Running - Experience

What Happens When You Don't Apply Sunscreen- True Story of Julie Nisbet

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Sunlight can make you feel warm, blissful, and energized. When it rains or gets cloudy you wish for the sun to come back to bask in its rays. There are numerous benefits of sunlight that you are aware of, but what of the perils of prolonged sunlight exposure? To be safe you can apply sunscreen, but that isn’t all that you should do.

Sure, everyone believes that you should apply sunscreen while running or when you plan to go out in the sun, but are you really putting the right amount or using a strong enough SPF? These are questions that Julie Nisbet, a frequent marathon runner and mother of two, assumed she was doing correctly. Her story is living proof of the precautions you must take while running under the sun.

Julie lives in Shildon, County Durham, England. She started running around nine years ago and has finished 11 marathons so far. Her most recent run was in the ultramarathon, a race consisting of 69 miles, which she completed in 21 hours.

What Happens When You Don’t Apply Sunscreen- Julie’s Story
Julie is a frequent marathon runner

Julie began her ultramarathon at 7 in the morning, had not applied sunscreen until she arrived at her first pitstop at 10. From there she applied sunscreen with SPF 30 on her legs and most of her exposed body.

She believed that the SPF 30 would be strong enough, as it was only ten in the morning, the sun was not blazing hot, and she felt fine. Later on, at her 27-mile pitstop, she started feeling a burning sensation on the back of her legs. She applied some more sunscreen and carried on.

All was well until she completed the race after 21 hours, and the burning feeling on the back of her legs grew more painful with the addition of small blisters.

What Happens When You Don’t Apply Sunscreen- Julie’s Story
The burn started out with small blisters

Julie went home to take rest, and after a few hours sleep she went and checked herself into a clinic for the blisters. They put bandages on her legs and advised her to come in again for a follow-up.


The following day her blisters, which were previously small in size, had grown larger and more painful.

What Happens When You Don’t Apply Sunscreen- Julie’s Story
The blisters grew enormous and more painful

After three days of Julie’s pain and discomfort, the doctors drained out the blisters and put bandages on her legs again. With medical care and support, she is slowly recovering from the burns.

What Happens When You Don’t Apply Sunscreen- Julie’s Story
After draining the blisters and bandaging

Julie spoke to Buzzfeed about her recovery saying, “The healing process has been painful — the burning and throbbing as the blisters have filled was a horrendous experience. The pressure in my legs when standing/walking has been also been agonizing at times. But a week on, it’s all improving. The itching beneath the bandages has started, so hopefully I can have the bandages off completely in the next few weeks!”

What Happens When You Don’t Apply Sunscreen- Julie’s Story
Do not neglect wearing sunscreen or protection from the sun

She is not the first runner to make this mistake, and definitely not the last. There are numerous precautions that you as a runner must take heed of. Remind your friends, runners or otherwise, to always protect themselves from the sun. Don’t let them make this severe mistake. Julie deeply resents her recklessness and she told Buzzfeed, “I’m under no illusion of how negligent I was. Our body is a wonderful and resilient thing, but it also needs constant care, and I didn’t pay enough attention during that race to reapply sunscreen. It’s been a harsh lesson to learn.”

What Happens When You Don’t Apply Sunscreen- Julie’s Story
Julie soon recovered and is now prepared to run again

This incident comes as a warning of what could happen if you neglect sunscreen regulations. But this shouldn’t keep you from going outside, running marathons, or even sunbathing. We all love the sunlight, and it gives back so much to us, but remember to always be careful of overexposure. Take precautions, apply sunscreen while running, and you should be just fine.

In the midst of all the pain and suffering, Julie never had time to recognize her achievement. She exclaimed, “I haven’t had time to be proud of the fact that I started, and finished, my first ever ultramarathon, completing a distance of 69 miles!”

Sunscreen and Running

Any runner can tell you that using a good strong sunscreen will do the trick to protect you from sunlight. But many don’t know that it is that very activity, running under the sun, that requires extra caution and attention.

  • Runners taking long runs under the sun, not only need to reapply sunscreen but also need to apply the right amount.
  • Most runners do not apply enough sunscreen or spread it too thinly over the skin, not providing sufficient protection.
  • As running causes a lot of perspiration, the sunscreen you use (even the waterproof kind) can run off or get diluted. This renders it ineffective and not as potent as before.

In case you think to apply sunscreen is not enough to protect yourself, you may consider trying out these options.

  • You can wear sun protective clothing , typically this is clothing with a high Ultraviolet Protection Factor or UPF.
  • Use and reapply a water resistant high SPF sunscreen each hour spent under the sun.

Also, read about Michelle Khare: From hating Running to Running a full marathon in 10 weeks!

If you regularly run marathons, then you can think about taking supplements like Heliocare or Nutrova Collagen. These have antioxidants that can give you extra protection against the sun.

Did this article scare you into buying a higher SPF? Let us know your thoughts on precautions to take while running under the sun.

We hope you do apply sunscreen before runs!

Via Buzzfeed

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