I just got out of the shower. This might not seem like a profound statement, most likely because it isn’t. However, it did get me to thinking about hygiene. More specifically, I began to think about the unique aspects of hygiene found among trail and ultra-runners. We are, of course, a different breed in many ways, and we embrace that as part of our cultural and sport identity. I know we comment on many of these aspects in our daily conversation. In many instances, we interact with enough other trail and ultrarunners that these conversations become normal, even if they aren’t necessarily. It’s after you are talking with a non-runner about peeing on the side of a trail 4 hours into a run that you realize just how special we really are in this, and many other ways.
With that introduction, I thought it would be fun to start the list of unique, outrageous, or otherwise outside of the norm hygiene practices that we so happily embrace when out on the trails…and perhaps the office as well. Whether we should or not is always open for debate (as long as you agree with me, of course)!
1. It’s probably appropriate to start with the subject of showering. My most recent shower was my second of the day. It’s not a coincidence that I had just completed my second run of the day. I’ve found myself measuring my need for a shower based more on frequency of runs than repetition of days. This could be good or bad. I haven’t had any complaints yet, and I still clean up quite well.
2. Am I the only one that’s reaching for deodorant and accidentally grabbed the Body Glide instead? Vice-versa? I’m pretty sure I use them both in equal amounts!
3. Cologne/Perfume- I’m going for a run this afternoon…why would I spray that on? This is where I give all of you body-spray loving runners the stink-eye. Don’t bring that stuff into the woods with you!
4. Although many different activities necessitate additional laundry, I feel like it becomes even more of a love/hate relationship with trail and ultra-running. Although I probably wash running clothes twice as much as all other clothing, I also look for anti-microbial performance fabrics so I can stretch out the usefulness of my running clothing further. In addition, we all have the bag of dirty clothes from a previous race that never quite made it to the washing machine…or was at least delayed considerably. It’s time to go check the backseat of your car now!
5. Sweating takes on new meaning once you’ve been doing it for 8 or 10 hours. At a certain point, it shifts from being a nuisance to an important marker of hydration, and thus desirable. I also find myself much more annoyed when I’m particularly active on a hot day and not wearing running clothes. A cotton dress shirt just doesn’t cut it in 100% humidity.
6. Snot rockets. They’re oh so acceptable, enviable even, while out on the trail. However, you tend to get some pretty funny looks when you let one rip at the bus stop, or on your way to a meeting at work. What else am I supposed to do?
7. The 10-Second Rule…extended- It’s amazing how your tolerance for a little dirt and dust on your food goes up considerably once you’ve been running for several hours. The orange slices, pretzels, and candy at that aid station looks amazing, and it doesn’t matter in the least that you are the 200th person to stick your hand in that bowl!
8. Taking Care of Business…on the trail, on the run? There is so much beauty in nature worth exploring, but you best make sure you stick to the trail and don’t do too much bushwhacking. You’re never quite sure what you are going to step in, or what species it belongs to for that matter. Sadly, stepping to the side to quickly pee, or go a bit deeper and squat is considered illegal in most states unless you happen to be out on the trail. Just don’t forget the extra toilet paper in a ziplock bag, or brush up on your leaf identification skills. Special props that those unique runners that have masters the art of literally going on the run.
9. Blood, sweat, and tears are a way of life after so many hours out on the trail. Under normal circumstances, we might reach for a band-aid after the smallest paper cut. However, head out on the trail and our threshold for pain explodes. I ran square into a low hanging branch 5 miles into my very first 50K. I wiped up the massive amounts of blood with my sweat towel, put my hat back on, and kept going. It wasn’t until after I finished the race that I headed to the med tent and they told me to go to the ER to get 4 staples in my head. 🙂
10. Travel Product Priorities- Have you noticed that you started filling your toiletries kit a bit differently for trips? It’s amazing how normal personal care items are slowly pushed out by the likes of Body Glide, foot and toe lubricant, sun screen, and that special lip balm. This hygiene message demands a special shout-out to Dr. Bronner’s (the magic everything soap that leaves everything minty fresh, whether it’s your body or your dishes), and Trail Toes (keep the rubbing and blisters away no matter the distance or terrain!).
I know there are more unique hygiene practices out there, and I’d love to hear all about them. Add to the list and feel free to share any and all stories along the way!