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An Illeterate itch – 04/07/17

This morning, I did one of my most difficult runs. Yes. Difficult. I know some are wondering…… “You just ran an 87kms ultra 3 weeks ago, how could you possibly run anything longer than that within such a short time..”

Let me walk you through today’s run.

I have been on a running break for the last one month having done Comrades ultra marathon on the 4th of June barely 6 weeks after a fast 42 kilometers in London. Today’s run was nothing close to that. The distance was 10 kilometers. So what does that short distance have to do with a run being the hard?

I have this problem. After a running break-which I take after a full (42 kms) or longer marathon I suffer from serious itches when I resume. This happens from around the 1-kilometer mark when the body starts breaking into a sweat. The itch is so severe and irritating that during my inaugural run many years ago, I almost tore through my skin scratching profusely and eventually concluded that maybe I wasn’t meant to run and went back home with nail marks all over my body.

I love the normal itches. They kind of feel nice when you attend to them. They seem to relent once they get some attention. But this is not that kind of itch. This is one of those uncultured ones that didn’t see the inside of a classroom. It starts off faintly from the stomach and skin and around the bottoms and slowly progresses into some monster that makes you want to abandon the run and sit on the cold early morning tarmac and slide back to the gym-Obviously minus some of your dignity and looking like a baboon.

At its maximum, it feels like pins being driven through the skin. It must be the same kind of itch that animals feel and end up scratching themselves hard on a tree. In-fact at times when running alone I have leaned on a streetlight and scratched my back hard on it. Unfortunately with this itch, you scratch one end and like a ping-pong ball, it shifts to another end with more vengeance. It seems to have a brain of its own. Its almost as if it makes me pay for the days I’ve been away. You scratch the back and the itch moves to the stomach, touch that and you may just send it to the backside. At this point you start walking to scratch that and just as you get that sweet feeling one gets when you use a cotton bud to attend to an itch inside your ear, it moves to an extreme that you may not reach. That’s when you need a tree as a scratch partner. The solution is always to run through the discomfort, which seems to last forever. My friend Nick who was also on the same break (we ran comrades together) also resumed today and he said for the first time he could feel the Itch. He even wondered loudly if it was contagious.

I always try to avoid scratching as much as I can but that only last for a short while. I have however learned to only scratch a bit here and a bit there to avoid increasing its vengeance. The Itch eventually disappears somewhere along the way today was at around the 4 kilometer mark and sanity resumed.

I have researched on the causes to this and the one that I believe applies to me is this explanation “If you’ve had a long layover between workouts sometimes the capillaries and arteries expand when you resume, causing a sensation that your brain reads as itchiness. If you can work through the discomfort, the itching should reduce and eventually disappear.

I understand that for some people it is so intense that they have to use numbing spray. Luckily mine isn’t at that level- at least not yet.

Bye bye itch until my next break, which is not soon.

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