8 Gross Things about Running

Running seems like a great, sometimes pretty way to spend your time. Cute outfits, stunning views and all the grace of a gazelle right? Sure maybe sometimes for some people but there are some pretty yucky things we encounter along the way. Since lots of you are out there pounding the pavement and deep into training for fall races and god forbid an ultra, I’m here to tell you that you are not alone in your grossness so take heart and have a good laugh. One great thing about running is that we tend to be all alone out there when the nastiest things happen so maybe that’s why we all end up so blasé and accepting about it all. So let’s dig deep into all the gross things all us runners encounter.

Snot rockets

Running in winter, through pollen, pollution or even when it’s ever so slightly chilly makes your nose turn into something resembling a garden hose. Now the most efficient way to deal with this is to plug one nostril and let ‘er rip. This move is known as a snot rocket. The thing that I’ve discovered is actually blowing one is hard and there is a learning process. Sometimes your nasal secretions don’t shoot as far away as you would like and you end up wearing them or it only goes as far as your chin, yuck! But chances are you’re running by yourself, no one can see you and you really don’t care that much. Or that could just be me either, way snot rockets are gross especially when poorly performed!


You can drive through a bad smell and it’s not pleasant but it’s not all that bad. Skunks, manure, diesel exhaust fumes and around here a past it’s prime septic system or low tide all happen. Maybe that even prompts you to push that circulator button in your car. Well I’m here to tell you it’s 96.4% better in the car than when you’re running through it. It’s not just the time spent since you’re moving slower your olfactory senses are assaulted for longer but the intensity upgrade is something else! Plus you are breathing very deeply and very often while running and that only makes it worse. I’ve even vetoed looking at real estate with honey because “trust me that spot smells like a$$ sometimes!” A smell that is just unpleasant to drive through seems to crawl into the very deepest part of your sinuses and camp out for way longer than when you’re just driving by. 

Things you step in

Sure dog poop happens, even though it shouldn’t. It’s the law to pick up after your pooch after all. But while running you’re going to step in/on some crazy stuff. In fact just when you think you’ve seen it all you’re going to step in something that really raises the bar. Truthfully a lot of this stuff doesn’t even dirty your sole but the heebie-jeeby factor is something else! Things I’ve stepped in include:

  • Used condoms
  • Dirty underwear including a red lace thong
  • Vomit
  • Poo of unknown origin
  • A dead raccoon
ummmm… what’s that?

You gotta go

So far I’ve not dealt with runner’s trots, *throws salt over shoulder. But it can and does happen. Running in general but especially for a long, long time pulls blood supply from your digestive system and that can mean that you have catastrophic, rapid onset urges to go, just ask Paula Radcliffe. Even if it doesn’t happen to you you might see it happen to someone during your next race and that’s even a little gross. Even if you never get the trots all that running and water drinking might mean you need to pee out in the world. Perhaps for men this is no big deal but that means the ladies have to find a place to pop-a-squat. It happens and I carry some paper towel with me for long runs just in case. But you also get pretty good at sighting places to go along your routes. My long run route passes 6 beaches, 2 times and a couple of those beaches have outhouses. Under normal circumstances I have serious attitude about using these poo-shacks but on long and yes hot day summer long runs, I look forward to it. Yuck, gross thing number 4 about running: lowering your loo standards.

Nose picking

Please let me know if you do this too because I have a secret fear that I’m the only runner that does this. Okay confession time, here goes, I find it drives me nuts to have boogies up in there while I’m running, they get dry or wet and drive me nuts so before I go for a run I make it a point to dig those suckers out of there. It’s a preventative measure okay!?! Anyway, running makes me a nose picker, I’m alright with it. We all do it sometimes, I see you in your car! 


Good undies that fit well and haven’t stretched out yet go a long, long way into prevent wedgies, so do running skirts, butt (ha ha ha) they still happen. At some point a wedgie just has to be picked and in 23 years of running I have yet to discover a way to do that gracefully plus I don’t really care. Some runs you end up with a underwear shorts combo that just don’t want to be friends and well you end up with pretty much a perma-wedgie. So running leads you to pick your wedge in public on the regular, no big deal I’ve done worse but still pretty yucky. What I don’t understand is how a car seems to materialize out of nowhere the very moment I dig in there even though I just checked!

wedgie? no it was just a really hard race okay?

Blisters/ Black toe nails

PSA: blister prevention and treatment post imminently forthcoming. I’m either lucky or I’d like to think skilled at taking care of my feet as a runner, probably just lucky though. Just google marathoner’s feet and wow, ick. Plus all those blisters, calluses, bunions and ‘other’ looks hella gross. It’s not to say I never have a blister or rough patch but your feet can get well and truly gross especially as a training runner. Last year I had a few develop during half marathon training but I was able to stay ahead of them getting really icky. What happens to a lot of runners is something pops up but taking a break for healing doesn’t seem like an option since you’re training schedule waits for no man. So you keep going  and your foot issue intensifies, that’s how you end up with feet that make non-runners cringe! Full disclosure it’s pretty easy to prevent these icky issues and have cute sandal feet all year long but I did lose a big toe nail once, wasn’t as gross as you’d think.

Bug eating

If you run outdoors you’re going to eat some bugs. Big bugs, small bugs, flying bugs and hopefully not stinging bugs but that might happen too. Supposedly we all eat tons of bugs while sleeping and eating jam every year but the key here is we don’t know it’s happening! That alone is pretty yucky but the realization of what just happened when you eat a bug hits a lot harder. It’s kind of a moving freak out that’s centered in your throat. You end up gagging, hacking and swearing you can still feel it in there for several kilometers after the initial ingestion. I’ve never called for a pick-up from a run, although I would do it if I had to, but eating a bug has made me consider it more often than anything else. It just seems dramatic to call home and say probably while gagging “I need you to come pick me up, I just ate a bug!”

Keep your mouth closed? Easier said than done!

Has running made you into the nastiest version of yourself or am I the only one who does this gross stuff? What yucky running thing did I leave out?

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