The Top Grossest Things About Running… or should it be bottom, rock bottom.

the grossest things about running

Hello! Yesterday morning I was running along and saw an oasis in the desert… a water fountain. I was super thirsty and was very glad to stop and make-out with this dirty spout in exchange for some H2O.

This fountain doesn’t have the best water pressure so I have to get really close to the spout. It had a little bird poop on the side too. Nice.

water fountain runner

But the reality is, I didn’t care. I was THIRSTY and 4 miles away from home. Make it work.

gross gross

The rest of my run home I thought about how many things runners get used to that are super gross to the average bear. Like the following…

Gross Things Runners Get Used To…

Water fountains that are less than amazing. I’ve used some sketch fountains in my day… bugs on them, hot water, barely dribbles out…

Porta Potties. While most people avoid using porta potties at public events, “There are only porta potties?! I’ll just hold it.” – runners really have no choice but to use them for races. And sometimes you need one so desperately you run into it with pants down open arms.

porta potties

Slathering Vaseline on your body. Some races have people at aid stations holding tongue depressors with a huge slab of vaseline on them – or slopped on a big cardboard for runners to swipe as they pass. Then, they rub it on any place that’s chafing… arms, legs, nipples.

Snot rockets. I haven’t mastered this, so I bring a paper towel with me. But I am pretty sure I’ve been hit by one at some point in a race…

so gross[3]

Squeezing a foil pack of something called “Gu” into your mouth. At mile 22 when your body is desperate for fuel this actually can taste delicious. If you ever try a gel packet when not running it’s disgusting.

mocha gel catalina marathon mile 18 (600x800)

Toenails falling off. Needs no explanation.

What other gross things do you get used to while getting sweaty?


  1. says

    Going for brunch stinky! My friends and I will run 20 miles and then go for brunch. Only all the tech fabric holds odor really bad.

    There’s also the white salt on my face that is quite gross. Although my dog loves to lick the salt off my legs. :)

    • zoe says

      When i first met my boyfriend’s dog i had just worked out. she took one whiff of me and went to TOWN licking my feet, legs, arms, face, anything. She won’t lick anything but me and my gross sweaty legs now :)

    • says

      I could never go out or sit down for a meal without a shower. Which kinda makes me anti-social when the rest of the group heads for brekkie after our runs.

  2. says

    Spit in the wind. Aim down please. The Porta potty thing…yeah if someone drops a deuce before you go in. And you go number 1…and the person behind you thinks you dropped the deuce. Hopefully you walked away fast enough that they can’t make you out. Did you notice that RnRSD vip Porta potties had scented air fresheners up top?! #winning

  3. Susie says

    By far, the worst thing in the world is all the chafing. Just as I think I’ve got my bases covered with Body Glide everywhere, I’ll go on a long run and end up with some new spot that chafed! Drives me nuts!

    Oh, and pinky toe weird callouses.

  4. Sherilyn says

    I love this post! Yes runners are pretty gross. I’m grossly amused by my calloused feet and the white salt lines on my face after a long run. I think of them as battle scars. I was so excited when I got my first black toenail – I thought I had really made it as a runner.

  5. says

    Since having a baby, I’ve definitely peed myself during a race. Not like full on pissing, but a slow dribble for most of a 10k. Luckily, I was wearing dark, patterned shorts and it wasn’t super noticeable. But it felt GROSS. So there’s that. And, wiping my nose on my shirt. Other than that, I keep it super classy :)

    • Nathalie says

      I would say the same thing after having my kids. There’s not one run I go on without peeing myself (just a little bit).

      Poop, don’t get me started. I’m pretty much doomed on long runs. I barely make it home and there have been plenty of times I didn’t make it home and ran straight into the shower taking my clothes off. Then of course my kids kept asking me…what’s that smell was. That’s why I ALWAYS wear black running capris…even when it’s hot out (which is always in LA).

  6. Amanda s says

    I’m surprised nobody has mentioned code brown yet. Thankfully in my seven years of running it has only happened to me twice on training runs and both times I was near a restroom. There’s a reason lots of runners take Imodium before races! Did you read the Runners World interview with The Oatmeal where he talked about that?

  7. Kathy says

    It really is a gross pastime but we love it for some reason. I have never/will never master the snot rocket (or as I call it, “little old Italian man” and I super judge others who do it…it’s vile, get a hanky, use your shirt sleeve, I don’t care, just do NOT do that or I will hurl. Recent grossness is the blister I got ON another blister which required my surgery skills and having to put any of those sopping wet clothes on after a shower because you forgot something

  8. says

    I would have to say peeing a little (or a lot) in your pants while running. That’s an over share, but we’re all runners here 😉

  9. Jessi says

    I’ve definitely had to squeeze a cheek quite a few times and know which leafs work well as TP. I also reached a new level while running trail ultras – you follow lots of sweaty, snotty, who knows what else people through aid stations where everyone just sticks there hands into a box of chips or gummi bears and grabs.

  10. says

    Crotch sweat and my near-constant stream of snot. I cannot snot rocket (and maybe don’t want to), so I just end up wiping/blowing my nose on my shirt. Cute. Also, Code Brown is real.

    • says

      I can never snot rocket either, so when I’m particularly desperate, I thank my lucky stars for litterbugs. There seems to always be at least one Dunkin Donuts napkin littered along my running route, and I’ve used one to blow many a time. Also, sometimes leaves.

      I was inordinately happy when I was completely bonking at mile 10 of a half marathon, and I found an unopened Gu on the ground. I gobbled it up and finished strong, but when I was bragging about my awesome find to my non-runner boyfriend afterward, he made a face like he’d never kiss me again.

  11. says

    Yesssssss! We are runners, we are disgusting, hear us ROAR. Let’s invent a #grossrunnerpride parade. I’m picturing a gaggle of salt-covered spandex-wearing runners pushing a giant port-a-pottie and Vaseline tub down the street, hurling snot-rockets left and right, and passing out Gu to the horrified onlookers.

    I’m so guilty of everything mentioned above (especially the gnarly salt crystals on my face- my housemate’s dog lovvvvveeesss me).

  12. says

    Like Amanda said: Code brown. I don’t run very long distances, so I haven’t had a huge emergency yet, but I do pass plenty of gass while running. Seems like the motion pushes everything down in my bowels. I always do a quick visual check to see if there’s no one around to catch me though.

  13. Holly says

    When I ran my half marathon PR, I was pushing myself so hard that I definitely pee’d my shorts going over the finish line. I didn’t care though – NEW PR! Plus my boyfriend (now husband) was on hand to squirt my shorts with some water as camouflage, and no one noticed.
    If you push your body to the limit you’ve got to expect some back-lash!

  14. says

    Love this! There’s a great buzzfeed article out right now that relates to this. I may write about it later! I’ve never gotten a black toenail before?! I do have many a callous, and blood blisters after long races or new shoes. Yikes

  15. Ashlee says

    Those awesome sweat marks on your front and back ends to make it look like you peed yourself.. those are fun and attractive!

  16. Jessica says

    After drinking from said water fountain its all about wiping the drool/pasties off my face onto my shirt.
    I’m also pretty sure pedicurists hate me and my disgusting feet.

  17. says

    LOL! So true on all of these!
    I mentioned stopping at a water fountain to refill my water bottle on a really hot run day and my non-running friend started to lecture me on the grossness that is water fountains. She went on and on about the germs. My response, “Of course they’re germy, that’s why I’m drinking a margarita now! Tequila kills the germs!”

  18. Carolyn says

    I once vomited at the 5k mark of the Pittsburgh Half Marathon and had to hop a barrier in order to make it over the bridge instead of on the street. I finished the race and a wonderful volunteer gave my friend who was running with me water when she saw my lack of gastrointestinal strength that day.

  19. says

    Hmmm. Sweating so much that you’re not sure if you peed yourself. Passing gas and then not being sure if it was just gas. Excessive nose-wiping on your sleeves. Spitting (I never EVER spit unless I’m running, it’s so vile but sometimes it needs to be done). Done them all.

    I got my first black toenail after running my first half marathon last month. I was so proud. I also got a blister on the ball of my foot that was bigger than my big toe. Thankfully it shrank overnight because once I took my shoes off I couldn’t get any other shoes on with it.

  20. Steph says

    My feet are so pretty… Lol NOT! Also walking back in my house and smelling discusting after a HOT and humid Houston summer run! Haven’t had the toenail issue yet…and I stop and buy me water before I’ll use a water fountain! Lol

  21. says

    I can’t do snot rockets (and everyone tells me this is super disgusting) so I blow my nose into the inside of my shirt when I run…I mean I’m going to shower after my run anyway plus your sports bra protects your skin…hahaha I know this is gross but still do it.

  22. says

    I have given up on ever having cute feet. I order my shoes a half size too big so that I can at least keep all of my toe nails.

    I def can’t do snot rockets, so I usually just wipe it on my sleeve if my nose starts running…gross, I know. I was my shirt right after though!

    I also have no problem going to breakfast after a run. A delicious meal is well deserved after a long run!

  23. Melisa says

    That moment when you’re running on a hot day behind a guy that is sweating so much that his sweat is splashing back in your face. Awesome.

  24. Annie says

    A crusty, salty face, a gross runny nose, that line of sweat running in between the boobs … Running is beautiful!

  25. says

    The grosses thing about my running would be all my gross shweatty-ness. Especially in the summers I come home drenched and stinky with weird sock and sports bra tan lines.

    The grosses thing about running in general would be all the dead animals I see on the side of the road. I swear there is a bird and bunny massacre going on in my neighborhood.

    • Wendy R says

      I have seen the same sad dead possum on my run everyday for the past 3 weeks. Seriously. The heat is not helping the situation.

  26. Autumn says

    Ok I think something is wrong with me too because I smell soooo bad! Lol. I nring tissues to blow my nose, have had a near miss code brown at LA Marathon lol. Thankfully no fallen toenails but plenty of blisters and callouses (?). I’m afraid to get a pedicure as I can only imagine what the lady’s will say. I love my salt crystals! My dog loves them and, I here I go with the gross, I have on occasion licked them too. Go ahead, judge me lol

  27. says

    Sometimes I wind up getting really dirty (HOW?) and then because I’m sweaty it will turn into mud on my body. Usually I don’t see it until much later and then wonder how long I’ve been running along with streaks of mud all over my legs. Another gross thing is when your sweat dries on your face after a race and it’s all white and crusty while you’re taking cute pics with your medal. Yeah. Not cute.

  28. Susy says

    Years ago I almost pissed myself because I refused to use a porta potty and had to wait hours to go, but now that I started running, I think what choice do I have and I don’t care anymore. The gu does its job. I just recently started on them. I didn’t know much about fuel until I was getting ready for race #2. Speaking of, that’s when I got my first black toenail :( Oye! Waiting for a second to fall off, but that was from dancing all night in Vegas.

  29. says

    At the 2013 Long Beach Half Marathon, I had a Roo Pack magnet pouch connected to the back of my waistband on my running pants. I was also wearing a hydration backpack. I had my driver’s license, debit card, and two $20 bills in the Roo Pack tucked away so I could use the pocket in the front of my hydration backpack for chapstick, energy gels, etc.

    Well, it was a hot day once the sun came out (you would know, you ran that race!), and I drank a lot of water before and early in the race. By mile 8 I knew I had to give up a few minutes and use the port-o-potty on the beach because every step was killing my bladder!

    I totally friggin’ forgot I had that Roo Pack attached with a magnet flap to the back of my compression pants, and when I pulled them down … yeah … it fell into the black hole of disgustingness – and I used some other colorful metaphors to describe my panic while looking at it sitting there on top of a pile of sh*t.

    I was getting on a plane the next day to go home to Seattle and needed my driver’s license for ID. If not for that, I may have just left it there … but instead I reached in and grabbed it, fighting the urge to barf everywhere!! I set it down on the floor, did my own business, then when outside to the water station and dumped about 10 cups of water all over the pouch. I got a hand sanitizer thing from the expo that attached to my backpack, so I pulled it off and dumped all of it on the pouch, using TP to rub it in, then more water to rinse it.

    I had prepared to PR with a 2:10 finish, and was totally on pace to do that up to mile 8. The pit stop I thought would only be a few minutes ended up taking about 10 minutes of precious time so I knew I had to get moving – I sucked up my dignity and put that pouch back on my waistband and headed off to the Sole Runners aid station at Mile 10. When I arrived, I met with my friend Patty who was running me in, and cried on my friend Suze’s shoulder over my disgust and despair from living through the horror of picking something I needed out of an effin outhouse toilet. She said get moving and cry about it later (thanks Suze!!).

    Patty ran me in and I was really struggling emotionally, but she helped me keep it together and I finished the race in 2:21 – which was (and is still) a PR for the half marathon!

    I am still completely grossed out … I threw that pouch away and got another one at another race expo. I am training to finish Long Beach sub 2 this year, without ANY pit stops!!

    • Irene says

      OMG. I’m horrified and at the same time comforted in knowing that no matter what disgusting thing ever happens to me, it won’t compare to this. Good luck in LB, I’ll see you there!

    • Venice Lacy says

      I’m cracking up reading this. My husband and I both run all distances but mostly half marathons now. I start training for my 1st full marathon next month(He ran the Marine Corp marathon in Oct 2014, his 1st). I always have running drama: many stops to the porta potty, passing “rapid fire” gas, technology issues, the same 2 toes that turn black toes and have fallen off. One now that is falling off and stinks(Why??). Salty face and post long run confusion from salt depletion. The snotty nose, etc. He never has an issue. Nothing. Not even a porta potty stop. I was starting to think I was crazy. I’m so happy to hear that I am not alone. Keep running and sharing! #grossrunnerpride

  30. says

    Omg, a lot of those have happened to me. Well almost… Had to pass up the Vaseline sharing thing. In a marathon relay I did they had everyone sticking their hand in the same jar. Now that’s where I cross the line!

  31. Nicole says

    At the beginning of nearly every race, there is always some one who lets out a fart that smells like boiled brussel sprouts. Runners need fiber, but other runners need clean oxygen.

    • says

      hahaha thats it, get people thinking it wasn’t you by posting this one lol :)
      It sounds like something batman would do if he was about to run a marathon.

  32. says

    I was just thinking about the vaseline today – well, chafing in general. I used to do bodyglide, but vaseline is way less expensive and you can really glob it on. I was also thinking about the bathroom situations. There are times when you really really don’t care. I’ve even entertained the idea of trying to sneak into a porta potty on a construction site! Another gross thing is literally wringing out your clothes after a run.

  33. Wendy R says

    I HATE the salt ring that forms along my hairline, crook of my arm and on my legs. I’m one big salt lick when I’m done running. The next worst thing for me happens in the porta pottie when I have to stop midrace unexpectedly and put the seat cover down only to have it stick to my behind because I’m all sweaty and have to peel off pieces before I can pull my shorts up. UGH!!

  34. Ashley says

    I say one of the grossest things you get used to is when you are on training runs and have an unexpected need to use the restroom. The places you are willing to walk into most people would never go and that is if you are lucky enough to have restrooms nearby…..

    Oh I make sure to always look fully around me before I spit or snot rocket. It just feels sooo good to get that stuff out of you. But if I ever see anyone else doing it (nonrunner) of course I literally want to throw up!!

  35. says

    Having to poop while running but not being able to so holding it foreeeeever while continuing to run. This has been happening to me a lot lately.

  36. Kayla says

    How do you handle the toenail falling off situation? Just wondering what you do to take care of it, and still continue your exercise regime, and not get it infected?

    • says

      My experience: you can keep running on it but be sure to use an anti-fungal liquid on it daily to ensure it grows back normally. This is so important because once it grows back gnarly, it’s very hard to undo the damage. Without the toenail. Your nail bed is exposed and can pick up fungi more easily. So stay away from the pedi spas for a while and apply anti-fungal daily until it grows back normally.

  37. says

    This post is awesome! I wrote a similar one about the gross stuff that runners deal with but more medically-oriented. Speaking of which: ladies, please shower before your post-run brunch. Your goodies will thank you for it.

    I now feel like a champion of grossness because I have done ALL of the above mentioned things: snot rockets, peeing whenever necessary regardless of whether you’re in a bathroom or not, chafing in the most unholy of places, sweat everywhere and sometimes dripping off onto innocent bystanders, callouses on greater than 50% of my feet! less than 3 toenails TOTAL at one time, and countless deuce-filled porta-potties (we won’t discuss who is to blame there).

    The best part of being a runner? Being able to own up to this stuff and laugh at it! I feel bad for my friends who are embarrassed by sweat.


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