I Survived the Worst Chafing of My Life

I’ve never been one to chafe, at least not like some people seem to. Sure if it’s really hot I’ll chafe along the shorts-liner, or I’ll get the occasional armpit hot spot, or for some reason my lower back chafes from time to time. Oh and this is kinda crazy. Since my two pregnancies turned my belly button into an outie, it gets rubbed raw if I run in the rain. But it’s nothing too serious: I lube up my little problem areas with the same tube of BodyGlide I’ve owned for several years, and am usually just good to go.

Meanwhile, I read about, and listen to my friends moan about their terrible chafing — one poor friend nearly had a skin-free strip under her sports bra strap last summer. But so far, severe chafing has been one of those things, like plantar fasciitis or melasma, that I imagine must suck but I really never fully appreciated the horror … until recently.

But #soblessed no more. A series of unfortunate events, environmental factors, and poor decisions led to the worst chafing of my life.

My friends and I marked a trail run on our calendars a couple Saturdays back, choosing a route that included lots of elevation. I had 16 miles planned, and the morning dawned warm and muggy in the trees (Environmental Factor #1).

I have a very repetitive 10-mile route I always take on this trail, but we decided to add a couple of off-shoots (Mistake #1) to that to increase our overall mileage and elevation. The first off-shoot took us up to top of Mt. Baldy and I, being a heavy efficient sweater (Environmental Factor #2), was pretty soaked by the time we started our descent.

What followed was more grueling uphills, more sweat, lots of pounding, a too fast downhill (Mistake #2), and a time deadline that required me to have to race home after 12 miles to finish the last four on my treadmill (Environmental Factor #3) so my husband could get to a meeting. Rather than pausing to change my now cold, wet running clothes, I jumped on the mill to just get the damn thing over with (Mistake #3). About two miles into the run, I began to feel pain on both butt cheeks. Yikes, I thought, that’s going to sting in the shower.

Little.

Did.

I.

Know.

As I peeled off my wet skirt and tank in my bedroom, I caught a glimpse of my pale rear end in the mirror. Twin raw, oozy skidmarks an inch wide and several inches long flanked my butt crack, under an open, red oozy triangle outlining my sacrum above. My outie belly button throbbed a glowing reddish purple from my sweat-drenched tank top rubbing off several layers of skin in my muggy garage.

It was so bad that, for several days after, I was forced to wear full-butt cotton underwear that I had to peel off my chafe streaks as the scabs formed throughout the day, teeth clenching, wincing at having to sit or stand, and deep breathing exercises in the shower to avoid howling in pain. Actually, I avoided the shower as much as possible. Sorry! to anyone I encountered in public. Oh, and I had to swallow my pride every time I got dressed in front of my husband, who normally is quite endearing about my bum, but instead chuckled and snorted as he glimpsed the scabby skids adorning my ass.

I thought the cool water would soothe my wounded ass. I was wrong.

Two weeks later, and my belly button scab is gone and most of the butt scabs are as well. I’ve used an entire Body Glide tube to not add to my wounds and am thankful that a redo of this situation is probably avoidable.

I’ve gained several take-aways from this scabby situation:

  • Prevent chafing with copious amounts of lube pre-run.
  • Don’t go so fast on the downhills: Pretty sure that affected my form and then my wet clothes rubbed me differently than normal.
  • Get out of wet clothes fast, and…
  • Never do a second run wearing the same wet clothes from the earlier one.

Most importantly, I now have real empathy for all you hardcore chafers out there: for those of you who fight a constant battle with your rubbing running clothes, I salute you. I hope to never join your ranks again!

What’s your worst chafing experience?

I'm an elementary P.E. teacher with a long-term, ongoing marathon addiction.The next big goal? Keeping up my BQ streak while aiming for a 3:10! I write about the not-so-glamorous side of running and fitting in serious training with a family while staying sane(ish).

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15 comments

  1. Ugh. I wince in sympathy as I read this.

    The worst chafing I’ve had was after a half marathon on a warm and very humid day. The skin under my armpits were raw and so painful that I actually couldn’t put my arms next to my body for a couple of days. I had to walk around like a chicken or a velociraptor. My husband laughed (in sympathy) at how I looked. I found rubbing copious amounts of lotion and/or aloe (from the plant itself) to be helpful in the healing process.

  2. This post struck a major chord! A couple of years ago I chafed so bad u see my sports bra line after a routine 10 mile run. After trying to self medicate and heal (While it kept getting worse) I ended up having an allergic reaction to the off brand Neosporin and eventually needed to see a doctor and go on antibiotics and get a special cream. All in all it took almost a month for everything to heal. Ever since then I am extremely vigilant in body glide and preventing chafing!

  3. I ran a half marathon in the winter, but wore shorts/tall compression socks (temp wise it was fine for that). 3 miles into the race the course turned to complete slush and snow as they failed to plow the path! It’s a double out and back course so I had to hit this long stretch TWICE. All my body glide washed off with snow and slush splashing up (and killing my traction and pace). When I finished it hurt, but I didn’t realize how bad it was until later after the 2 hour drive home. My inner thighs actually looked like I was assaulted, bleeding, raw skin, road rash, all of it. I couldn’t walk normal let alone run for a few days and even then I had to wear long shorts/capris for a while.

    1. OMG! Barley! YIKES. I’ve chaffed really bad at the shortsliner where I couldn’t wear underwear for a day or two! Thank goodness for spandex boy shorts 🙂

  4. Some seasons I struggle with chafing terribly… some seasons not at all. Strange. One year I got a terrible sports bra chafe to the point where I had constant pain and scabs, nothing would help. I got some sort of opportunistic infection that spread all over my abdomen. It came on so quickly that I actually went into a bathroom at starbucks, snapped a photo and sent it to my dermatologist friend (yes, I sent a photo of my boobs over the internet…. no porn charges filed, luckily). I shudder just thinking about how much that hurt.

    1. OMG!!! My friend’s sports bra chafe was crazy– she could almost not run because there was no way to cushion it or lube the rawness enough to protect it from getting worse. Your story brings up another point– opportunistic infections! Ouch!

  5. Went 36 hours without a bra, chafing was bad the bra clasp dug in. Swapped bras after that. 1st Marathon my butt cheeks chafed, now use tri slide it works upside down.

  6. I get that exact same armpit/ lat chafing too! Sometimes it’s actually on the underside of my upper arm. A spot of Bodyglide usually does the trick – I just have to remember to lube up. But the cause remains a mystery – I don’t think my sports bra or my tank top reaches anywhere near that spot.

  7. I can’t believe your husband was making smart ass comments about your injuries, seeing it was all his fault that this happened. If there was no meeting, this never would have happened. Right?