually result in me clenchin my teeth together, slamming my fist against the shower wall and asking myself why the hell I am doing all of this.
Another part of my body that can be rubbed raw is my left nipple. For some reason, my right nipple has never been rubbed raw and bled, but my left has, several times. What does this feel like? It feels like fire ants are biting your nipple, or perhaps like someone has a match near your nipple. Regardless of the metaphor, it hurts a lot. People have told me to wear pasties, but I do not think I would make for a pretty burlesque dancer. This has also helped me understand why some men may take their shirts off during a marathon.
Oh blisters… the blisters are so special. Keep in mind that I wear a size 13 running shoe. Well, you know what they say about big feet? Big heart. In all seriousness, big feet also means big toes. I have developed numerous blisters on both of my large toes, which are the size of Oreo cookies. These blisters, after popping, have now turned into a tough leather-like layer of skin. It was a painful process to develop this, but now my feet and my large toes are nearly blister resistant. I walk barefoot as often as I can in my apartment and back where I grew up in New Hampshire. Keeping the skin on the bottom of my feet thick and rough is very important to me as it acts as protection against developing more blisters. Somehow, I have managed to only lose one toe nail. This was not so painful, for the nail had died due to so much pressure coming down on my foot. After some time, it simply fell off and another grew in with hardly any time in between.
I would say that the most painful discomfort I have is with the muscles and tendons in my legs, especially my left. For some reason, my left leg takes a beating more than my right side. I have spraigned my left ankle, have suffered from bruised tendons on the top of my left foot which kept me from running for an entire month before the 2013 marathon and have had reoccurring pain with my left calf muscle and tendons which cross over my left shin. The muscle which wraps around the bottom of my left bum cheek also becomes sore and quite tight. I actually went to my massuse today and things were so tight in this leg that he had said it was like my leg was carved out of wood. This meant that there was hardly any give for appropriate mobility with these muscles and tendons. When I go for a massage, it is not a peaceful and gentle massage, it is a deep and therapudic massage. Ultimately, I feel great. During the massage, I will either awkwardly laugh or groan as we navigate highly sensitive and sore areas. The discomfort is greatly worth it, as my masseuse can get to releasing tension and freeing up muscles in ways that I am not able to. One of the most challenging moments of my recent massage was when my massuse was using his elbow to open up the muscles in my left bum cheek that were locked up.
Injuries, big and small, are inevitable. Aside from a great training schedule and technique, you must focus on maintenance. This means doing stretches and using rollers before your workouts as well as on your rest days. Rollers help get at deep layers of tissue and are much more effective than just doing stretches. My massuse actually told me to use a roller from my kitchen on my calf muscles. I do not think I will tell my room mates about this.
So the bleeding nipples, the flaps of skin left from blisters the size of cookies on my feet, the black toe nails, the raw thighs, the spraigns, the sore ass and even several visits to the doctor and emergency room… are they all worth it? You bet your sweet buns. Nothing will stop me.