Running Notes: Learning About Chafing

Yesterday I set a new personal record for running: 11.22 miles (18 km). While this may sound like a lot, it’s just one step for me towards a 100-mile (160km) ultramarathon. (I set this personal record entirely barefoot, as in nothing on my feet, no running sandals or anything.)

I wasn’t looking at my iPhone during the run, so I didn’t know when I passed my previous record (8mi/13km), but my body definitely felt it. 

I could tell that I was running in uncharted territory. My tight hip flexors and my left achilles tendon made themselves heard. And there was something else seeking my attention: a pain between my legs. Yup, it was chafing.

This certainly wasn’t the first time I’d experienced chafing, but it was the first time I’d experienced chafing with the knowledge that I would eventually be running much further distances. 

If I was experiencing chafing this painful at 18 km, what would it be like at 118 km?

In the past, I would simply endure the pain for a few days, waiting patiently for it to go away (if the pain is endurable, I always choose to endure it). There was no reason to learn more about chafing or even seek out a remedy. 

This time, however, was different. I’ve committed to running an ultramarathon and untreated chafing can get serious can lead to infection, or worse, it could force me to drop out of an ultramarathon.

After a painful shower, my first Google search was, “natural chafing remedy”, because there’s always a natural remedy and natural is always the best way to go. 

The next thing on my priority list was a minimalistic solution: I wanted something that was simple. One remedy caught my eye immediately. It called for making a paste to rub on the affected area using oatmeal and olive oil. I’m a huge fan of both oatmeal and olive oil and I usually have both of those ingredients nearby. Minimalist solution found.

The next step was to research prevention techniques. Chafing was certainly not a new phenomena. Throughout history, soldiers, runners, hikers, and athletes all must have experienced this. What did they do?

Unfortunately, I was unable to find anything conclusive. Suggestions for prevention varied from using vaseline and gels, to skipping the use of underwear (Roman style), to losing fat and staying hydrated. 

It looks like I’ll need to experiment with chafing prevention to find what works for me. Until then, I’ll be sleeping with olive oil and oatmeal between my legs.

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