Polyester: its not for running anymore

Being that I try to get out and put in work three days per week (or nights, as it were) I tend to get bored with a route after navigating the monotony for three or four consecutive runs, so I have several that I use, each out-and-back or loop with a varying mileage associated to it.

Tonight, I headed out in a direction that I had before, but instead of heading left across the bridge into Discovery Park and doing an out-and-back course, I stayed on the south side of the American River and headed east. I knew that the new development near North 7th Street was in the works—some of it actually completed, and by the looks of things, parts of the new residential projects were already occupied. I had been down this way before, on my bike, and I knew that North 7th street culminated at a turn-about a few yards away from the bike trail. With that in mind, I decided to see how long of a loop it would be if I ran along the river to there, and back home by way of 7th Street. It turned out to be exactly 5 miles. Nice, huh? Another viable loop of relative effort to add to my arsenal of distances, and just what I needed on this particular day to break the monotony.

The decision to run this particular route was made because I was embarking on my evening run a little early, leaving at a time that would ensure plenty of daylight for the duration of the run, well into the time that I arrived back home. The stretch of North 7th between the river and, say… Capitol Mall is, well… not the safest environment, and I surely would not want to be out there after dark. That stretch can be a bit spooky at night. With that said, I will make a point of only running this new loop while there is plenty of light to guide me.

This route has a little bit of everything: The river Promenade near Tower Bridge, the history of historic Old Town Sacramento, the majestic confluence of the Sacramento and American river at Discovery Park, the new development near the Rail Yards, providing both a glimpse into Sacramento’s history with the historic old brick buildings that are still standing in the rail yards, as well as the new residential developments that have been constructed there. A little bit of everything to stimulate the mind with a plethora of visual stimuli.

5 mile loop though old sac

One thing that did bother me while during this run, though, and it became noticeable quite early. I was hot. The weather on this day was a rather mild 80 degrees, and it wasn’t the regular hot that plagues me early, when I just get started. What was the cause of my discomfort, you ask. Polyester. Yes, you heard me. Polyester. I own several sets of running clothes—shorts with matching shirts, made from differing breathable materials, and apparently, unbeknownst to me when I bought them a couple of years ago, some of them ( many of the shirts anyway) are made of 100% polyester. What! What genius decided that polyester would be a good fabric to make running gear out of? What was at the nucleus  bright idea was that? Ok, perhaps it is more breathable, and less likely to become completely saturated within a mile into a run than say, cotton, but really? I either did not know any better, or was so focused on color coordinating my shorts to my shirt, that I didn’t notice what some of these shirts were constructed of, or, which is more like it, I just didn’t care. Whatever the root of my lapse in judgment, I now resolutely will not wear polyester when I run. Never again. I have broken up three color coordinated sets of running outfits and have thrown the piece constructed of the offending material in the trash.  I must not suffer the agony of not being color coordinated while putting my mind and body through the agony of running for an hour or so three times a week.

I volunteered at the mile 25 water and snack station for the California International Marathon one year, passing out water, Gatorade, and Twizzler red licorice. This particular year there was a torrential rain storm in Folsom, CA where the race began. Most of these poor souls, wrapped up in plastic trash bags, with plastic sheets duct taped to them here and there, were a wreck by the time they reached us. Some were limping, others were hunched over to one side, a grimace of sheer agony frozen on their face as they enthusiastically (I am theorizing at the enthusiasm as, evidence of this was absent from the faces of most) grabbed a water and a Twizzer as they crept by. We cheered them on with our constant mantra of “keep going. Just one more mile to go, you can do it!”

eat-sleep-run

Ok, back on the subject of polyester, I noticed that one man on the approach to our last mile water station, had red streaks running down his shirt, emanating from where his nipples should be and running down to his waist. Then I saw another, and another. The friction of their polyester or polyester blend running shirts had worn the top layer of skin off of each nipple, and they were freekin bleeding! Yes, bleeding!

I had never seen anything like it. I turned to my friend and said “Hey, is that guy bleeding?”

“Yeah,” she said. “Probably wearing polyester.  He should have worn nipple guards.” Nipple guards? Is there such a thing? Wow… who knew. Well, a lot of people, apparently, because a product with this unambiguous name is hanging on a retail hook at the cash register at fleet feet. I own some myself now, too. I learned of their value when, while training for the Shamrock’n Half Marathon a couple of years ago, I was wearing one of my now disposed of polyester running shirts during an 11 mile training run, and, although they did not bleed, they sure were sore by the end of the day.

I guess in all fairness, the moisture wicking material that the remaining of my running shirts are made of would probably have a similar effect on that particular part of the male anatomy, but it has been my experience, that the polyester, is like a 40 grit sandpaper, and the newer, lighter and more breathable tech fabric is like a fine 120 grit. Without protection, the tech fabric will likely do the same thing on a long run like a full marathon such as the CIM, but I have never experienced discomfort with them, only with the polyester. Yes, this is a male dominated phenomenon, for obvious reasons… women are, or at least should be, protected by a sports bra, leaving the need for this type of protective product strictly marketed to men.

Runners, do what you want. I encourage anyone reading my words whether in this blog post or anywhere else, to assess their own situation carefully, and make their own decisions based on what is best for them.  For this runner, polyester is out. I have alleviated my closet of any running clothes—shorts or shirts—made of polyester. For me, this particular fabric is hot, its rough and it just has no place in my closet.

Until next time, keep the forward momentum, people.

J. Johnston

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