My first sponsorship came from a nail polish company. Outside Magazine’s 2002 Atomic Youth Article (which put me alongside with alpine skier Bode Miller, climber Beth Rodden and speed skater Apolo Ohno) drew the attention of an OPI marketing executive who hunted me down via the interwebs and called my office desk to offer me a box of whatever I wanted. My focus on taking care of my toes before lining up for “incomprehensible miles” and the stark contrast to the runway models that he typically floated product to, made the offer sweet for both of us.
I still have and use some of those polishes he sent. My pre-race ritual of painting my toes focuses my mind, sets my intention, creates conversation before and after events, and most importantly debunks the “runners have to have horrible feet” myth.
Focus and Intention
Sitting down to paint my toes takes me out of the pre-race jitter mode and focuses my brain on a simple, confirming task. I put that nervous energy toward something that will add to my race day. You could also do this by cooking a meal that will fuel you well for your event, writing in your journal to expel your desires and concerns for what lay ahead, or reading an inspiring article, poem or book to motivate your thought process. The point is to relax, focus on one task, and put energy toward the goal you have set.
What I paint sets an intention. Sometimes I’ve painted the numbers that represent the distance I will run. I’ve painted a goal time. I love to detail my runner girl signature. And most recently, I painted the letters representing the endeavor (TRT FKT). Having this intention painted on a key-to-performance part of my body and seeing it when I lace up my Vasque shoes on race morning, causes me to smile, makes me focus and gives me pause to reflect on what lay ahead. It tells me I’m ready. That final coat of paint seals in all of my training. I’ve taken care of my body to be ready to tackle the goal I’ve set.
At least 1 week out from your long run/race trim your toenails as short as you are comfortable and file each nail to reduce a sharp/blunt edge. The less there is to catch on your sock or shoe the better. Also sand your feet to reduce calluses. Do not cut or completely remove calluses! Sanding them will reduce excess skin and the possibility of blisters under the calluses, but maintain the protective layer you’ve built up with your miles. (I use the Ped Egg).
The night or two before depending on your travel schedule around your event clean your feet and sit down in a quiet space to paint your toes. You can have someone paint them for you if you are not feeling artsy or have difficulty reaching. Choose colors that standout. Be sure to have a glitter topcoat (my personal preference). The actual painting process doesn’t need take more than 10-20 minutes, but you will need time to let them completely dry. Sitting quietly, breathing and thinking about your race is a great way to pass the dry time. You can also walk around in flip-flops if you need to prepare other race details.
Debunking the Myth
You do not have to (and shouldn’t!) have black toenails, or worse, fungus feet to call yourself a runner. In addition to this painting prerace ritual, take care of your feet on a regular basis. They do a lot for you in your training and deserve consistent attention. Clean daily: standing in the shower alone does not clean your feet. Give them a scrub! Every two to three weeks trim & file nails and reduce calluses. These are all details you can do at home, or enjoy as a special treatment at a nail salon. Painting is a bonus.
I believe I was on to something in 2002 and the OPI guy saw it as well. This ritual has allowed my feet to carry me many miles through varying terrain, weather conditions and countless pairs of socks and shoes. I proudly have all 10 toenails currently painted glitter orange (OPI nice finn-ish) for those taking note.