What Body Part Would You Remove for Your Running?

English: Angelina Jolie at the Cannes film fes...
Angelina Jolie at the Cannes film festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I enjoy a good movie as much as anyone, but for me to sit still for two straight hours requires three things: bad weather, a long run finished, and the possibility that Russell Crowe might appear on the screen. Otherwise, count me out.

But I snapped to attention last week upon hearing the news that Angelina Jolie had removed her breasts.   Or rather, surgeons did, at her request, to dramatically cut her risk of getting breast cancer.  It was one more step in the canonization process of a bad girl turned saintly mother, and while I think hers was a reasonable decision for a woman of privilege and means (not so much for women in the undeveloped world), there was a tiny part of me that was a little bit jealous, thinking, “Man, if I only I could have a double mastectomy, I would be so much faster!”

Yes, horrible, I know.  And I can say that only because I am blessed (so far) with good health, and have never had to wage fierce battle with the Big C.  But my friends who have fought it bravely did so with a generous dose of black humor, and so I hope they understand.   This is my truth: My breasts get in the way of my running. They affect my gait, my speed, my self-image.

This is, in large part, because parts of me are large; although I’m a dedicated runner, I remain overweight for my age and height.  Presumably, I would not have this problem if I lost 50 pounds, but then I’d be walking around all day singing the “Do your boobs hang low?” song because skinnier, in some places, seems to mean flatter.

As it is, when I gain weight, as I did over the winter, I gain first in my chest, and this has made more than one man deliriously happy over the course of my adult life. But a big chest (right now, I’m a 36D if you must know), is great for Hollywood actresses, horrible for runners.

One of Title Nine's replacements for the Frog Bra:  the Booby Trap! (Photo via Titlenine.com.)
One of Title Nine’s replacements for the Frog Bra: the Booby Trap! (Photo via Titlenine.com.)

I long ago learned to “double bag” – to wear two sports bras  — so I won’t break any indecency laws when I’m out on the road.  And no clingy cotton for me.  In my drawers are the finest sports bras a second mortgage can buy, including Title Nine’s  now defunct “Frog Bra” – “so you can leap without bouncing!” – which was so heavy duty that apparently the government has taken control of the fabric for our military.  (Not really, but you gotta admit, the description of what happened to it is disturbingly vague.)

Anyway, despite all this, I still jiggle mortifyingly when I run down the road, and I am deeply envious of all you A and B cups who run past me with nary a jiggle.  Would I really have my breasts surgically removed to better my running?  No, probably not; I don’t have enough time or money.

But before you dismiss me as crazy,  know this:  There’s a man in Charleston, South Carolina, who had one of his legs amputated a few years ago so he could run better.  Plagued by chronic arthritis, he decided he’d run better without the bum leg, and so he had it removed, and is now happily running with prosthesis.

So there you go.  That’s a runner for you.  “Normal” people walk for exercise, and never dream about surgery that is medically unnecessary.  But I’d rather be a runner than normal.


I'm a single mother of four who has been running injury-free for 27 years, astonishingly without ever losing any weight. I'm a writer and editor near Boston, and author of "Honey, Do You Need a Ride? Confessions of a Fat Runner."

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


  1. I always thought a re-tract button (perhaps seamlessly integrated with my bellybutton?) would be the trick, rather than complete removal. Push the button and hydraulics/magic makes them temporarily disappear. Then, when I’m done running, another push of the button and they’re back! Wanting to wear that strappy dress? No problem – just partially retract! For some reason, when I share this idea and suggest it would be great for guys too (c’mon! That would be so useful!!) they get a little freaked out.

    I am a 36B, but not happy unless locked and loaded. Smaller chest doesn’t necessarily mean less bounce. I wear the Fit-to-a-T bra from Title Nine and I love those front adjusting straps.

  2. I’ve joked about cutting off my right leg because it’s constantly causing me problems, but I’d never actually do it. I could also probably live without boobs, mine are small but it would be nice to not have to worry about sports bra’s since good ones are $$$ and they chafe me around the neck. I wonder what the break even point would be between the cost of having your boobs removed and how much you save on sports bras’s?

  3. I’ve joked about there not being any point to having toenails.

    I used to think being nearly flat would be awesome for running, but I’ve lost 2-3 cups sizes since having my kids and it has not done anything. I still get chafed under the boobs, and recently got chafed along the top of my sports bra. It’s still hard to find good bras as a lot of companies assume if you wear a 32 band that you don’t need any kind of supportive bra.

    1. You make a good point. I used to think that chafing was unique to overweight runners, but I went to a symposium last year that featured the first women to run the Boston Marathon (legally!) and every last tiny one of them complained about chafing!

  4. I remember reading about an ultra-runner who had his toenails surgically removed… That seems like something I’d consider, expect for sandal season.

    But actually, I’m pretty happy with my body as a runner. I have some things I’d like enhanced, but nothing I’d remove.

  5. At first I thought this article was going to be about an extra toe or something (which I would remove) but yes I am annoyed by my boobs too! They weren’t such an issue until I became pregnant- I went from a C to a DD in about two months. I wish they were temporarily removable 😛

  6. I hate to be the old lady who smells of pee but I feel this post is in poor taste. I know it’s tongue in cheek and I know I risk being all poker face but I can’t imagine the decision to have breasts removed was taken lightly and I’m not comfy with it being treated that way. We would all change parts of our bodies (longer legs please) but how lucky most of us are to have healthy breasts that sag and flop and don’t match!

    Check out the blog Darwinian Fail – a beautiful runner girl who did the same as Angelina Joliea few months ago. It’s inspiring reading.

    1. Cathryn, I’m behind you on this one. I understand the spirit in which this post was done was meant to be tongue in cheek, but as a woman who has found a lump and had to have a mammogram and ultrasound at 36 to confirm (luckily) that it was not a cancerous mass, I don’t find anything flip about this subject matter. In those horrible 96 hours, my physical breasts were the least of my worries – my husband and my life were what hung in the balance.