A few weeks ago, we saw the Tribe gather, like, comment, and share around a Facebook post regarding periods. You were especially helpful and forthcoming about how you deal during long-distance runs to your fellow #MotherRunner, and that’s when we thought a follow-up post could be even more helpful. While we plan to offer advice and insight on the topic, we could not HELP but post this piece from Role Mother (and marathoner) Melissa. Check back on Tuesday, 6/27, for part two of the TMI/periods post, full of options and tips.
I’ve been one of the many unfortunate mother runners out there to run a marathon on my period. It was my 7th marathon, and when I realized the month before that the stars, tides, and menstrual moons were inevitably going to collide and Aunt Flo was going to be visiting uninvited on race day, I prepared for the worst but wished for the best. I got the worst, but we’ll get to that in a sec. Did I mention it was my first Goofy Challenge? Yep. So, a half on Saturday and a full on Sunday.
The morning of the half I started bleeding, which didn’t cause panic, as I knew things would be “light,” and I’d be done in about 2.5 hours. The next day however, was an entirely different story. Because DAY TWO people. If you haven’t had the pleasure of listening to what is probably my favorite AMR podcast ever, the one where Bethany Meyer gives her Boston Marathon recap, then you need to. Like NOW. Because ladies, she throws down the day two truth tampon like nobody’s business. I’ll just say this, when she spoke the words “I gave birth to a tampon in the port-a-potty,” I breathed a heavy sigh of relief and thought to myself, “So that IS a thing! I know because it happened to me!”
The morning of the full I did my best to remain confidant, calm, and trust that the good folks at Playtex at some point in tampon development had put a woman wearing one on a treadmill for five hours before they labeled anything leak free or Super Plus. Spoiler alert: THEY DIDN’T.
Before I stepped into my corral, I made one last pit stop to get things in order, stuffed two extra tampons in my sports bra, said a prayer to the period Gods, and began my journey to the Magic Kingdom.
At about mile 8, I popped into another port-a-potty and switched things, relieved to find the lining of my running shorts were crimson free.
And then Shark Week happened.
In my pants.
It was as if my uterus woke up from a deep slumber and shouted “All of this lining needs to go ASAP, and all at one time. Go!”
It was a wickedly warm day, with temps in the upper 70s and humidity easily hovering around 90%. I was dripping with sweat, salty and soaked from head to toe. I began to feel chafing on my inner things, which is not uncommon for me, so I stopped at the next medical tent for some Vaseline. It was around mile 18. I was wearing a handmade tu-tu over my running shorts, and when I lifted up the front to apply lubrication to my raw skin, I saw the carnage. My shorts were not soaked with sweat. They were soaked front and back with blood, which had run all the way down my inner thighs to my knees.
I panicked. I knew this course well, and I knew I needed a real bathroom to clean up the red tide between my legs. And by real bathroom I mean running water, paper towels, and good lighting were an absolute necessity at this point. My course memory told me the nearest one was a good 4-5 miles ahead, at the exit of Hollywood Studios.
I trucked, or bled, along with my head down, trying to not bring attention to myself (or my thighs,) from the hundreds of tourists who lined the streets of Hollywood Studios. As I approached the bathroom, I did some running math in my head, and told myself I was still making good time and to keep this custodial pit stop to under two minutes.
I emerged from the bathroom 15 minutes later.
Race minutes are like dog years, so 15 minutes to a runner is like three hours.
I won’t go into detail what I saw in there, or what I had to clean up, wipe down, rinse off, and considered just throwing in the trash, but let’s just say a crime-scene blood-splatter expert would have winced.
But something else happened in there, something that I didn’t expect. In the course of 15 minutes I went from feeling completely defeated, from cursing my body and its fluids, the lunar calendar, strings that are anything but extra absorbent, paper towels that feel like sand paper, cheap toilet tissue, and all of femininity, to feeling like something else entirely…
A TOTAL FREAKIN’ BADASS.
If I could have ran out of there with a big letter “P” on my shirt, I think I would have.
You see, right before I left the bathroom, I stopped to take a look at myself in the mirror. The face looking back at me was anything but defeated. She was strong. Period. (See what I did there?)
When I came across the finish line, I felt I could be the new spokeswoman for all the menstrual marathoners out there. I thought “Holy red river rising if I can do THAT, what can’t I do?”
When my husband greeted me a few seconds later, he asked “Sooooo….how was it? You finished strong!”
My answer, “Piece of cake. Hey, is there a beach towel in the car?”
“Yes,” he said. “It’s that one I got for donating blood last month.”
Period Gods. You sure have a sense of humor.
*Update. I have recently jumped on the menstrual cup band wagon, and so far so good. I have yet to try to run long distances on a “day two” with the cup, but from what I hear it is a game changer.
Tell us: Have any tales of period vs. run? We’re all ears!