As I stood in the changing room getting ready for a run, my thought process went something like this:
Normal brain: “Damn it! I left my BodyGlide in the car”.
Rational brain: “You should really go and fetch it. It’ll only take a minute, and you are wearing your prone-to-chafing nothing-to-the-imagination short shorts”.
Normal brain: “Nah, no point. I’ve been using Bodyglide for years now, and I can’t remember the last time I had any chafing, so I really don’t think I need it any more”.
Rational brain: “Erm… maybe the reason you haven’t had any chafing is bec…”
Normal brain: “Shut up rational brain! Nobody likes you!”
Fast forward a few minutes. I’m nearly two miles into a five mile out-and-back tempo run, and the warm-but-not-in-a-good-way sensation coming from my inner thighs is starting to fill me with dread. The sticky humidity of the day, coupled with my unprotected soft bits, multiplied by the friction of a couple of 8-minute miles, was starting to create a perfect storm of sandpaper-like chafingness (real word).
I’d been here before, and I knew that things were going to get a LOT worse in the very near future. With half a mile to go before the turnaround point, I made the easiest decision of my life: I decided to cut the run short and head back before it was too late.
It was too late.
I’d taken just a few steps on my return journey when someone started going at my inner thighs with a cheese grater1. I tried adjusting my shorts, pulling them down to cover the bits that were rubbing together, but it didn’t work and just made me look like a sex offender. It was quickly getting worse, but what should I do? Slow down and prolong the agony? Or speed up and risk catching fire? I decided that the best course of action would be to maintain a steady pace and just try to adapt my running style in some way that would minimise the rubbing. I’m not the most graceful of people at the best of times, but now I looked like I was tackling that bit of an assault course where you have to run over a load of old tyres.
By the time I still had a mile to go, I was sure I could actually hear a layer of skin being peeled off with every step. I grimaced, gritted my teeth and carried on, because that was all I could do. Half a mile from home I stopped for a few seconds while waiting to cross a busy road, and the blistering rawness of my thighs was momentarily replaced by a feeling of absolute tranquillity as a cool breeze wafted over me. When it was time to carry on, I actually heard myself let out a little whimper.
I jobbled2 the rest of the way as fast as I could, not daring to glance down in case there was blood. I think I read somewhere that bears can pick up the scent of a chafing runner from a distance of over two miles. I might have imagined that, but I wasn’t going to take any chances so I quickened my pace as best I could while mentally preparing myself for a bear fight in suburban Bedfordshire.
By the time I made it back to the changing room I felt like I was wading waist-deep through a volcano. By the end of the run I’d been forced to come to terms with the fact that it simply isn’t physically possible to keep your thighs six feet apart from each other3, and I’d given up trying to take my mind off to a happier place. Whenever I’d tried to think tranquil thoughts, my treacherous imagination quickly found a way to turn them around; for instance, conjuring up images of rock salt being rubbed gleefully into open wounds by evil clowns, or anything involving Jedward.
If someone, at that point, had offered me a thimbleful of Sudocrem, I’d have gladly kissed them with tongues and bought them a small tropical island. Instead, I showered gingerly and then spent the next ten hours at work wearing coarse wool-blend trousers. Lovely. Just lovely.
So, did I learn an important lesson from all this? Yes, of course I did. But only for the next 3-4 weeks, at which point my brain will paper over it and I’ll be back to thinking I’m invincible again.
Damn you, brain! You’ve always had it in for me!
1 Not literally, although that has happened. My runs take me through some nasty areas.
2 Sort of a cross between jogging and hobbling.
3 Unless you’re MC Hammer