“It’s a radical notion realizing that on a marathon course you don’t have to worry about how you look for others.”
I got my flow the night before the London Marathon and it was extremely painful. It would be my first marathon and I remember already feeling so nervous for it. I had spent a full year enthusiastically training hard, but I had never actually practiced running on my period.
I thought through my options. Running 26.2 miles with a wad of cotton material wedged between my legs just seemed so absurd. Plus they say chafing is a real thing. I honestly didn’t know what to do. I knew that I was lucky to have access to tampons etc, to be part of a society that at least has a norm around periods. I could definitely choose to participate in this norm at the expense of my own comfort and just deal with it quietly.
But then I thought…
If there’s one person society can’t eff with, it’s a marathon runner. You can’t tell a marathoner to clean themselves up, or to prioritize the comfort of others. On the marathon course, I could choose whether or not I wanted to participate in this norm of shaming.
I decided to just take some Midol, hope I wouldn’t cramp, bleed freely and just run.
A marathon in itself is a centuries old symbolic act. Why not use it as a means to draw light to my sisters who don’t have access to tampons and, despite cramping and pain, hide it away like it doesn’t exist?
I ran the marathon with 2 women who are very close to me, Ana and Mere. Both of them had done marathons before. I thought we would split up for sure, but by mile 6, they were still with me, right at my side. It was inspiring.
As I ran, I thought to myself about how women and men have both been effectively socialized to pretend periods don’t exist. By establishing a norm of period-shaming, [male-preferring] societies effectively prevent the ability to bond over an experience that 50% of us in the human population share monthly. By making it difficult to speak about, we don’t have language to express pain in the workplace, and we don’t acknowledge differences between women and men that must be recognized and established as acceptable norms. Because it is all kept quiet, women are socialized not to complain or talk about their own bodily functions, since no one can see it happening. And if you can’t see it, it’s probably ‘not a big deal.’ Why is this an important issue? Because THIS is happening, right now.
And so I started bleeding freely.
More than 40 Million Women in the United States Live on the Brink of Poverty.
A Yearly Supply of Sanitary Pads/or Tampons Averages $70.00 a Year.