Marathon runners are a special breed of athlete. The training starts well in advance of race day and could entail a number of rituals, procedures and traditions. You’re not crazy; you’re just a marathon runner. One of the worst feelings in the world is the sense of completion. After you’re done running your marathon, you’ll immediately start searching for your next challenge. Here’s one for you: try to remember all the memorable aromas and smells that come with your favourite athletic sport.
Sweat (Before, During, After)
The smell of sweat is one of the most familiar odours for a marathon runner. You become acutely acquainted with your own sweat while training for a race. During the race you’ll smell your own sweat and many other odoriferous varieties from your competitors!
Sugary Electrolyte Drinks (Before, During, After)
While running your marathon, you’ll smell the faint aromas of isotonic sports drinks. There are so many to choose from, but they all have a sickeningly sweet smell that becomes unmistakable on race day. Runners compare brands, and you’ll probably slurp down more than your fair share before, during and after the race.
Ammonia (Before, During)
Before the race and during the marathon, you might find yourself immersed in a tightly packed cluster of runners. Then you get a distinct whiff of ammonia. Actually, it’s protein being metabolised, and you can smell it in the air. Don’t panic; it’s time for a surge anyway.
Rubber Straps (Before, During)
Why does the starting line smell like a racetrack? Of course, that’s from all the rubber straps. Everyone has a watch or timer strapped around their wrist when they run a marathon. You can try to cover up the smell with vanilla or cocoa butter lotion, but that rubber aroma is indestructible.
Flatulence (Before, During)
Before the race and during the marathon, you will often be running side by side with many other runners. Then something foul hits your nostrils, and it can be none other than a runner’s flatulence. Stay calm and just dash straight ahead as fast as you can!
Vomit (Before, During, After)
During the course of a marathon (as well as before and after it), your stomach might feel a bit uneasy, especially if you try some new gel or protein supplement. So the smell of vomit by the roadway becomes a regular part of marathon racing. Just hold your breath and try not to look.
Sweaty Socks (During, After)
That smell of soaking-wet cotton socks is unmistakable. You’ll experience it during and especially after the race. Like a badge of honour, you’ll hold off on washing those race socks as long as possible. Just try to remember that everyone else around you isn’t as proud of your knee-high trophies.
The Inside of Your Hydration Pack (During, After)
For extreme marathons, runners have a support team; however, for standard marathons you only have a hydration pack that you carry during the race. After the race, you might take a long sniff inside that hydration bag to catch memories from the race. That condensation-rich plastic smell is a classic.
Without fail, on race day there is always someone eating boiled potatoes or sweet potatoes. That earthy smell might be hard to recognize at first, but if you’ve ever run a marathon, you’ll catch faint whiffs of potatoes somewhere in the pack or in the racers’ prep area. Someone swears by them, and their potato breath is testament to that fact.
Energy Bars (Before)
Before the race, you’ll probably be obsessing over your diet. Are you really getting enough protein and simple carbohydrates? As you’re packing up for the day, you’ll undoubtedly hone in on the smell of different flavours of energy bars. They have a distinct smell that could only mean one thing: race day is upon you.
Essential Oils (Before)
Everyone has their own pre-race ritual to ease anxiety and tension. Some people enjoy the soothing powers of essential oils. You can rub them on your wrists, neck, and forehead. As you line up to start the race, you’ll undoubtedly ask the runner standing next to you, “What is that, lilac and elderberries?”
Leafy Vegetables (Before)
Whether you’re a vegetarian or not, you will most likely get your fill of leafy vegetables such as kale and spinach during the weeks leading up to the race. They have a distinct smell that could only mean one thing: race day approaches.
Dog Poop (During)
Dog poop, yes, the smell of dog poop is in the air. You’re training outside and you’re running the marathon outside, so it is almost inevitable that you’ll catch a whiff of some serious dog piles along the way. Just make sure you don’t step in one, or you’ll be the source of that smell for the duration of the race.
Rain (Before, During)
As you begin training for a marathon, you become more aware of the elements. You know when it’s going to rain based on the feeling in your knees and the scent of rain in the air. It’s a hard smell to describe, but every runner knows it well.
There’s nothing like the smell of fresh grass. For those suffering from allergies, it’s a torturous odour. For everyone else, it becomes a welcomed companion on a long, lonely stretch of the race. Whether wet or dry, the smell of fresh grass in the air will stay with you forever.
Port-a-Potties (During, After)
What’s that blue liquid at the bottom of the port-a-potty smell like? Well, on race day you’re sure to find out. Running for hours on end and drinking fluids throughout the race is bound to send you to the toilet. So follow your nose to find that distinctive blend of fragrance and foulness, especially when you are in the queue.
Anti-chafe Cream (During)
As you line up for the starting call, you’ll notice the smell of cocoa and shea butter in the air. It’s not from a massage parlour nearby; it’s the smell of anti-chafing creams of every variety imaginable.
There might be thousands of people participating in your next marathon. The one thing they should all have in common is deodorant and perfume, right? You have your own brand that your nose is most likely immune to, but you can certainly pick up on the different varieties of deodorant or perfume around you. Being locked elbow to elbow with your fellow runners will acquaint you with nearly everyone. You may even try to name each brand after it has been mixed with sweat!
Running for long distances means you’ll be exposed to the elements and the sun. While you’re lining up next to your fellow racers and while passing them along the way, you’ll catch whiffs of sunscreen in the air. Everyone has their own tried and true brand, so you’ll need a distinguishing sniffer to identify each one.
New Compression Socks (After)
After a marathon, runners try any number of methods to speed along their recovery. One of those methods is compression socks. There’s nothing like the smell of fresh compression socks just pulled from their package.
After running a marathon, you’re going to have to take it easy. It’s the hardest thing to do, but you’ll probably find your way to a swimming pool. It’s a great way to maintain a low-impact exercise routine and soak those aching joints. The smell of a chlorine pool is a sure sign that you’ve run a marathon and gotten close to your PR time.
Herbal Tea (After)
Recovering from a marathon could take weeks. Your body has been run into the ground, literally. You could easily catch a cold after the race, so get ready for the smell of herbal tea concoctions. Hopefully, you can still smell.
Bandages (Before, After)
If you run long distances, you’re going to get the occasional scrape, blister, or bruise. Before and after the race, you’ll spend days nursing those wounds, so get used to the smell of fresh and soiled bandages. Do bandages have a smell? Just ask a runner.
Muscle Gel (After)
After you’ve run the race, your body has to recover. So get ready to acquaint your nose with the familiar aroma of gels and creams to soothe your aching muscles. There are hints of aloe in there and alcohol-based chemicals that only scientists can truly identify.
New Racing Shoes (After)
A post-race ritual for some marathon runners entails buying new racing shoes. Chances are, you haven’t thrown away your old shoes, but you have to go buy new ones to kick-start the next training season. That smell of fresh laces and nylon is unforgettable.
The Winning Medal (After)
If you’re a competitive runner, then you’ve at least thought about standing on the podium at a marathon. You want that winning medal so bad that you can almost smell it. Well, that’s not so far from the truth. The winning medals do have a faint mineral smell that your nose can pick up on. That metallic smell of victory is unforgettable.
What’s that smell?
Did you smell that? Did it take you back to the feeling you had just before the marathon began? It’s amazing how the stray aroma of dog poop can bring you back to that long stretch of road three hours into the race. Or perhaps you’re in the mall shopping, and the smell of essential oils reminds you of that annoying guy who kept pace with you the whole way to the finish line. Isn’t it time for a surge?