Chafing Chronicles: A Runner's Nightmare

October 26, 2023


Picture this: In August 2010, I found myself in Portlaoise for a 10k road race in my friend's hometown. I had trained and was looking forward to testing myself. However, as a perpetually disorganized student, I had forgotten my running top and other essential gear for the race. With no other choice, I had to resort to borrowing my friend's Celtic that was about 5 years old, in place of an actual running top. In the midst of my chaotic disarray, I also forgot my under layer. Notwithstanding these setbacks, I managed to run the race reasonably quickly, but the experience was marred by a horrendous friction that started plaguing my nipples at kilometre 4 and only got progressively worse until the race was over. It was as if little rogue sweat drops had decided to star in their very own stand-up show, targeting my tender nipples like relentless hecklers. Thus, I was painfully introduced to what's infamously known as Jogger's Nipple, and this agony became immortalized in the above photo, with the pain and tenderness persisting for nearly a week.

The Horrors of Chafing

So, it's only fitting that a few days before Halloween, I share a tale of true nightmares. If you're a millennial like me, you'll remember the TV show called "Are You Afraid of the Dark?". Well, I believe the horror-filled tale of chafing could easily be a Midnight Society favourite. Chafing, based on my experience, rears its ugly head in two areas: the nipples (as I found out in 2010) and the thighs. Yes, the good old chub rub is the second common way in which chafing can mercilessly affect runners, or even those not partaking in running. Both are excruciatingly painful ways for a run to take a nightmarish turn.

Understanding Chafing

So, what is chafing, you ask? In the simplest terms, it's the irritation and subsequent pain resulting from repeated skin-on-skin contact or continuous rubbing against another material, often clothing. This unpleasant phenomenon is exacerbated by poorly fitting clothing, essentially the result of a dangerous trifecta: sweat, friction, and less-than-ideal fabric choices. And don't even get me started on hot weather's contribution to the chub rub. With thigh chafing, sweat again becomes your worst enemy, causing your thighs to turn raw, courtesy of the friction from your rebellious running shorts. Meanwhile, your fabric bunches up like a toddler refusing to eat broccoli, resulting in a performance worthy of Charlie Chaplin. In short, chafing can be an absolute nightmare. I cringe at the thought of it more than I do at the memory of a past injury.

Preventive Measures for Chafing

Now that I've described both types of chafing in the most vivid language I could muster, let's discuss the preventive measures you can take to avoid these horrors.

Preventing Thigh Chafing

For thigh chafing, you have three options: lubricants, compression shorts, or anti-chafing tape. In my personal experience, I've found that compression shorts work the best, but beware, make sure you get a pair that fits you correctly. I've unfortunately experienced the chub rub during a half marathon while wearing ill-fitting compression shorts. I can't personally vouch for lubricants or anti-chafing tape, but these are options that have been reported to work well for others.

Preventing Nipple Chafing

Now, how could I have prevented my nipple-chafing mishap from staining my Celtic jersey thirteen years ago? I've found three effective methods. First, you can use a plaster to cover your nipple and create a barrier between it and your chafing-inducing running shirt. Alternatively, you could opt for a compression top, which is tight-fitting enough to prevent any friction. As we head into November and the colder months, you might decide to wear a compression top as an extra layer (I know I do in Aberdeen). Finally, I've discovered that using Vaseline is a highly effective way to prevent nipple chafing if it's too warm for a compression top or you don't have any plasters on hand. As you can see below it would have spared me a lot of pain!

Share Your Chafing Tales

Do you have your own chafing war stories or quirky tips to share? Feel free to share them on our socials, and let's bond over our chafing escapades!

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