The Gross Habits of Runners


It can be beautiful, exciting- graceful, even, to watch. But a lot of the time, it is raw, uncensored and downright disgusting.

Back in high school, my unwavering dedication to “finish things once you’ve started”, combined with my daily, mounting resentment at joining the track team, defined the beginning of my illustrious love/hate relationship with the sport of running.

The rules were simple then:

  • Do what the coach said.
  • Try to run faster in each race.

But what about the other rules of etiquette?

**Sniff. Sniff. Whroossh.**

I looked over at my best friend and running teammate as she finished blowing her nose….

in her shirt.

We were freshmen in high school then, and that is one memory you don’t easily forget (Trust me, I’ve tried), along with her priceless response:

What?! I didn’t have a tissue!

My face must’ve said it all- a mixture of embarrassment, shock and utter disgust. I ran especially hard that day during practice- away from her and the web of snot that now adorned the front of her shirt.

How could someone- a runner; an ATHLETE…be SO disgusting? Had people no shame?

Just the beginning…

This was just the beginning. As time went on and I started running with an increasingly talented gene pool, things only progressed from bad to worse. At one of my first cross country meets in college, seconds before the gun was set to go off, I looked down the line of runners just in time to see a girl using the starting line as a bathroom.

Blood, gore- I can handle it. However, when it comes to bodily fluids in the form of mucus, phlegm, spit or excessive sweat, I run in the other direction. On one hot and humid day of practice during college, a group of us were out for a run. A couple of girls had their hair pulled back into ponytails, and the sweat was wicking off of their ponytails and into the faces of whoever was behind them. One of them thought it was ok to pass gas while another decided to blow her nose sans tissue…

Aside from when you’re at a doctor and they use that tongue depressor, I actually found myself gagging during that run. From that day forward, at practices, I started looking around for people to run with based not on performance- but on personal habits and hygiene…because 9 miles is a looong way to run with an unpleasant running mate*.

Perhaps I really am a priss. Maybe I don’t qualify as a “real runner” because I refuse to use the woods as a bathroom; I don’t blow “snot rockets” or spit or pass gas during runs. My argument is simply this: Do runners really have a lack of control over these things, or does running genuinely provoke these bodily responses in people?

Today, I run alone.

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