Born to Blister?

Like an infant being rocked to sleep in a crib, the break of surf against the beach, or the gentle sweep of a grandfather clock, relaxation pace is what my running self lives for. It’s the liberating sensation when you settle in and like subtle, easy magic your hips fall into mesmerizing rhythm.

Back & forth. Left & right.

Something elemental changes. Back & forth, just on the edge of wakefulness and daydreams. Left & right. Back & forth. Inhale. Exhale. And when you hit it, you know. Your body knows, and everything falls perfectly into place. It’s the feeling that nothing and no one can interrupt you. It’s the complete comfort of knowing that the only thing that will stop you is your own volition. It’s being so present in your stride or, in some cases, simultaneously so distant from it, you know you can run forever, and you just might. Its not an experience I get every run (though not for lack of trying). And therein, methinks, lies the magic. Its elusive, its unpredictable, but the possibility is always there. And when you’ve happened across it, if you’re like me, you’ll do anything to see if you actually can run forever. (see previous post re: marathon training)

Its been a while since I’ve tapped into this relaxation in the run. Longer than I’d like. And whether a result of its peculiar absence or something else, questioning the worth of this endeavor has officially begun. I didn’t know what exhaustion was until this process and I suppose that is a good reason why. It has brought me to tears, not just once, incited laughter, euphoria, excruciating pain and I’m pretty sure altogether altered my DNA somehow-more good reasons why. But now, so close to the end, and perhaps more than ever, I’m questioning deeply, wondering why.

The latest development to cause this type of reflection has been big, freakish blisters. With toes bandaged to within an inch of their lives and no very good idea where to go from here, I’m encountering some very strange new mental (not to mention physical) territory. In one instant i’m irate, how could I have made it this far, only to be humbled by a few toe blisters? (In fairness, they are pretty epic blisters. Apologies for the gnarliness, but It looks like I’m conducting stem cell research on my digits since you could imagine, by the looks of things, that i’m growing a 6th and 7th toe on my left foot.) In another instant I’m elated to be so close to the end and absolutely determined to push though a little boundary like blistering. The rapidity with which my mindset changes between these two ideas is unnerving.

So this is an open call for help (advice, ideas, anything!) on distance running blister abatement. I feel like I’ve tried everything and I’ve got about 11 days to heal them before its showtime. I’m pretty much resigned to the idea (after this weekend’s long run) that I won’t run again until they’re healed. I’m sure this tack isn’t great for training, but I’ve got a race to think about, and I figure the best chance I can give myself is at least to come to the start line blister-free. If I can’t hit my relaxation pace just once more before the race, I’m simply going to try for pain-free toes. And do my best to summon the sensation that made me run in the first place.



  1. It’s an odd thing, when your body says no and your mind and your spirit say yes. It’s frightening and empowering and clarifying and beautiful all at once. It was the past year of my life, shortened into a span of 26.2 arduous miles. It was the culmination of experiences, the knowledge that my body can be pushed past its breaking point, just like my heart.

    Kristin Armstrong, The Next Big Step, Runner’s

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