The Bleeding Edge

Running is an unglamorous hobby. 

I will say that the Americans at least give it a good old go, they try to spruce it up a bit, which I suppose is fair to say: as they do with anything, and especially as they do with sport. They embrace the cinematic quality of exercise, the natural drama in the battle between men, women, and their own bodies. Even the intrinsically dirty business of trail running in the States has a kind of snazzy edge. Most of their trails, although still full of cruel vertical and sharp boulders, look way cooler than what I see on the regular. 

Also they say things like ‘vert’ when talking about going uphill a lot. Let’s go grab some ‘vert’ dudes. God how I would be mocked for saying such a thing, and rightly so, but still, am I a little jealous? Yes, yes, absolutely yes.  

The trails around me, although nice enough – rural, quiet, nice to look at –  frequently veer wildy from bone dry and ankle breaking, to horse trodden, or dog shit ridden, or pure muddy, sodden filth. Would I change anything? No, probably not, it’s good fun, it really is, and the toughness is character building. Or something. Besides, no one is running because it’s easy, are they? Are you?

But no matter where you run, or how good you can make it look, running is never glamorous. 

Dog crap on your shoes, or not. 

Now, hold on. We’re about to go deeper into this unglamour, and before we get too far, accept my apology. 


I have taken to the blog on this occasion because the other day I had to shave huge swaths of hard skin off my big toes with a stanley knife blade and I did it without even really thinking about it, but on reflection that is clearly not normal behaviour. 

It’s not that I had to do it, but in that moment it was clear that there would be nothing better than a nice clean blade to shank that senseless skin right out of place. I’m sure there are more traditional, perhaps healthier, methods. A pumice stone, perhaps. But that would be slow, and what is quicker, more satisfying, and more effective, than taking a sharp knife to your own feet?

That is a rhetorical question. 

Okay, I won’t deny the grossness, but I’m sure we all have our own dirty little running habits. 

Also it was really quite a painless experience. Those clumps of skin accumulate over the months, and really don’t have any feeling to them, but they do push the toes together and can cause some strain over the top of the foot as everything is mushed in the toe box of your trainers. They had to go! Just don’t go too deep, you’ll bleed. 

But then, bleeding is just part of the game, isn’t it? Especially as you run longer distances. Vaseline on your nips becomes a must, an important part of the ritual. 

Like bleeding nipples, blisters are the kind of discomfort that won’t stop most runners from actually running, although the consequences of slapping a boiling skin bag of pus between your flapping foot and the looming pavement can be rather fetid. They probably won’t cause any bleeding, but chances are if you’re running on a blister you’re also going to fail to not pierce the damn things and let that hot fluid ooze on out. This is not medical advice, of course. Piercing blisters increases infection risk. I have, however, pierced many blisters in my time, patching the exposed area with a nice soothing plaster. Judge me accordingly. And sorry, doc. 

Slicing skin off of your own body, greasing your nipples, and piercing your body’s external immune system, is not normal behaviour, but it does allow you to keep on running in relative comfort, if such a thing is possible, and I know for a fact I’m not the only one engaging in these twisted practices. 

I refuse to feel shame for it. To paraphrase Anthony Bourdain, your body is not a temple, but an amusement park. Running is most certainly a rollercoaster. Bourdain was also most certainly not referring to lobotomising your own feet, but still, I say embrace the grit and be get a little heinous, why not?

Running is unglamourous, and for that reason, so are runners. 

And that’s the way I like it. 

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