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ON THE RAG

ON THE RAG

Samantha Kim / Mar 24, 2020

Periods. As much as we can anticipate their arrival, they still have the ability to sneak up on us at odd times. As athletes, adventurers, travelers, we all have to plan for it, deal with it, make do. But every month, periods make the things we do that week 10 times more badass (woman up!). Samantha Kim shares her (pre-pandemic) story below.

Yesterday fellow Volée member Justine Bello and I set off for a trail run in Rock Creek Park. Justine is headed to Arizona for her first ultra this weekend and I am working with a new coach in preparation for a bunch of spring races including the D.C. Rock ‘n’ Roll Half.

I've been wanting to run more trails. Justine loves trails, and we have been talking about running together ever since we really connected at Birdcamp in August (and noticed we are "pace" buddies - though she's also an inspiration to me because she eats trails, whereas they are my achilles).

I knew my period was looming, but not for a few days. I had tampons in my backpack, but didn't carry one with me on the run since I normally wake up with it in the morning. Seeing as I hadn't yet received my "gift," I figured I was in the clear for the run.

About a mile and a half into the run, I experienced immense cramps and stomach discomfort, along with the HEAVY hot flash-esque sweats that I experience as my period comes on. I stopped.

"Justine, I am so sorry to do this but something strange is going on and I think I'm getting my period earlier than I should."

I was so embarrassed. My first time running with Justine and not only did I already have imposter syndrome ("I can't run with her! I'm not a trail runner!") but now I have this hold up - "she probably thinks it's like running with a child. " All the thoughts were going through my head.

"That's okay! There's a visitor center right back there, let's head back. Do you feel okay though?"

I felt fine. I knew I could run through the cramps if they started. A good run always helps me battle through the pain. But I needed a tampon.

The visitor center was closed, rats! But the nearby horse stables had restrooms. We ran to the stables. A punky looking older woman probably in her late 60s, with super cool pink short hair greeted me, pointed to the bathroom.

"Excuse me, I'm so sorry to even ask, " I began, already apologizing for... being a woman?

"But I just got my period mid-run and I don't have anything on me. Might anyone here have a feminine product of any kind?"

"Well honey, I stopped using those a long time ago but... let me see what I can find."

I thanked her profusely, and ran to the restroom. She came back in, saying,

"Sweetie, this is all I have. Use what you need and discard what you don't. It's clean, just came out of the dryers. Believe me, been there done that, we're women, right?"

She handed me a slightly tattered washcloth.

A rag.

My rag waved like a freedom flag out of the pocket of my Pocket Joggers.

The irony wasn't lost on me. Here I was, in a horse stable, the day after International Day of the Woman, using a literal rag on my period. And you bet I did. The alternative? Run without anything a la Kiran Gandhi, or don't run at all. Obviously I wasn't going to allow my body doing what it does to stop me from doing what I do.

I ripped off a small piece to use as reinforcement, and I put the larger piece in the pocket of my Pocket Joggers, just in case. When I came out of the restroom, Justine looked at me, then looked at the rag in my pocket.

And she knew without having to even ask. We laughed.

"Justine I'm so sorry. I'm ready now!" I felt so bad for holding her up.

"Hey, from here-on out, this is an apology free zone. But... ok truth test. If I wasn't here, would you still run or would you bail?"

A truth test. Woman to woman.

"I'd run, but i'd do a check-in with myself at four miles to see how I felt."

"So that's what we'll do!," she said.

And we set out. On the hard climbs we were silent. On the flat miles we talked -- we talked about losing periods during training loads, getting them early, what running does to our bodies, etc. I wasn't alone.

We ran five glorious, elevated miles in our Salomon trail shoes (mine from Birdcamp).

My rag waved like a freedom flag out of the pocket of my Pocket Joggers.

Head up. Wings (and rags) Out.

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