Warning: If you’re of a sensitive disposition, approach this post with caution. But if you like a bit of grossness, read on!
At last, after eight years and five marathons, I feel I’ve finally become a real runner. All those doubts I had from not wearing running tights or an MP3 player – forget them. I’m the real deal, baby!
And what did it take to convince me of this?
I’ve lost my first toenail.
Well, it’s not true to say that I’ve ‘lost’ the toenail, in the strictest sense of the word – I can find it whenever I want, because it’s sitting on the counter beside my bathroom sink. But the nail is no longer attached to its toe of origin, you see.
Now, I hasten to add that this wasn’t at all the painful gorefest you might imagine, and I only noticed it after the event. Here’s what happened.
I was pattering around the apartment in my bare feet a few nights ago, showered and fed after a good four-mile run, when I felt a slight breeze at the top of my right foot, as through the leaves of a tree on a summer day.
Looking down at the limb in question, I noticed that the nail of the second (and longest) toe was sticking out a little further that usual. On closer inspection, I found the toenail to be flapping away from one side and barely clinging to its position. One gentle poke later, and the nail was off.
If you had told me in advance that I’d be taking off one of my toenails, I’d have winced at the thought of it. Cutting your nails too short is a little painful, right? Surely the skin underneath would be raw with nerve endings and pain receptors. And hadn’t we seen the torture scene in ‘The Wind That Shakes The Barley’?
But no, the toe left behind was not giving pain. Of course, it’s possible to explain this away by my general marathon-running rock-hardness. But it seems that the nail was probably dead for a while, and this was merely the moment of its passage.
That toe had been bruised for a few months because of incessant heel-striking when I was training last year. My Chi Running class in January sorted that out, and soon the bruising had cleared. But after the Paris Marathon a couple of weeks ago, the same toe was badly beaten up again. Despite it healing up soon after, perhaps the nail had been irretrievably weakened and, as it were, cleared for lift-off.
So what happens now? Well, I presume a new one will take its place. I had assumed that the nail would gradually grow again from the root. However, at the moment it seems as if the replacement is slowly appearing whole, like a ghost manifesting itself – the vacant area now has a thin nail-like layer covering it. You’ll appreciate that I’m reluctant to poke too much, but that’s how down there is looking from up here.
In true marathon-runner mental-attitude style, can we learn anything from this? I’m sure we can – lots of stuff about the frailty of the body, the regenerative powers of nature, and what have you. But at the moment I’m too busy enjoying the toenail-losing experience. And consider this: with the previous office-holder still on my bathroom counter, very soon I’ll have 11 toenails! One more than ordinary people! Yeah!
Have you any runner’s toenail stories to share? Still packing the full set, or are you down one or two?