Quite the Lady! On Running and the Feminine Mystique

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Does the pink make me lady-like enough? How about the nail polish?

Recently at the end of a good, fast stroller-pushing run I finished up at the gravel pull-off where I’d parked, my daughter still fast asleep. I’d run my last mile in 7:39, quite a feat these days with her 35-pounds and our 10-pound dog riding together for seven miles. Not to mention I was still clearing out my cold and its residual phlegm.

Feeling pretty badass, I snot-rocketed out each nostril then pulled up my shirt to get the snot that didn’t clear my upper lip. I looked up mid-wipe to see an older couple sitting in the truck parked right next to my car, staring at me through their open windows. The woman had her hands over mouth, her eyes round behind her grandma glasses. The man appeared to be holding in a chuckle.

“Oh… God… I… Well, I didn’t see you there,” I lamely explained, pulling my shirt back down over my suddenly super-mini running skirt, noticing the huge sweat circle on my chest, the matching ones under my arms, and the smear of snot on my hem.

“Quite the LADY,” the woman observed.

What the hell does that even mean? I was wearing a skirt and a pink shirt. Does the idea of being ladylike even exist anymore or have we 21st-century women all just turned into Beavis & Butthead? Behind the scenes here at Salty Running, the quintessential ladies’ running site, we are always joking about our number one post day-in and day-out, the one about pooping on the run. Has being a lady all but gone the way of the landline?

When I was contemplating what it means to be ladylike I recalled hearing a story on NPR about a guide from 1831 that included 18 Rules of Behavior for Young Ladies. Here are a few useful rules from the list and a little translation since they’re written in old-timey language.

  • Avoid every thing masculine. Definitely don’t run.
  • Be not too often seen in public. Especially outside.
  • Pride yourself in modesty. If you dare venture forth from your home, for the love of God, cover that sh!t up!
  • Read no novels, but let your study be History, Geography, Biography and other instructive books. I guess Salty Running might be ok?

The rules also warned against male and female friends, but did recommend that we blush often. (If we have no friends, but blush often, do we really even blush?) Oh, and never, ever should we women even hear a double entendre. Definitely go watch this then. It also mentioned something about giving or using your hand when necessary, but I’m not sure how to take that. So if these rules say anything about what it means to be a “quite a lady,” does that concept even matter in 2015?

Maybe after years of consistent training for marathon after marathon with the same group of runner friends both male and female, I’ve just completely lost my sense of propriety. At this point in the game, I’ve confessed to all manner of sins I wouldn’t normally discuss. I’ve peed in front of my lady friends, farted, snot-rocketed, spit, pulled out wedgies, wiped sweat and snot all over my gloves and shirt, used excessive f-bombs to really get my point across, discussed chaffing, childbirth, periods, pelvic floor ailments, boobs, sex, drugs, oh my. If that lady in the truck is reading this, I’m sure she’s blushing like a lady right now. I might have even blushed, myself, on several occasions while running, but that was just because it was cold out for some of those runs.

The point is, I’ve kinda forgotten what some people consider the normal expectations of feminine behavior, as the woman in the truck so succinctly reminded me, but I think I rather like it. The more I learn to respect my body for the machine it is and as I devote more and more time and energy to tuning this machine to run well, the less insecure I am about how my body looks and its myriad functions and excretions. I focus more on the function of this body rather than just the form that others see. It’s freeing, dammit, because that old version of being a lady shamed us into hiding both physically and mentally.

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His expression is definitely because of my pungent mystique.

Yeah, my boobs will never be on the cover of Victoria’s Secret, but they served their function, so I’ll bitch about them being little but accept them at the same time. Yes, there is a lovely patch of spider veins on my left quad, but I’ll kick your ass on that hill, AND I’ll wear short-shorts when it is hot because I want to be comfortable. I’ll run with my running tribe, both male and female, because they make me a better person. We’ll probably even run in public. And, if during or after a hard run I need to get rid of some snot, I won’t blow it in your direction and I’ll even let you use my hand to wipe it off if I miss.

Yes. Quite the lady, indeed.


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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  1. Since taking up running as a mature lady, I’ve done all man-ner of things that once would have made me blush or go fainting in coils.
    I regret and would abandon none of it.
    (Although, I do try to refrain from snot-rocketing in street clothes…)

  2. I ran my first 10k with an older man many years ago. His wife, one of the small town’s “socialites,” was so concerned about HIS habit of snot-rockets that she insisted he carry a handkerchief with him so I wouldn’t be embarassed. We laughed and laughed. What else could we do?

  3. That 1831 rule book can suck it. It’s like a girls guide to misery. Wtf?! I’ll take being a disgusting snot-rocketing, woods-pooping ape in exchange for an intellect and free will I can use.

    Ps Shweddy Balls!