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Marathon Reflection: The Battle Scars

by Meghann on June 10, 2009

I am glad everyone enjoyed my previous Marathon Reflection post on Weight & Hunger. To hear everyone had similar experiences is really encouraging and eye opening.

I thought long and hard on what to focus on this week, but all I really had to do was look towards my feet for inspiration. Last Friday I was lucky enough to enjoy my first pedicure in who knows how long, but before then my feet were tore up!

But just to put a fair warning out there, this post is a teeny bit graphic. So, if you don’t want to be grossed out then please don’t read it. Thanks!

When I would tell people I was running a marathon they would quiz me on black toe nails, blisters, chafing, etc. Basically what I would like to refer to as Marathon Battle Scars.

I was very lucky throughout my training on what scars I did endure. The worse I had were the severe calluses forming around my feet. The worst of which presented themselves on the outside of my big & pinky toes. My heels were rubbed dry and my ankles were permanently pink, dotted with fainted scars of blisters.

I would get comments on my beat up feet when ever I wore flip flops, but I live in Florida and not wearing flip flops is not an option.

I know team mates that had it much worse. They were experiencing the black toe nails and the ability to peel their own toe nails off. A couple had the toenails break right down the middle!

My only experience with a black toe nail came in my last week of training when the very tip of my big toe turned a deep purple. After the marathon is still looked the same as before with the deep purple corner.

I was also lucky to never experience any chafing during training, minus from the drawstring of the shorts I wore for my final 20 mile run.

One of the biggest lessons I learned though, is with all the training you  accomplish, you still have no idea what is going to happen on race day!

On race day I wore a skirt and sports bra I had ran in plenty of times before, including my success 18 mile run a month prior. During the trainings I had experienced no chafing. However, after mile 20 I discovered is when all hell breaks loose. After 3.5 hours of running my legs had somehow found their way to each other and I could feel the rubbing starting to burn. After running by dozens upon dozens of volunteers holding up sticks of Vaseline I grabbed one of mile 20 and slathered it on my inner thighs. That really hit the spot!

Some time before then Bobbi and I had actually got a kick out of a man in an Elvis costume, whom we witnessed grab Vaseline, unzip his jumpsuit and proceed to go to town with his business and the Vaseline. We were laughing at just how bad he must have been chafing at that point.

I didn’t notice the other areas I chafed until the race ended. Once I crossed the finish line, I could feel the burn in my arm pits. I lifted my arms to red marks all underneath. It really stung. I then discovered my bra burn that had occurred from the lower end of my sports bra once I was in the shower. In fact the hot rushing water does a great job of informing you of all the exact areas you had chafed or blistered.

At the end of the race the calluses that had formed on the outside of my big toes had expanded and tore. My feet wouldn’t let me wear real shoes for a few days! I also had a blister form between my pinky toe and the one next to it. I felt like I had a piece of paper or something between my toes.

Eventually the chafing marks faded and the pedicure helped with my toes, but for a brief moment is it strange that I wanted to show off all the battle scars? Every chance I got I would brag about my beat up feet or lift my arms to show the red marks. I guess after you run a marathon you have the right to be proud of every aspect of the journey. 🙂

Does anyone else have any Marathon Battle Scar stories to share?

1 Melissa @ For the Love of Health June 10, 2009 at 12:23 pm

ouchie! I have never run a full marathon but I have done plenty of halfs, 10 milers, 10ks and run far distances on my own.
My feet are rough! Definite calluses. I have one toenail that is kind of purple like you described. I am not sure what to do. Pull it off?? Will another grow back??
I have had chaffing under the arm pit too and boy does that sting!

During actual races I have been blessed with not having pain to deal with. No major chaffing or blisters- thank GOD!
The vaseline is a great idea!! Smart move on handing it out!!

HAve a great one!

2 runeatrepeat June 10, 2009 at 12:35 pm

I am very similiar to you in not having too bad of chafing during training, but once I got in the shower after the full marathon – OUCH! The water told me exactly where my skin had been rubbing.

I really needed Vaseline around mile 19, but could not find anyone with it, so I just had to suffer for the rest of the race with my legs running.
I considered changing my stride a bit so my legs would’t rub as much, but that wasn’t an option since I didn’t want to tweak my knees or hips.

Two of my toenails turned blue from the race, but they had never done that in training, which I thought was weird.

Oh, the gory details of marathon running 🙂

3 Jenn Eats Nutritiously Now June 10, 2009 at 12:42 pm

That sounds awful! I’m glad you’re healing!!

4 jentrinque June 10, 2009 at 12:44 pm

I’ve only run a half marathon, and when I was training for it I definitely had some chafing issues with my sports bra! I remember getting in the shower and water stinging like crazy, even though I didn’t even know I had chafed myself!

5 Sara June 10, 2009 at 12:46 pm

If half marathon battle scars count I am down 2 toenails 😉 they are what i call “baldies”. I had to rip ’em off right down to the core! I plan on painting them and pretending they still exist 🙂

6 prettyladycmu June 10, 2009 at 12:48 pm

I totally wanted to show off my battle scars! Like you, I was pretty fortunate and suffered mostly from some mild blisters and lots of calluses. I had two toenails turn black and come off, but new nails had grown under them so I was never “nail-less” which I imagine would be awful!

Getting the shower really is the telltale moment though – the hot water brings out any sun you get and any chafing that happened. My friend had chafing where her ipod had been clipped to the back of her shorts and I had chafing on my hip bones from my fuel belt.

The worst battle scar I can think of though didn’t happen to me (thankfully!). A good friend of mine got a blister UNDER her toenail and had to remove the toenail and pop the blister so it could heal. So gross!!

7 Dana June 10, 2009 at 12:52 pm

It’s funny that you mentioned that you never got black toe until the very end. Same thing happened to me, except I didn’t get it until the marathon. It’s still here and that was 6 weeks ago!

8 Kristin June 10, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Eeek – I can’t even imagine all of the chafing that must occur after running for so long! My only battle wound is a toenail that fell off when training for a half marathon last year…it didn’t grow back quite the same either 🙁

9 Allison June 10, 2009 at 12:57 pm

Ugh – I’ve been there – and I’ve only run 13.1 – I can only imagine! The worst chafing I ever had was actually right under my boobs (TMI?) – my sports bra rode up, and by the end of my 10 mile run – I was actually bleeding – it was TERRBLE!

10 Steph Runs the City June 10, 2009 at 1:03 pm

i just started training for my first marathon, which i’m running in november, so i’m sure all of these tips will come in handy! so far no lost toe nails, just blisters which at this point i can live with! i will try and remember to keep some vaseline handy 🙂

11 Amanda's Eats June 10, 2009 at 1:06 pm

The fact that someone was wearing an Elvis costume in a marathon is beyond me!

I’m not a runner, yet, so I don’t have stories from that. But I did walk roughly 10 miles between three days in not so good shoes (I’m guessing) and got black toe! I’m currently missing most of one toenail which I had to remove on my own after having a hole drilled in it to release pressure! The other toe followed but its much better, I’m still really self conscious in my flip flops but I’m not supposed to wear closed toed shoes lol

12 Elisabeth June 10, 2009 at 1:11 pm

I totally know what you’re saying about being proud of your battle scars! I haven’t done my first marathon yet (not until October), but in my first half last month, I didn’t realize that the waistband of my Nike pants was chafing my back. I discovered it when I got in the shower, and on both sides, I had a couple of nice little burn marks from the elastic in the pants.

It’s been about a month, and the wounds have healed, but I still have scars. Every time I catch a glimpse of the scars in the mirror, I smile. It reminds me of how proud of myself I was/am for completing my first half. I hope they never fade. =)

13 Heather June 10, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Oh yea, we’ve certainly all felt the burn of the chafing. Normally for me, I never knew it was there until I hit the show & really felt the burn. Oyvay! I was really good about slicking up with Body Glide prior to every run (long or short) & still use it on my feet anytime I head out. It’s a lifesaver but certainly not totally preventative.

And the toenails are also something I’ve contended with. I’ve lost a couple & they never grow back the same. They grow back super thick. Thankfully, it’s nothing that is that noticeable.

I will share about this girl that we ran behind towards the end of the Indy Mini Marathon years ago. Oh my gosh, we felt so bad for her. She was soooo chafed on her inner thighs that she was bleeding (BAD!) It had to have hurt & we couldnt imagine what that must have felt like when she showered.

14 brandi June 10, 2009 at 1:52 pm

I’m glad you didn’t lose any toenails! I was wondering if you had any battle scars from training – I know I’ve heard and seen some horror stories from other runner friends.

15 Island Girl Eats June 10, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Not to be gross – but I have three toe nails about to come off. On my big toe, I have a band aid across the toe, the nail is split really low but not totally across. The band aid is to prevent is getting caught – now, that would hurt!!!! I should get a discount when I get a pedicure as I don’t have 10 toe nails!

16 Meganerd June 10, 2009 at 2:12 pm

I had the same chaffing issue under my arms after only 9 miles in all the half marathons. IT SUCKED.

I also ran 8 miles of the half marathon with my heels bleeding ( i think you did something like that too but I don’t remember)

I also had (and still have) my big toe cracked really low at the base all the way across. Someone else mentioned they had a a bandaid to keep it from getting caught and thats really all i know to do with it.

ugh, running woes!! at least we can run 🙂

17 Betsy June 10, 2009 at 2:14 pm

Gahh this is something I honestly haven’t thought about until recently. I’ve been training for my first half and I’ve developed my first callus on one of my toes. I guess I’ll have to pay attention to my feet as the training goes on!

Glad to hear you didn’t get too roughed up though. 🙂

18 Alison June 10, 2009 at 2:24 pm

I had a toe nail fall off when I first started running way back when, that was before I knew running sneaks needed to be a half size up!

I didn’t learn about body glide until I dealt with chaffing under my arms and from my bra sometimes too! LOL about finding the spots you didn’t even know you chaffed once you are the shower. I’ve been there! I learned about blisters and avoiding cotton socks the hard way. There is such a learning curve to running!

I was fortunate to have a chaff and blister free marathon!

19 Ally June 10, 2009 at 3:27 pm

Haven’t run a marathon–yet (November 22!), but, I have “training battle scars” if you will. My feet are terrible. I’ve got one black toenail, and two that are MIA, as well as counless blisters and blisters that are trying to heal. It’s painful, totally gross, but, I’m kind of strangely proud of my “runners feet”. I don’t wear cotton socks, but, it still happens I guess. And I’m currently wearing flips flops at work because it hurts too bad to put on real shoes! Although, I’ll have to suck it up for my meeting in a few minutes…

20 Natalie Rae June 10, 2009 at 4:00 pm

My two big toe nails JUST came off finally (I cut them to the edge after the glue holding them down to the new nail stoppped working) from a 1/2 Marathon at the END OF NOVEMBER- I have a few other black toes but don’t think i am going to lose those nails. Oh battle wounds 🙂

21 caronae June 10, 2009 at 4:25 pm

I get blisters on my ankles or pink ankles only when my socks are too short. I just ear socks that are a little bit taller. Sometimes it looks nerdy, but whatever 🙂

22 chandra June 10, 2009 at 4:38 pm

I lost 2 toenails training for races last year – one turned black then came off, the other just fell off and still hasn’t grown back correctly (it’s been a year now). I’ve never had chaffing issues, but I’m not doubting I will now that I’m training for the big 26.2 (although I’ll keep my fingers crossed that I don’t!).

And yeah, my feet are callused up pretty well from years of walking and waitressing and now running!

23 bobbi June 10, 2009 at 5:14 pm

I am going to have to live with a chest scar from my sports bra!!! I so need to remember to always vasoline EVERYWHERE!

24 jane June 10, 2009 at 5:20 pm

Haha i love this post, this is a perfect example of what i hear everyday working at a running store. Except i get to SEE all the battle scars up close and personal!

The black toe nails are actually from wearing shoes that are too small. No joke, they can be prevented even if you run 100+ miles, you just need to be in shoes that are about a size bigger than your dress shoes. Tell you TNT friends that, cause black toenails are nasty and no one wants them 😉

i have this stupid sports bra that zips in the front (sounds like a good idea, right?) but causes lots of chafing where the zipper is. 4 measly miles today and i already got a painful burn on my chest. yuck!

25 KatieF June 10, 2009 at 5:40 pm

I ran my first marathon in 2006, and I have had at least one black toenail at any given time for the past three years. I wear a size 8 street shoe, and have tried up to a size 10 running shoe and STILL get black toenails. I’ve given up and invested in some good quality dark nail polish. 🙂

26 nicole June 10, 2009 at 5:43 pm

Yikes!! I have no battle scars from running, but I had to have three shoulder surgeries when I was a cheerleader and I’ve got major scars from that!

27 Amy June 10, 2009 at 6:06 pm

Omg! I have just started running in the last two months (hoping to do my first half-marathon in October) and this post & comments gives me so much to look forward to 😛

28 Liz @ intheskinny June 10, 2009 at 7:03 pm

I love marathon scare stories! In my first marathon I just used vaseline and found that it wore off during the race. I had chaffing underneath my arms where the my sleeve was.

I finally discovered body glide and through my next four marathons didn’t notice anything. I mad sure to always glide up my feet too.

This last marathon I ran out of body glide the morning on my marathon. I knew I should have bought some more at the expo, but figured I would be fine. I apparently didn’t put enough on my feet and got blisters on each of my pinkie toes. The blisters went over my ENTIRE pinkie toe including the toe nail. I eventually ended up losing one of my pinkie toe nails. I actually kinda liked it because it made me look like a true marathoner! I’m crazy, I know.

29 Emily June 10, 2009 at 7:21 pm

I’ve definitely had my share of black toenails as well! My feet are generally pretty rough looking, but I’ve got to be proud of them too 🙂

30 M-Rah June 11, 2009 at 8:03 am

Hi, I love your blog and I totally hope you keep up running and posting about it! 🙂 I’ve only just completed my half and am now starting marathon training. So far I’ve been lucky with my feet (I should be ashamed to wear flip flops but until I get a black toenail I’m rocking them out!)–but have ABSOLUTELY learned the pain of chaffing! I’ll be bringing vasoline to the race on race day! 🙂

31 Lindsey June 11, 2009 at 12:31 pm

So far, no black toenails. I have definitely felt some chaffing after my long runs. Thank goodness for body glide!

32 Sarah (from See Sarah Eat) June 11, 2009 at 1:55 pm

I lost two toe nails after my half marathon last year, one on each foot. But I have to say, even though it was a weird experience (thankfully they grew back) I sort of got a kick out of it because it showed me how hard I was working 🙂

33 Elaine July 31, 2009 at 8:45 pm

Gah! I’m running a 1/2 marathon in two days and am very near to losing a toenail on the toe next to my great toe. Any advice on how to keep this sucker pinned down so it doesn’t get caught on my socks?

This is proof that you gotta keep your nails trimmed when you run! Your shoes can be as big as the moon, but if there’s any bit of nail for the sock to catch on, you’re toast!

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