On this installment of the AMR Aid Station, Tish Hamilton answers the important question WHY does my nose always run when I run?
My nose starts running pretty much as soon as the weather turns cold (November-ish in New Jersey), and doesn’t stop until summer.
My nose runs when I’m running. It runs when I’m not running. It runs when I go from running to not running, which is to say, come inside. There’s a box of tissues by the door, always. There are tissues in the pockets of every coat, jacket and hoodie I own. Often I forget to empty pockets before washing, and when swapping clothes out to the dryer discover tenacious little bits of tissue clinging to wet tights and sports bras. Dang!
(Tissues in the laundry is not as catastrophic, however, as discovering in wet post-wash clothes an iPod loaded with 4 hours of carefully curated 180 BPM marathon tunes—which I have done TWICE. Wah!)
I don’t have a cold or the flu or allergies. So WHY does my nose always run when I run?
It’s a thing (of course it is!) and it’s been studied (of course it has!).
“Exercise-induced rhinitis, predominantly rhinorrhea, commonly occurs in athletes regardless of underlying nasal allergy,” researchers from the Allergy, Asthma & Immunology Clinic of Colorado reported in a study published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. In their study, 56% of endurance athletes experienced rhinorrhea when exercising outdoors; as did 71% of athletes with allergies.
In layman’s terms what that means is, for many athletes—not just runners but cyclists, skiers and figure skaters—their noses run when they exercise, often a lot (rhinorrhea). Ohhhhh.
Curiously, working out inside was almost as bad: 69% of allergy-sufferers reported runny noses; as did 53% of non-allergy sufferers.
Causes include allergies, weather, air pollution and stress, which increases blood flow to the nose, which makes it run, as does running.
So how do we deal? Sarah—who asked about this TMI topic on Another Mother Runner’s FB page—confesses she is all about the farmer’s blow, a k a the snot rocket.
Many, many mothers chimed in to confirm the merits of the snot rocket. (Can we call it snocket?)
“Let it blow, let it blow,” as Walisa Dickson said.
Becky Nipper: “Majority snot rocket, and residual drips on sleeves or gloves. I taught my 7-year-old last week. Proud moment.”
My BRF, a k a Fast Teacher Friend, who was battling a head cold last week, turned her head discreetly away from me and executed a perfect farmer’s blow without missing a step. “Sorry,” she said.
No apologies necessary! We are runners, we are mothers: Snot ranks very low on the gross-o-meter.
That said, many of us—including me—are incapable of snocketing. We just wipe our noses on our gloves, sleeves, inside of collars or hems of shirts.
Jess Paden, a professed snot rocketer, says, “I always buy gloves with soft backs, just in case there are hangers-on.”
Manufacturers KNOW we are doing this, and make design accommodations accordingly.
A recent favorite glove in Another Mother Runner’s Gear column — UnderArmour Storm Run Liner — has an “extra soft Speedwipe fleece on the back of index finger and thumb,” and while they don’t say WHY, you can figure it out.
Many mothers have ingenious solutions to the runny nose problem.
Rachel Svenkeson: “I usually carry tissues up my sleeves.”
“I cut off the end of old socks and wear them on my wrist to wipe my nose,” says Cindy Russell.
Katey Wilbur uses cut-up old T-shirts.
Patty Bolduc takes a bandanna on every run and notes that it is also useful for wiping sweat, swatting bees or using as an emergency bandage should she fall and bleed. Further proof that mothers are the most resourceful people on the planet.
And there are products that (more or less) were designed for this purpose.
Susan Landolt deals with snot with a Buff wrapped around her wrist.
Catherine Sowa uses a Handana, which is exactly what it sounds like. Genius!
Sarah Purk uses Snittens, which promises to absorb “28x its weight in snot and tears!” Say the makers: “We measured!”
Belinda D Pape Traber never runs without her Runningluv, a towel that wraps around your hand or wrist.
Misty Currier uses a sQoosh. “More than a sweatband.”
Personally, when temperatures dip below 35, I wear soft mittens. My fingers and thumb need to huddle together in warm fleece like Laura, Mary, Carrie, Ma and Pa in The Long Winter, wondering if Almanzo and Cap Garland are going to make it back through the blinding blizzard with wheat to feed the starving townspeople. Plus, mittens are soft on the nose.
Wondering HOW exactly to do the Farmer’s Blow?
Mark Remy, creator of Dumbrunner.com, explains how—managing not to crack up for a full five minutes—in a video adapted from his (hilarious) The Runner’s Rule book: “Lay a forefinger against one nostril and compress firmly… Cock your head slightly in the direction of the open nose and exhale forcefully through your nose. Repeat with opposite nostril.” Important note: Make sure no other runner is in a 3 to 4-foot “blast radius.” Mark notes that, like anything, practice makes perfect.