Tess Barker

7 Uncomfortable Things People Ask Me When They Find Out I Run Marathons

On your mark, get set, go ahead and stop asking these questions.

Three years ago I started running marathons. Yes, on purpose. I’m still doing it, and even I’m not really sure why. Training is time consuming, exhausting, and a literal pain in the ass -- and that’s just answering questions people have for me. Running 26.2 miles doesn’t exactly tickle, but it's easier than answering these painful lines of inquiry...

  1. "Do you poop your pants?"

    This is, hands down, the most common one I get. Here’s the thing: for the most part, only the most elite, prestigious runners sh-t their pants on purpose. That’s because the rest of us would rather tack an extra couple minutes onto our times to use an outhouse than run 26.2 with a full load. That said, distance running does “funny” things to your digestive system. (I may or may not have sharted once after a 20-miler.) Shut up.

  2. "Do your nipples bleed?"

    Oh hey, random person I don’t know very well. Since you asked, no, I’ve been pretty lucky on the nipple front. Come on. Stop giggling. From other runners I’ve talked to, it seems like nipple chaffing is more of an issue for dudes, since women have that handy sports bra to act as a barrier between our nipples and the fabric rubbing against us.

  3. "Speaking of chaffing, how bad is yours?"

    This is (literally) a sensitive issue for a lot of runners. Chaffing is painful, gross and often occurs in the upper thigh/crotch area. For the most part, it can be avoided by wearing shorts or pants that are so tight your skin doesn’t touch, but even then, when you’re running for three-and-a-half-plus hours, some rawness is bound to occur.

    At some races, if you’re lucky, a merciful soul will be on the sidelines with ointment you can quickly shove between your legs. Marathons are not for people who give a fu--.

  4. "Aren’t your boobs too big for running?"

    Thank you for the concern/excuse to stare at my boobs, but strapping them down with a sports bra and a running shirt that has a built-in bra seems to do the trick. I highly recommend the “double bagging it” technique to any busty ladies who are considering a foray into distance running.

  5. "Did you lose any toenails?"

    What a disgusting and ridiculous question. Of course I haven’t lost a toenail; I’ve lost at least 13. (I stopped counting a few DIY surgeries ago.)

    By far, my biggest toenail casualty came after an ill-fated training run when I was wearing shoes that were too small. (I now know that distance running shoes should be a half size bigger than your regular shoes, because your feet swell so much.) Even with the perfect shoe, however, blood blisters form under your nail from time to time, which spells impending doom for said nail’s future.

    I’ve considered putting my fallen soldiers under my pillow and hoping the toenail fairy will come, but my boyfriend just keeps begging me to throw them away. Whatever. No toenail fairy money for him.

  6. "I can only run, like, a mile. What’s up with that?"

    Some people take the news that I run marathons as a prompt to quickly and apologetically spout out stats on how far they cannot run. I’m not a coach or a doctor or a physical therapist, so I can’t offer much in response to this besides an awkward “that’s good though.”

    I do think if you actually wanted to be able to run longer, barring some kind of medical issue, it’s much more possible than you assume. I once spent, like, five months on the couch watching “Dawson's Creek” reruns, so if I can do it, almost anyone can.

  7. "Why would you put yourself through this on purpose?"

    This one is uncomfortable, not because it’s a weird question, but because it isn’t. I like the sense of accomplishment it gives me? I enjoy traveling and being outdoors? OK. Fine.

    The real reason is that I honestly just like pizza and beer so much that I would rather go through all of the above than ever have to think twice about how much I’m eating or drinking. Cheers, bon appétit, and may you always be too logical to get this same idea.


VMAs 2018