Let’s talk about chafe, baby?

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Ah, runner’s chafe… That thing we don’t talk about.

I mean, why would we want to advertise to our non-running friends (who already think we are quite mad) that, in addition to the blisters and black toenails (which you may, or may not, disguise with monochromatic polish), we also regularly shed blood for our sport? Running isn’t exactly known to be a “contact sport”. My chafe says otherwise.

This weekend I took part in the Buffs Marathon, a net downhill, point-to-point race running between the outskirts of Macleantown and the Buffalo Sports Club in East London. Rumour has it, it’s the fastest marathon in the country.

I’d been looking forward to Buffs, mostly because I’d be travelling down to visit one of my best friends – the very lovely Stephanie Smith – but also because Team Massmart and Entsika Athletics Club would be taking down a few athletes in anticipation of some fast running and a few Comrades qualifiers. That changed, however, as soon as I saw the weekend weather forecast – it was going to be wet. Very wet.

Paul Gerard, David Ashworth and Malixole Kalideni. Photograph by Dean Venish.

So what now? How do you adapt to race in a torrential downpour? I tested my shoes – which were the best suited to grip the tar in wet weather? Which of the Kinvara or Type As were least likely to absorb water? I tested my running kit, opting for short tights and a crop top instead of a loose vest and polly shorts which could sag and suffocate me in heavy rain. I packed a cap – to shield my face from the rain. I thought I had things covered.

The one thing I hadn’t bargained on was what the rain was going to mean for me in terms of chafe. And oh my goodness did I pay the price.

I am currently sporting a 5cm x 30cm red, raw welt across the front of my chest where the band of my crop top rubbed me raw for 42.2km – no bras for me this week – and I have a t-bar outline tattooed in blood across my back. Even the cups of my modestly padded sports bra chaffed, leaving deep red smiley faces in places that were far from happy by the end of the race. At one stage I actually thought there might be an army of ants tramping across my chest, each one taking turns to nip my sensitive skin. And when I finally managed to hit the shower after 2 hours of drug testing and another hour of prize-giving…. YOOOWWHEEEE!

Something tells me I’m not going to want to wear that crop top for a while… so what exactly am I going wear?

Last week I was invited to a meeting with Lezille Bouwer, the newly appointed importer and distributor of Runderwear in South Africa. Runderwear (cool name right?!) was designed in the UK by runners who chafe, for runners who chafe, and they seem to be onto a pretty cool thing (see what I did there?) with their range of seamless, moisture wicking performance underwear. I’ve been test driving their range for a few days now and I have to say – the ladies anti-VPL (no visible panty line) hipster are a clear winner. My underwear was the one thing that did not chafe this past weekend. Man, I wish I’d worn the crop top!

I’ll be trying out the rest of the range this week and am confident that these are going to be my jocks of choice going forward. I’m especially excited about the ladies hot pants which could be worn in lieu of short running tights and have to look better than the bikini bottoms I’ve seen a few runners wearing at races lately, yikes.

Apart from switching up your underwear (to Runderwear, which will soon be available online – see www.runderwear.co.za), a top tip given to me by Hlompho Mjange, a new member of Team Massmart, is to use baby bum cream – I’ve now got Bepanthan stashed in my race bag, although Hlompho specifically recommended Bennetts baby bum cream (which comes in a neat little pot) and its use has been endorsed by Katy Van Meter (Team Massmart Elite) – definitely worth a try! Vaseline seems to be “so last season”.


Anything else? Well… I’ve also been known to strap any part of my body likely to chafe with KT-Tape. That’s quite an expensive option but it definitely works (although I’d steer clear of taping up areas close to the groin or under your arms… unless you’re also looking to save on your bi-weekly bikini wax).

One things for sure… next time I’m running further than 15km, I’m definitely going to think twice about what parts of me will need a little more than suncream to survive the trip. And next time the weather forecast says “heavy rain in East London”, I’m going to stay home and run the Kosmos 3-in-1 instead.



6 thoughts on “Let’s talk about chafe, baby?”

  1. Rachel says:

    Great topic, especially for us ladies. Will try strapping my shoulders, Sports bra seams are causing a lot of chafing

  2. Dave Ingram says:

    Biogen Shammy , works for cyclists works for me!

  3. TANYA TIMMS says:

    The unknown runner is Malixole Kalideni. He is a top runner for Old Selbornian Road Runners. I know, cause I am the sweeper for the Old Selbornian Road Runners. 🙂

    Welcome to my world of CHAFING!! its rough!! On sunday I used a generous smothering of Bennetts and Squirt. Squirt is quite gross texture wise, i dont know if it was the combination or the generous smothering, but my “tata’s” got of quite lightly this time around. nothing that would make me scream in the shower but a little red and smily in places. I also considered that tape stuff but i wasnt sure it would stick for the duration. thanks for your article. come back to run in el any time 🙂

  4. Sharon Eldridge says:

    I also have a few red spots caused by race pins and seams. Will get a pot of Bennets bum cream for sure. Oh, the unidentified runner is Malixole Kalideni, Old Selbornian Road Runners top runner.

  5. Rentse Tembo says:

    My goodness! Story of my life!! (Medical) gauze also works wonders!

  6. Tania says:

    Well done on Anne on your Buffs winning!!! Lovely topic indeed. We thought only us Plus size runners chafe. I’m still recovering from all the eina from this weekends Buffs Marathon

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