Ready for the New York City Marathon?

Ready for the New York City Marathon? Here are eight things you didn’t know about runners! – Running 26.2 miles is tough. Running it minus a few toenails is tougher.

I will be in the pack of 43,000 runners in the New York City Marathon Sunday, and here’s what I’ve learned in five months of training: Building endurance for the distance is only one slice of the preparation needed to finish.

Marathon runners battle bizarre physical problems and hurdles in training and on race day – things I’d never imagined until I started doing it myself.

Here are a few things you might not know about long-distance runners:

  • Black toenails: Runners get blood blisters under their nails. Eventually they fall off. This happens from running too far and too hard in shoes that are too tight around the toes. I have a black nail on each foot.
  • Bridge urination: You might get peed on. After a long wait on Staten Island to start the marathon, a lot of runners have to go. They stop to pee along the side of the Verrazano Bridge and later the Queensboro Bridge. If you’re on the lower span, you want to stay to the middle lane or risk an unpleasant shower.
  • Chafing: Runners slather their bodies (read, private parts) in either Vaseline or a waxy substance called Bodyglide. Without it, the top layer of your skin rubs off due to friction and prolonged moisture. I got chafing once along my ribs, and it hurt like 100 bee stings. Never again.
  • Bleeding nipples: You’ve seen the telltale red circles in marathon photos. Don’t be that guy. Men need to protect their nipples with Band-Aids, Breathe Right strips or Vaseline to prevent rubbing and bleeding.
  • Salt shooter: Staying hydrated to avoid muscle cramps is key. As an extra precaution, a lot of runners travel packing fast-food joint salt packets. They shoot one at the start line and maybe around mile 18 or 20 to retain fluid.
  • Salt-crystal skin crust: Even with a sodium boost, runners lose a lot of salt sweating through the race. By the end, a lot of us will have arms, legs and faces crusted in a shimmery, white, salt-crystal coating.
  • Spit and snot: It happens to elites and newcomers alike. Runners spit and blow their noses through the race. They just do. Somehow by the end, through the delirious last few miles (I’m told), we will cease to notice saliva escaping our mouths and be too tired to care about runny noses. If my face is covered with spit and snot at the finish line, please cheer for me anyway.
  • Cotton is the enemy: Woe to the runner who wears cotton clothing for the race. Running clothes are expensive for a reason: That fancy wicking, dry-weave fabric is like a magical shield against the horrors mentioned above. ( )
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