Do you have “Runner’s Face?”

The most fashionable women are susceptible to a slew of modern day maladies, including text neckskinny-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.

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26 Responses to Do you have “Runner’s Face?”

  1. Emily says:

    Yup I looked sickly at 140 and can’t tell you how many positive reactions I’ve gotten about my appearance since I put on 15-20lbs. What’s unfortunate is if I had gotten the opposite response, I would have been pushed over the edge eating disorder-wise, when I previously considered myself on the border.

  2. I know, Em, I’ve struggled with that in the past: I might prefer my body at 135, but my face looks awful and drawn. At 150, my face is glowing…
    Leslie Goldman recently posted..Do you have “Runner’s Face?”

  3. Sarah says:

    I’d go with the face. Less people see your butt and it can be covered up!
    Sarah recently posted..Help! I can’t be bothered to cook tonight – 7 top tips to stay healthy

  4. Cammy says:

    A while back my mom redid her exercise/eating habits and lost 50 pounds (over the course of about 2 years). She felt great, obviously, but she complains that it aged her face 10 years or so because “there’s not as much filling in my wrinkles any more.” I like the point you make about tradeoffs and the need to just not worry about micro-managing everything about one’s appearance.
    Cammy recently posted..Communication Conundrum

  5. JavaChick says:

    Ha. Since my layers of fat seem to be firmly entrenched, I guess I don’t need to worry about this one. :)
    JavaChick recently posted..Why Can’t I Do This?

  6. bdaiss says:

    Ooo! I love the before/after series. Funny though, I like a lot of the before versions better than the after. : )

    (Currently my tush is definitely winning the plump race…it’s much more stubborn.)
    bdaiss recently posted..Looking Back…

  7. Jill says:

    The before and afters are very cool!

    I don’t think I will ever have to worry about looking gaunt. And I agree with Sarah – I can always cover my ass!!
    Jill recently posted..The Turtle Life

  8. Alyssa says:

    Love those photos! I LOVE that they look like real, attractive people: no airbrushing/photoshopping/botox/facelifts, blah blah blah. Just natural looks with a bit of makeup here and there.
    I think our obsession with perfection starts at an early age: if you watch TV for a day, just notice what the ads are for and what messages they give out. From haircolor to eyelash extensions to eye cream, moisturizers, push-up bras, shake weights, ab machines, butt & thigh “firmers,” hair removal lotions, fingernail polish…there isn’t an inch of our bodies that, according to advertisers, cannot be “improved.” They don’t sell products, they sell the illusion that perfection is necessary and within reach, as long as you have the money to spend and the “discipline” to work for it.

    Having said all that (and stepping off my soapbox, lol!), I definitely have seen major changes since turning 40. I’ve had to change the way I eat, not just because I was gaining weight, but because my body can no longer handle certain things. The upside is that my face still looks young, thanks to all the fat, lol!

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