Marathon Monday: The Ugly Truth About Running Problems

On Instagram, running looks like a serenely sweaty sport. But the truth is, there’s a lot of ugly stuff that goes on when there’s no filter. Case in point:

Kristen Geil completing a 17.6 mile run during marathon training

Oh look, it’s me! Gracefully bounding across the rising sun, unencumbered by gravity, looking and smiling into the face of the day. Also, my legs look pretty good.

What this picture doesn’t show you? Let me run down the list:

1. Ten minutes before (at 5:45am on a Friday), a homeless man threw beer on me (I was shocked and traumatized).

2. The temperature was 77 degrees at 5:30am and high humidity, meaning…

3. …my socks were literally squelching with sweat in my shoes for the last five miles and my shorts were as wet as if I’d jumped into the lake- which in hindsight, I wish I had.

4. This irritating spot on my inner arm keeps getting chafed from my running armband, so it requires constant BandAid application or else I’m running with my arm out like a chicken wing.

Needless to say, running isn’t as glamorous as our #nikeplus pictures make it out to be – which is totally fine, because I don’t really run for the Insta, I run because it makes me feel good. I like setting goals and achieving them and I like my friends who run with me (shoutout to Cass and Kara for accompanying me on parts of my Friday morning 18 miler – y’all were clutch).

But, some of these ugly truths can be pre-tty uncomfortable, so with that in mind, here are some common gross side effects of running and what you can do to take action against them:


The Problem: Chafing occurs most often when you’re running long distances and your skin is rubbing against itself over and over again. Friction, yummy! The most common places for chafing are your inner thighs and under your arms (both where your arm rubs against itself when you pump your arms and where your music armband rubs against your skin).

The Solution: BodyGlide, my friends. Apply it liberally before a run, and if you can, carry a sample size with you on your longest runs- the last thing you want during your marathon is a fire burning between your legs. Also, invest in seamless underwear and shorts, and avoid wearing cotton.


The problem: Oh hey, it’s summer, and it’s scorching. You’re sweating through your clothes, your socks, your shoes, and even your ponytail. Damn you, humidity.

The solution: Dress in lightweight tops (I usually wear my Nike Dri-FIT Touch Breeze Tank, but be careful, these babies are delicate in the wash) and shorts. Run early in the morning before the sun is completely up, or late at night after the sun goes down- or, if you prefer, in the comfort of your air conditioned gym. Make sure to drink plenty of water during your run and throughout the day to replenish the fluids you’re sweating out. Finally, try using a clinical-strength antiperspirant – you should apply it before you go to bed so that it’s absorbed overnight, and then again right before your run. You can even use it on your feet- foot-sweat often leads to blisters. Speaking of…

Feet Issues

The problem: Your feet sometimes get beat up running, especially your poor toes, which get repeatedly jammed into the toe of your running shoes- sometimes resulting in the dreaded Black Toenail of Death.

The solution: Wear socks made specifically for running with wicking and extra cushioning in the toes and heels to avoid blisters. For long runs, avoid blood blisters in your toes by wearing your normal running shoes but in a half-size up to allow extra room in the toes of your shoes. Treat yo’self to a monthly pedicure and keep your feet exfoliated with a foot scrub. Also, it looks silly as hell, but put Vaseline on your feet before going to bed and then wear socks to smooth out your skin. If you notice redness or infection around your toenails, see a doctor.

Stomach Issues

The problem: Your stomach gets upset before, during, and/or after a run, leading to untimely sprints to the port-a-potty during a race.

The solution: Before a run, avoid high-fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and coffee/tea while leaning towards foods that naturally constipate you (I know, ew)- bananas, plain bagels, rice, oatmeal, and pasta. A pre-run meal of toast with peanut butter and a banana might be your new favorite snack.

Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day, and keep your electrolytes up during a long run by drinking Gatorade or another sports drink. Eat at least two hours before running so that your body has time to digest, and keep a food diary to learn what foods and drinks trigger your stomach problems. Plan your long runs along routes where you know bathrooms are accessible.


These problems are gross, sure, but we gain nothing by keeping them our dirty little secrets and pushing them under a rug. Now’s your chance to crowd-source advice on running problems: What other gross issues have you encountered, and how did you fix them? What other solutions do you have for sweating, chafing, gross feet, and stomach issues? Let us know in the comments!

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About Kristen Geil

A native of Lexington, Kentucky, Kristen moved to Chicago in 2011 and received her MA in Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse from DePaul while trying to maintain her southern accent. Kristen grew up playing sports, and since moving to Chicago, she’s fallen in love with the lakefront running path and the lively group fitness scene. Now, as a currently retired marathoner and sweat junkie, you can usually find her trying new workouts around the city and meticulously crafting Instagram-friendly smoothie bowls. Kristen came on to A Sweat Life full-time in 2018 as Editor-in-Chief, and she spends her days managing writers, building content strategy, and fighting for the Oxford comma.