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The Smells of Running


DrWhiskers

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Or rather, the smells while running. Not of running.

During my long run on Saturday—14 miles with the last 4 at MPish—my mind wandered to a gazillion different topics. One of those was thinking about the weird  and awful odors that I’ve come across while running. This thread was sparked, almost literally, from running next to someone smoking a cigarette while waiting at a bus station. Am I the only runner who holds my breath when running next to a smoker? Save me from the cloud of lung cancer! And also, it sometimes triggers a coughing attack for me. But what else is terrible to inhale while pushing the pace? Obviously, running makes me smell not so fresh but I don’t usually notice it unless I’m on a treadmill or when I’m back home stretching. And I usually run alone so no stinky running buddies. I’m talking about things you run past that make you gag a little.

 In mostly no particular order, this is my top 10 of foulness:

  1. Cigarette/cigar smoke

  2. Garbage trucks—I have an uncanny knack for choosing the same Saturday morning route as one of the local trucks. No matter which street I turn on, there’s the truck again with it’s irradiating stench strangling me.

  3. Ever run by the truck that empties out porto-potties? When it’s in the process of doing the emptying? Not good.

  4. Fast food restaurants first thing in the morning (think frying grease smells). This can be ok after my run though

  5. Living in San Diego, I run by many different breweries. When the bigger ones are brewing, you can smell the batch from about half mile away. Depending on the variety, this could be a delicious or obnoxious odor. DH would disagree with me here but Green Flash’s hoppy brews are not so pleasant.

  6. Fresh mulch—this may be related to allergies but it’s overpowering and makes my flight/fight response kick in

  7. Certain plants—specifically jasmine, which causes a chain reaction of instant sneezing. I’m sure the smell is just fine but when it’s always linked to an adverse reaction, my brain says “bad plant!”

  8. Landfills. Depending on which way the wind is blowing, you could be fine or in for some hurt.

  9. Smoke/ash in the air. Luckily, even though the high is 102 today with like 2% humidity, my part of CA has only had small fires this year. But running when there are bigger ones? Awful and dangerous.

  10. Dead animals. Usually cats or opossums on the road. Sometimes dead birds. I feel like other animals take care of the remains pretty efficiently ‘round these parts so the offending smell is only present for one or two runs. Except skunk. Which lasts seemingly forever.

While on a few different trips this summer, I also encountered sewer drains in a big city which were gross and also some stagnant small ponds that were gag-worthy.

And the worst that I’ve encountered? About a year ago, I ran through a few streets just off of a normal route. The houses were a bit dumpy and run-down but whatever. All of a sudden, the smell from one house almost knocked me to the ground. [Embarrassingly, I used to watch Hoarders on TV. And I would always be thankful that my TV didn’t have smell-o-vision when they’d go through the homes. I also have a cat so I know what cat urine smells like.] HOWEVER, I swear this house that I ran past either was an active animal Hoarder situation or was in the process of being cleaned out. Either way, the intense cat-pee smell made me stop and dry heave/retch into the bushes. I could barely stop the gagging enough to slowly keep walking to get away from the house. I have never run down that street again.

What else have you got?

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Lilacs in season. One stretch I run has about seven in a row. When they're all blooming at once the scent is so intense I almost puke. 

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Rotting vegetables left after the farming season is over (peppers might be the worst). Sometimes it gets mixed with a good swamp smell too for added gagging! Oh, and sewage treatment plants, I've run by too many of those.

I always hold my breath for smokers, especially when running, as I picture the smoke getting even deeper into my lungs when I'm breathing heavy (not sure if that is true or not, just what I imagine is happening.)

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There is a house on my loop that always smells of cannabis.  Especially strong this morning.  
And as I ran past the place I spotted a raccoon family last week, I wondered if raccoons mark their territory the way dogs do 'cause pewey!  

And yes, I hold my breath when passing smokers... usually not an issue on runs first thing in the morning.  

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I don't have any smells to add, but I heard about your hot windy weather this morning on NPR and thought of you. Wondered if you'd choose a treadmill on a day like today. Sending good thoughts for no fires too. California has had more than its fair share.  

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Garbage trucks always. A not bad smell is bacon - I'm not sure exactly which house it is, but there is one house where they must eat bacon everyday, because I smell it every time I run past. How the smell can be so strong I don't know. (I guess they are good about using the vent fan over the stove, or they make A LOT of bacon.)

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1 hour ago, CompulsiveRunner said:

I don't have any smells to add, but I heard about your hot windy weather this morning on NPR and thought of you. Wondered if you'd choose a treadmill on a day like today. Sending good thoughts for no fires too. California has had more than its fair share.  

I usually run 530-7am when you can weirdly feel the heat radiating off of the ground but it's not so bad yet. By 9am it's ridiculous. DH ran yesterday around 6pm and wisely chose the TM because it was still almost 90. Several traffic accidents in the area have sparked a few acres to go up in flames but nothing worse...yet. I think the heat continues until Thursday.

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2 hours ago, Speet63 said:

Lilacs in season. One stretch I run has about seven in a row. When they're all blooming at once the scent is so intense I almost puke. 

Glad I'm not the only one that sees pretty flowers as the devil!

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1 hour ago, amarie2009 said:

Garbage trucks always. A not bad smell is bacon - I'm not sure exactly which house it is, but there is one house where they must eat bacon everyday, because I smell it every time I run past. How the smell can be so strong I don't know. (I guess they are good about using the vent fan over the stove, or they make A LOT of bacon.)

My neighborhood also has a bacon house! There's also another house where I swear they make garlic bread every single day

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Trash day is usually the worst that I face. Some people really have some very stinky garbage. Other than that, I sometimes get some cow smells since my neighborhood is surrounded by cow pastures. 

The other worst thing currently is that someone has been letting their dogs use the bathroom right on the sidewalks and not cleaning it up. I can't say I usually smell it, but I have to watch where I walk. It's a small neighborhood, so someone surely will catch them doing that and say something soon. 

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3 hours ago, amarie2009 said:

Garbage trucks always. A not bad smell is bacon - I'm not sure exactly which house it is, but there is one house where they must eat bacon everyday, because I smell it every time I run past. How the smell can be so strong I don't know. (I guess they are good about using the vent fan over the stove, or they make A LOT of bacon.)

Bacon has got to be the best. Or the worst, because it's such a big tease.

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I live out in the sticks, so lots of interesting smells. Skunk roadkill is probably my least favorite.  Cigarettes and all the fake air fresheners that smokers put in their cars to mask the scent.  (Hint: they are not fooling anyone!)

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i once ran a 24-hour race in sierra vista, az, that was a 1-mile loop. The course ran through an alley between a fast food Chinese place on the left and its dumpster on the right, providing two quite different but equally repulsive smells. that race director was an odd guy.

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Your list is pretty good but I'll add: penguins. Specifically we get large colonies of fairy penguins (little penguins) on Phillip Island (south of Melbourne) which are a big tourist attraction. They are cute as a button...but they stink! Unfortunately that's also where I go surfing (sometimes run) and you can smell their burrows a long way off. Kind of like a dirty wet doggy smell. Must be a combination of their diet & wet feathers.

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A new fiberglass deck being installed! The absolute worst chemical odor ever!

Freshly laid mulch in the spring --- Gag, gag, omg, gag!

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12 hours ago, ChocTop said:

Your list is pretty good but I'll add: penguins. Specifically we get large colonies of fairy penguins (little penguins) on Phillip Island (south of Melbourne) which are a big tourist attraction. They are cute as a button...but they stink! Unfortunately that's also where I go surfing (sometimes run) and you can smell their burrows a long way off. Kind of like a dirty wet doggy smell. Must be a combination of their diet & wet feathers.

OMG I completely forgot about La Jolla's famous sea lions. Beautiful to see but oh the smell....

Are the penguins in the water with you while you surf?

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6 hours ago, ocrunnergirl said:

A new fiberglass deck being installed! The absolute worst chemical odor ever!

Freshly laid mulch in the spring --- Gag, gag, omg, gag!

Haha yes!!  So many people think the mulch smell is nice. I literally have to leave the area it bothers me so much! Our yard could use new mulch but...no.

And as a chemist, I have definitely come across some "chemical" odors that are just horrific. Usually, not while running though

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7 hours ago, DrWhiskers said:

OMG I completely forgot about La Jolla's famous sea lions. Beautiful to see but oh the smell....

Are the penguins in the water with you while you surf?

No (I would get worried if they were as we do get sharks down the end of the island where the penguins mainly come in - there's also a seal colony). The Penguins come up the beach at night time all year round in one particular spot (hence they've constructed tourist stands/boardwalks so people can watch without interacting). You can see (and smell) the burrows in other parts of the island like the beach that I usually surf - they just don't come up in numbers like they do further down the island.

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The stuff they treat wooden bridges with to keep them from rotting. That's a disgusting chemical smell. I'll take carcasses or manure over that any day.

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There's a bus stop shelter along one of my routes that the homeless population in the neighborhood has decided is their toilette. This is the only smell I've ever encountered that will make me hold my breath on a run. 

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