Girl Runner #1: It was a few hours to our first marathon. We were all supposed to be still asleep, but the anxiety and nervousness just kept almost all of us up as our FB group seemed busy too. Out of the blue, a female batchmate posts in our group for the first time. She was in complete panic as she told us she had just gotten her monthly period. With no idea what to do, she asked for help. No matter what, her monthly period wasn’t going to stop her from running her first marathon.
Girl Runner #2: She was going to run her very first ultramarathon and had her period at that time. She was ready for it. Everything was going fine until her menstrual flow came in heavy and had stained her halfway through the distance. With a heavy heart, she decided for a DNF (Did Not Finish) at Km 25 and accepted the fact that her first ultramarathon would have to wait for another day.
Schedule here. Schedule there.
We can always choose the dates of the race events that we wish to join. There’s one thing however, that we women can’t schedule and these are the days we have our monthly period.
In times that our red days coincides with our race days, we are left with the choice of missing out on the event or going ahead as planned despite the setback.
I’ve come across several articles before that dwelled on this topic, but I wanted to come up with a more detailed one… one that would give my own personal insights on the products used.
Let’s start off with the basic and most commonly used one whether we be running or not, the regular sanitary pad. It’s a simple rectangular pad that has an adhesive side under it for sticking.
How to use it: Just peel off the backing tape, place in the middle of the underwear and you’re done.
Pros: This is the easiest to change when needed. Peel off used napkin and dispose properly. Replace with a fresh pad. Then, you’re good to go.
Cons: It tends to bunch up in the middle after a long run plus chances of it being untaped from it’s position is high with the constant movement. When it bunches up, side leaks become a big probability.
Recommended: Only for really short runs and when flow isn’t that heavy. It could be used for long runs that is if you’re willing to stop every few kilometers for a quick change.
Sanitary Pad with Wings
It’s the ordinary pad plus “wings” on the sides to protect from side leaks.
How to use it: Same steps as the regular pad only additional folding of the wings to the other side of the underwear.
Pros: With the added wings, it helps secure the napkin better in place. Easy and quick to change as well.
Cons: Bunching in the middle may still occur as well as chaffing if you forget to to put petroleum jelly near the area where it tends to rub on while running.
Recommended: Not so long runs.
* Tried and tested: I once tried using it for an LSD and didn’t put petroleum jelly. I ended up with chaffing.
These are the longer versions meant to be used during bedtime. Some come with a broader back which is intended to help in minimizing overnight leaks when sleeping in an upright position.
How to use it: Peel off adhesive backing and place in position on underwear.
Pros: Better protection from leaks. Easy and fast to change.
Cons: Bunching up.
Recommended: Long runs
* Tried and tested: I’ve tried using one during an ultramarathon. Even if the middle got bunched up in the long run, the back part as well as the wings helped in keeping the napkin in position. Only thing was, with all the running it kept sliding back to my butt area that I had to keep pulling it to the front whenever no one was around… thank God for dark routes of ultras! :D. It was also a time that I forgot to dab on some petroleum jelly after a change that led to horrific chaffing down there.
Yes, I’m talking about baby diapers. You know? The actual ones babies and toddlers use.
How to use it: Wear it like an underwear by attaching tapes on both sides of the waist.
Pros: The feeling of not worrying about leaks.
Cons: If you have babies, you’d know how diapers look like when they get soaked. It will get soaked not with urine, but sweat. The gel will puff up (giving you added butt… yeys! Haha) and it’ll get pretty heavy. It can be hot as well especially with the plastic outer layer. “Kulob” as a fellow female runner told me once after I found out that she had tried it, too. Glad to know I’m not the only crazy one to have tried it. 😀
Recommended: Long runs, but not ultras as I predict it’ll get really heavy unless you don’t mind it.
Tried and Tested: I’ve been able to use one during a marathon. It certainly stayed in place better, but after hours of running, the diaper as expected was soaked with sweat. Just like babies when their diapers don’t get changed at once, I ended up with a bad diaper rash after the run.
Believe it or not, but someone actually thought of making a menstrual pants. It’s just like an adult diaper only this one doesn’t have tapes. You know those toddler pull-up diapers that come with cotton breathable covers… that one! They look just like it, minus the kiddie designs. 😀
How to use it: Pull up and wear like an underwear.
Pros: Less worry of getting stains.
Cons: Since it is worn like an underwear, removing by tearing at the sides may be easy, but putting on a new one may be time consuming. You’ll need to remove whatever you’re wearing as a bottom before putting a fresh one back on. More trouble if you’re wearing compression tights as you’d need to take off your shoes, too.
Recommended: Long runs, but probably not ultras.
Tried and Tested: I was able to use it for a long run once. No worries of stains or so I thought. As the menstrual pants got soaked with sweat, it managed to seep right through to the the cottony cover.
For girls who don’t like the idea of having their privates sitting on a pad filled with their menstrual flow, tampons is the option. Imagine a napkin only to be used on the inside. Yes, pretty invasive.
How to use it: With the use of an applicator that resembles a syringe, a pad is pushed in, the applicator slowly pulled out and a string is left out dangling for pulling of the tampon after several hours of absorption from within. It is said that it can be left inside for no longer than 8 hours.
Pros: With nothing outside except a string, moving about is easier. It actually feels like you’re not wearing anything.
Cons: There’s a risk of TSS (Toxic Shock Syndrome) which is a rare, but serious disease that can cause death.
Recommended: Short to long runs.
Now, this is the newest way of dealing with the period. Instead of a tampon that you’d replace with a new one after several hours, you use a reusable rubber silicon cup which you wash after each use.
How to use it: Using a fold of your choice, fold the cup making it easy for insertion and put it into place.
Pros: Once you get the hang of using it, it definitely feels like you don’t have your period at all and can move around normally.
Cons: Unless you’re an expert already, using a menstrual cup can take quite some time in inserting and removing. You’ll also need a place to change where you can dump the contents out, have access to clean water to wash the cup as well as your hands as it can get pretty messy.
Recommended: Long runs. They say it can stay there for as long as 12 hours, but I’d have to say it’ll depend on how heavy your flow is.
* Tried and tested: My longest run with a menstrual cup was a full marathon (42.195km). It actually didn’t feel it was there, but got me pretty worried after when it sort of went deeper than it should with all that running. I think the longest I can run with this is a marathon. With ultras, I’ll have to be sure there’s clean comfort rooms where I can empty the cup at and wash my hands at which is rare in ultramarathon routes.
Several Factors You Have to Take Into Consideration
Before deciding on what to use, think about how long your run is going to be. How many hours do you think it will take you to finish it? If you do choose to wear pads or tampons, how many do you think will you be using and will need to bring along with you? How light or how heavy is your flow? Are there places where you can change along the way? Are you time conscious about the time consumed when the need to change arises? Are you the type that thinks every second counts especially during a race or don’t mind at all?
If using pads, dab on some petroleum jelly down there. If using diapers or menstrual pants, put some petroleum jelly on your butt area as well to prevent rashes. Don’t forget to reapply petroleum jelly with each change as well. Do wear dark bottoms that will help camouflage your stain in case of leaks and wear one that keeps pads snuggly in place.
When you have your monthly period and still want to run, it’s not the end of the world.
With so many options to choose from, what’s stopping you?
Just go ahead and run, girl! 🙂
* Photo Credits: regular pad (dirindiamart.com)/ with wings (chinadiapersupplier.com)/ overnight pads (rantchic.com)/ diaper (medtronic.com)/ tampon (theodysseyonline.com)/ mestrual cups (vitals.lifehacker.com)