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Menstruating During a Marathon, a Subject Rarely Talked About

About 3,000 NYC Marathon runners get caught in this cycle.

By Katie Herchenroeder    |     Nov. 3, 2019
(L to R): Analin Nunez, Maylee Acevedo, Stephanie Ramoz, and Elizabeth Sazo of Latinas Run. (Kathryn Herchenroeder/NYCity News Service)

An estimated 3,000 runners at the New York City Marathon this Sunday were possibly bleeding during the race according to 261 Fearless, a global women’s running organization. Women, nonbinary folks, and trans men who have their periods face a harsh reality when they menstruate during major events, such as the New York City Marathon. People who menstruate have found ways to work around the sometimes inevitable situation, even if they would rather be at home with a heating pad. 

Stephanie Ramoz knows firsthand what this curveball can look like. At her first marathon – she’s now on her eighth – the public defender was met with an unwelcome surprise. “You could do all the training in the world, you could be a top athlete, but you can’t choose that f—— day,” she said. Ramoz once broke her foot during a marathon and ran several more miles on the injury. She said running on her period was worse.

Estimated No. of Menstruating Runners this Year

Running clubs, primarily women-centered ones, have found comfort in tackling these running conundrums together. One woman, Solis Belizaire, created Latinas Run in part to address women-specific concerns come marathon day. What started as an offshoot of her larger organization Latinos Run, the group has become a thriving safe space for every question under the sun. Female runners from around the world come together in Latinas Run’s private Facebook group to discuss everything from period products to camaraderie.

In addition to questions surrounding pain during a marathon, runners also discussed the technicalities of running 26 miles while bleeding. They feel more comfortable, Belizaire said, voicing concerns about their menstrual cycle in this closed, nonjudgmental forum. “You can’t really talk about [periods] on the mixed page because men don’t wanna talk about that,” she said.

NYC Marathon “It Will Challenge You” ad along the route. (Kathryn Herchenroeder/NYCity News Service)

To prepare for marathon day, these runners test various products to see what works for their individual needs. Participants have utilized everything from tampons to pads and menstrual cups. In fact, 261 Fearless and Hello Cup, a menstruation product provider, teamed up to produce a marathon menstrual cup that debuted at the New York City Marathon Expo last year. At this year’s marathon, there were medical tents throughout the route, offering runners a wide selection of sanitary items such as tampons, pads and other personal hygiene products. Runners have to find creative ways to carry sanitary products with them as they are not allowed to run with backpacks.

Running her second marathon ever and first New York City marathon this year, Analin Nunez said, “I’ve been on the road and seen a tampon fall on the floor, and I’ll be like ‘I hope that wasn’t the only one she was carrying on her.’”

When Nunez realized that her cycle aligned with the early November race, she started trying out different period products while running, preparing for the worst and hoping for the best. Eventually, she decided on a specific size of pad that works for her, and she has an approved runner’s accessory to hold them. On race day she was nearing the end of her cycle and was prepared with her products.