Marathon mug shots
The most fashionable women are susceptible to a slew of modern day maladies, including text neck, skinny-jean syndrome and cell phone elbow. Now we can add runner's face to the list of physical repercussions assaulting our bodies.
No, it's not the screwed-up look of pain you flash when you pounce on a rusty nail in your new barefoot sneakers or the sweaty flush of a 10K PR. Runner's face, according to a press release from Dr. Brian S. Glatt of Premier Plastic Surgery of New Jersey, is the Skeletor-style visage which often occurs in older women and men who have burned away too much fat via daily runs. Add to that the wrinkles and age spots resulting from the fact many runners exercise outdoors, logging long hours in the sun without proper protection and you have runner's face.
"When exercising, an athlete burns off fat beneath the layers of his/her skin," read Dr. Glatt's press release. "Though you may look like a 20-year-old from the neck down -- your face will easily give away your age."
Thankfully, the majority of my favorite elite racers from Kara Goucher to Jen Rhines seem to have escaped the wrath of runner's face. Still, the good Dr. Glatt has a suggestion: A combination of line-paralyzing Botox and the injectable filler Juvederm Ultra to smooth wrinkles and restore facial fullness. You could also schedule an eyelid lift or fat-grafting surgery between races -- though you may need to chub up if you want to have enough pudge to transfer from your thighs to your eyes.
This whole runner's face thing got me thinking about a quote often attributed to actress Catherine Deneuve: "At a certain age, you have to choose between your face and your ass."
There's a cruel reality that, as we grow older, basic physiology offers two options: Work out enough to fight an aging metabolism and keep your body enviably lean, but suffer a gaunt face in the process (See: Ninety-eight percent of Hollywood actresses) or workout so little that your face stays plump (it's natural to lose facial fat as we age) but your butt oozes out into the airplane seat next to you.
It sounds cliché, but ever since hitting 30 -- I'm 35 -- I've absolutely noticed changes in my body. The dreaded bat wings top the list, despite spending just as much time in the gym. And in the past, I myself have witnessed a younger version of runner's face when gazing in the mirror: When I used to run daily and my weight dropped to around 135, my abs were downright concave (hooray!) but I looked tired and gaunt (boo). At 145, I hear more "You look great!" compliments, but I go up a jean size. At this point in my life, I no longer weigh myself and just figure that as long as my clothing fits, my stress level remains manageable and my under-eye circles seem somewhat under control, I'm on the right path, exercise-wise.
As for the correct interpretation of runner's face, I like what this French photographer did: Sacha Goldberger stopped French joggers at Bois de Boulogne, a Paris park that's two and a half times the size of NYC's Central Park and asked them an odd favor: Would they sprint for him and then pose immediately thereafter? And would they be willing to return a week later, showered and made-up, to strike the exact same position? The before-and-after results show what real runner's face is: a hot, sweaty, glistening look of accomplishment and endorphins, wrinkles be damned.
espnW columnist Leslie Goldman is a die-hard workout junkie who covers health and fitness for many popular women's magazines and is the author of "Locker Room Diaries: The Naked Truth About Women, Body Image and Re-imagining the 'Perfect' Body." Full disclosure: Her high school athletic experience was limited to sophomore-year color guard.