Do Your "Runners Legs" Tend to Swell on Planes?

Jannine Myers

Here’s a post for the traveling runner. A couple of years ago I noticed that my ankles and calves started to swell during long flights, so much so that the swelling would sometimes warrant a visit to the clinic and/or massage therapist a day or two after landing. Feeling a little nervous about these recent bouts of travel-induced swelling, I decided to search the internet for tips on how to prevent this from happening on future flights. The following brief article offered some great information and advice:

Runners could be more prone to leg blood clots on planes

Posted Nov 21 2008 10:04am
Crowded plane
The latest thinking goes like this:

“Runners’ bodies adapt to running by making their leg vascular system more efficient: larger veins and arteries. So if you sit for a long time and are scrunched in an airplane seat, the blood can pool in your larger leg veins, and clot. That—coupled with the edge of the seat’s pushing on the back of your knee, preventing or slowing venous return—could be all you need to set up a clot.”

This according to Dr. Lewis G. Maharam one of the world’s premier running physician. He is also medical director of the New York Road Runners, ING New York City Marathon.

So what can you do to prevent blood clots on long airplane flight?
Dr. Maharam has some advice:
On flights of three hours or more:

  • Do not sit in one position for more than an hour. Get up and walk every so often.
  • Do calf stretches once an hour, standing and leaning against a bathroom wall.
  • Stay well hydrated. As I always say, check your urine color: you want lemonade color; not clear, and not brown like iced tea.
  • Avoid crossing your legs at the knees and ankles.
  • Wear graduated-compression stockings (the so-called TED stocking you can buy at your local pharmacy).
  • If your doctor permits, take one baby aspirin  four to six hours before your flight. It mildly prevents clotting as it does for heart patients.

FYI: I ordered a pair of these stockings from Amazon, and within just a few hours of traveling from Naha to Narita, my legs had ballooned! I had to rush to the bathroom at Narita airport and pull them off. I then spent the next half hour or so walking around the terminal to get my blood re-circulating, and then a further half hour massaging my calves and lying on the floor with my feet up on a chair. Anna suggested that the stockings may have been a size too small, but I had purchased a size larger than usual, to err on the side of caution. Maybe they were still the wrong size, but I won’t be trying these again.

Boston Marathon 2013

Post by Jannine Myers

Still reeling from the aftermath of yet another cowardly terrorist attack, I sit here thinking about those who were at the Boston marathon last Monday, and I grieve for them. As runners, this tragedy has hit us hard, but that’s not to say that we grieve less for the victims of other mindless attacks. It was not so long ago, for instance, that we ran in silence and mutually grieved for the children who were massacred in Connecticut. They were just babies, whose violent deaths shook us to our cores and caused us to feel the pain of their loss as if they were our own.

No, it matters not who the victims are, we will always grieve. But last week’s attack came at us from an angle that particularly hurt. Many of the victims were runners, and metaphorically speaking, they were all members of one large global running family – a family that runners everywhere, us included, are a part of. When the explosions were detonated, sending deadly pieces of shrapnel and ball bearings into the path of approaching runners (as well as supporters standing near each of the bomb sites), the grim, emotional impact was also felt by all of us at home.

As we try to make sense of it all, no answers come. We continue to mourn for those who were killed, and for those who are still fighting for their lives, and for those who lost limbs. And we recognize that among those who lost lower limbs, are some who are runners. We realize that the loss of life, and the possibility of death are the worst possible realities, but for a runner, losing a leg may seem worse than death. Many runners would rather die than live a life without being able to run.

But we also know that runners are fighters; they’re resilient and courageous, and they don’t stay down for long. We know that our fellow brothers and sisters who were affected in some way by this tragedy, will one day rise up from this terrible ordeal and most likely stand again at the start of the Boston marathon, ready to run it again, but next time with an attitude that promises to smack of defiance and a triumphant return.

They won’t be alone either; I’m willing to bet that next year’s Boston marathon will be overflowing with both runners and supporters. You might think this is an odd comparison, but runners are a little like cockroaches. Watch what happens when you try to stomp them out – they seem to multiply and come back at you with a vengeance. Well guess what, that’s what you see happening in the running community all over the world right now.

We took it personally, and now we want revenge. Not the kind of revenge that reeks of sub-human abominable behavior, but the kind of revenge that makes a statement and tells those who assault us that we won’t scamper away and crawl into little holes, never to be seen again. On the contrary, we’re coming out in force and showing them instead, that we’ll run even more, and we’ll run in greater numbers, and we’ll run against opposition, not from it.

If you wish to make a financial contribution to help the families of those most affected by this tragedy, the City of Boston has set up a fund – just go to

100 Miles – Do or Die!

Jannine Myers

Who on earth runs 100 miles, all at once, and voluntarily? WOOT member Paula Carrigan, is who!

Paula has never actually run with WOOT, but her love of trail running, as well as a family background with ties to Okinawa, compelled her to become a WOOT sister in “spirit.” I don’t recall exactly how Paula found us, but I do remember feeling an instant sense of connection with her once she explained who she was and why she wanted to “virtually” follow our group.

Paula at the Hashawha 50k, just a couple of weeks before the Graveyard 100

As the months have gone by since our first internet meeting, I’ve learned a lot about Paula, and yet I also suspect that I’ve barely scraped the surface of who she really is and what she’s capable of. What I do know though, is that she is a talented ultrarunner, and gifted in so many other areas that she’s basically one of those all-rounders who intrigue people and cause them to say, “Is there anything you can’t do?” And after reading her account of the Graveyard 100 (a brutal 100 mile ultramarathon along the outer banks of North Carolina), I’d venture to say there really is very little that Paula can’t do.

Paula – at the HAT 50k in Maryland, a couple of years ago

Graveyard 100 – March 9th 2013

Part of the Graveyard 100 course 

Definition of “do or die” – exert supreme effort because failure is close at hand.

Ultrarunners are a unique group of runners; they differ from the “rest of us.” For starters, they are a relatively small community, at least when compared to marathoners. Their motivation to run exceptionally long distances, often over rugged and difficult terrain, is probably less inspired by the potential to earn awards, money, and accolades, and more likely due to a deep-rooted need to be one with nature, followed by a desire to test the limits of their strength and endurance.

Utrarunners are also, some might say, fearless. They expose themselves to conditions which sometimes threaten grave injury, or severe illness, and in some cases, even death. There are no, or very few limitations that ultrarunners will set for themselves when it comes to running, and that’s how it was for Paula when she ran the Graveyard 100 several weeks ago.

“I always start these events with very lofty goals,
 like I’m going to do something special. And after a point 
of body deterioration, the goals get evaluated down to 
basically where I am now – where the best I can hope for is
 to avoid throwing up on my shoes.”

– Ultrarunner Ephraim Romesberg, 65 miles into the Badwater Ultramarathon

Staged along the outer banks of North Carolina, the Graveyard 100 is a point-to-point race from north to south, and is deliberately set in March when the weather is at its worst and runners can expect to face strong headwinds for the entire 100 miles. This year’s race had all the weather elements of what the race organizers were hoping for, and more. Compared to a severe migraine and nausea however, this was the least of Paula’s concerns, and as she nudged up to the starting line on race morning, her only thoughts were to try and make it to the first aid station without losing her previous night’s meal.

Alas, no such luck! At miles nine and eighteen, Paula gave in to the growing nausea and threw up on the side of the road. Still feeling terribly ill, and no longer confident in her ability to run the full 100 miles, Paula decided she should pull out of the race once she reached Aid Station 1 (AS1). That is, at least, until her good friend (and captain of AS1), persuaded her to “hang in there” and try to make it to AS2.

Moving on, Paula began running along Highway 158, a long stretch of flooded and obstacle-ridden road which forced her to carefully watch her footsteps and also stop four times to rinse and remove sand from her shoes. Seeing other runners stop to meet their “crew cars” on the side of the road and change into warm, dry clothes, was difficult to bear, but since Paula had registered to run the Graveyard 100 without a crew team to support her, she had no choice but to continue running in wet clothes and focus instead on reaching the second aid station, where her first drop bag was waiting for her.

Along the roadway, Paula weaved her way around kids toys and other carnage, as well as old boards with nails sticking up out of them.

Besides the challenges Paula had encountered up until this point, she was also becoming more and more aware of pain developing in her right IT band. During the weeks leading up to the race, Paula was hit with a bout of pneumonia and had to halt her training for a period of time. In an effort to make up for lost miles, Paula ran the Hashawha Hills 50k trail race just two weeks before the Graveyard 100, and aggravated her right IT band in the process.

At AS2, Paula’s headache and nausea had tempered and despite the increasing discomfort of her IT band, she felt more confident about staying in the race. She changed into some dry shoes and socks, removed a layer of clothing, and grabbed a veggie burger and boiled bag of potatoes before making her way towards main Highway 12. By this stage of the race, the runners were so vastly spread out that they were now mostly running alone. Paula’s only companion between miles 40 and 54 was a four foot black and slimy snake.

The third aid station was a welcome reprieve, like seeing an oasis in a desert. Awaiting the runners was warm food, heated sitting spots, and in Paula’s case, an 18-gauge beveled syringe. Blisters had formed on three of her toes, and she was desperate to treat them. The corpsman on duty seemed hesitant to do the job, so Paula did it for him. Having served in the Navy as a corpsman some years ago, she knew exactly what to do.The release of fluids as she thrust the needle into each blister provided instant relief, and by the time Paula left AS3, at mile 54, she was feeling much better.

The next twenty five miles to aid station four (and mile 79), took Paula through the darkness of night, closed roads due to flooding, a climb up some sand dunes to avoid freezing cold water, a narrow escape from a sudden rush of strong surf, and a lucky encounter with some kind folks who informed her that the other runners had been diverted to the safety of the main highway. It was in a shivering, and slightly anxious but joyful state, that Paula reached the final aid station.

The remaining twenty one miles took runners into the small township of Corolla, and it was here that another female runner caught up with Paula and asked if they could tackle the darkness together (it was well into the night by this time). It was also not long past this point that Paula had her first hallucination; a building with smoke coming out of the top of it. If not for Paula’s new running partner, she would never have known she was hallucinating.

The second hallucination occurred during the final two miles, as Paula tried desperately to stay focused on reaching the finish line. Paula was just minutes away from earning the prestigious silver belt buckle (awarded to runners who finish the race in 24 hours or less), when she began to see dark colored blocks popping up from the ground on the left side of the road. She was coherent enough to know however, that the blocks were a figment of her imagination, and she managed to steer her thoughts back to the goal at hand.

With fifteen minutes to spare, and after a long and hard “do or die” fight, Paula finished the race in a time of 23:44:14. Yes, she received a well-deserved silver belt buckle, but the real prize I’m sure, was in the challenge itself, and the greater sense of self-discovery made as each and every obstacle forced her to tap into a deeper part of herself.

Graveyard 100 Silver Belt Buckle

Well done Paula! Few women could run 100 miles in less than twenty four hours, and even fewer would ever try.

[If you would like to read a full account of Paula’s race experience, including her tips on how best to prepare for a 100-miler, please email me for a copy –]