The Flapping Toenail; Another Side Effect of Marathoning

I have no shame in posting this image of my darkened toenails. Halloween is coming.I've tracked my running mileage since 1993 but have not kept a tally of toenails lost over the last 20 years.

It doesn't happen often happen all the time. I'd estimate about 10 of them through the years.  But they happen. Sometimes randomly.

A week ago after a shower I noticed something tugging on my 2nd toe. I looked down and saw that it was my blackened toenail, flapping around like a sail. It doesn't hurt, but it isn't ready to fall off yet on its own.

So I leave it be. I have to be really careful putting my socks on. But one morning or night soon, I will have a not-so-beautiful new toenail on my left foot.

It is usually the 2nd toe on both feet that takes the brunt of the impact. But somehow at this particular moment I have not one, not two, but three darkened toenails. I'm past the point of being vane about my toes.

A flapping toenail has never stopped me from running. That's the most important thing, to me at least. Long distance running and toe modeling don't mix.

One Less Toenail Four Days Before Tucson Marathon

I think it started last December after running the Santa Barbara Marathon, which would make the process almost exactly one year. But the days and weeks are blurry and I don't track the specific time I discovered the toenail on the toe next to my big toe was black.

Black toenail for illustration purposes only. The real black toenail has been changed to protect the innocent.

On Sunday I felt something odd when I put my sock on, like there was a leaf in my sock. But I was in a rush and didn't think much of it. When you have young kids, namely two perpetual motion machine boys, you quickly forget about things.

That night after I showered I noticed what caused that odd feeling. The toenail on the toe next to my big toe (it sure would be nice if they actually had names for the toes like we have for our fingers) was loose. It was more than loose. I could actually open it up like a door, with the hinge attached at the bottom.

I didn't rush the process. It seemed fine. I just carefully placed my socks over the toes and went on with my day. It wasn't until Tuesday night that finality to the situation occurred. The entire nail fell off and underneath was a brand new nail. It doesn't look as "pretty" as the other nails yet, nor do I ever expect it to, but I do have a nail.

Although I have been running now for 17 1/2 years, it is still a pretty rare event to lose a toenail. I take pretty good care of my feet, namely, I keep my toenails trimmed, buy shoes that fit and have some room in the toebox so they don't get smooshed and on most runs 18 miles or longer I sacrifice my socks by slathering Vaseline on the toes to prevent blistering.

Given the rarity of the moment, I pondered for 10 minutes whether I should keep that toenail and show it to the kids. Yes, for 10 minutes, as I brushed, flossed and gargled, that toenail sat on the countertop (which has since been washed) as I considered the benefits of keeping it.

Some ultramarathoners have been known to keep their fallen toenails. I've seen a Ceremonial Toenail Necklace online. Quite nasty looking.

Also on my mind was the fact that one of the very few mistakes I made at the Malibu Marathon on November 14th was that I had NOT cut my toenails enough and as a result, now my RIGHT FOOT has not one, but TWO toenails that look like they are on their way out. The other mistake I made was that I bought a pair of shoes that were just ever so slightly not big enough in the toebox to accommodate the pounding in a marathon. Dammit!

My kids told me to paint all my toenails black. I don't think so.

Ultimately after these deep thoughts, the toenail made it to the trash can that night. I figured I'd spare my family from the excitement, though my 7 year old got a kick out of seeing the new nail.

Maybe I'm talking about toenails because it is only 4 days before another marathon and I'm in taper mode again (not that I had much mileage to taper from). Too much time on my hands? Nah.