Foot Notes: Nasal breathing as a running hack?


There aren’t many things one can say that will offend me. Playing high school football and then spending most of my adult life around the journalism industry has ensured that I’ve heard and endured just about every insult one can imagine.

But when I hear the term “mouth breather” get thrown out there, I usually do two things: Make sure my mouth is closed, and then clench my teeth inside that closed mouth.

I think we all spend some time breathing through our mouths each day, but some of us are more susceptible to “sucking wind” than others. I catch myself all the time. Whether I’m working hard or just sighing thinking of some random stupid thing I said when I was 11, I have to remind myself to close my mouth.

Prolonged mouth breathing can cause a myriad of problems, including but not limited to poor sleep, bad breath, gum disease, early aging, high blood pressure, and facial deformities. Tackling this issue can take months, if not years, of self-awareness and constant self-correcting before nasal breathing feels natural.

But once you master breathing through the nose, you’re on the right path for improved jaw growth, muscle tone, posture, and even oxygen intake. One way to practice and improve nasal breathing is to implement it while running, an exercise that seemingly requires us to operate with mouths wide open.

A well-seasoned nasal-breathing runner will see a reduction in the airborne particles they breathe in, while reducing blood pressure and helping oxygen reach their brain and muscles. Breathing through your nose while running can improve your physiological economy. In simpler terms, it can improve your performance. 

I decided to put this theory to test on the treadmill. My plan is to progress from 1-6 mph, and then back down, all while breathing through my nose. My prediction is that I will “break” before I can reach max speed.

Aside from an initial stuffy nose, I had no problems working my way through five minutes at 1 mph and then five more minutes at 2 mph. Once I reached 3 mph, roughly a 20:00/mile pace, I could feel a slightly more urgent need for oxygen, but I still hadn’t opened my mouth.

I could feel beads of sweat building on my forehead as I worked through 4 mph. Straddling the line between walking and running, my legs are moving fast and it’s getting harder to consciously stay on top of breathing nasally.

I maintained my nasal breathing in five minutes of running at 5 mph, but the sweat that started on my forehead has increased tenfold and is running down my face and directly into my nose. Perhaps a hat or a headband would serve me well the next time I attempt this exercise.

Running at 6 mph, or about 10:00/mile, proved to be the biggest challenge up to this point. With legs in full running motion, there’s no time to think about anything other than “breathe in, breathe out.” By this point, sweat is pouring into my nose and is being ejected just as fast. I’m a hot mess, but surprisingly I made it through the full five minutes without once opening my mouth.

After reaching my max test speed, I wanted to cool down by lowering the speed a tenth of an mph for every minute, all while still breathing through just my nose. This stretch of running is when the wheels began to come off for me. The sweat had taken over my face, almost to the point where I felt like I was swimming and just fighting to stay above water. I most certainly “broke” several times, either to take a desperate gasp of air or to loudly let out a curse word. It took all the mental fortitude I had to keep my mouth zipped shut, as my muffled groans became so loud my kids had to stop in the room to make sure I wasn’t being suffocated with a pillow.

I eventually shut the machine off once I dipped below 5 mph. It was an abrupt “mail it in” kind of ending, but I didn’t let that stop me from celebrating this workout. Even as I type on my keyboard right now, I still can’t believe I made it through while breathing primarily through my nose. This is a big win for me.

This baseline test was just the beginning. I’m hoping that continued implementation of these breathing techniques will lead me to places I could never imagine as a runner. Perhaps those places will be impressive, but if my nose is working the way I want it to, they won’t be breathtaking.


If you build it, they will come.

That line was made famous in “Field of Dreams,” but it also applies to ultra marathons and Franklin County runners.

The Bubbletown What the Duck Ultra 12 Hour in Boiling Springs was only just created in 2021, but yet it has become a pilgrimage spot of sorts for endurance junkies all across the Local.News coverage area. And area runners didn’t just take part, they took over.

Four Franklin County runners — led by Greencastle’s Joe Trace — landed in the Top 10 in the field of 181. Trace covered more than 56 miles in 11:59:16 at the Spring Meadows Park loop to earn fourth place. Trace was chased by Chambersburg’s Shelby White (5th place, 55 miles), Mike Hepner (6th, 53), and Kirk Clever (8th, 52). Jill Hazelton, of Chambersburg, exploded for 51 miles in 11:38:09 to finish as third female.

Several other locals stacked up big mileage at Bubbletown, including Chambersburg’s Mary Sinnott (46 miles), Brandon Sherman (39), and Wendy Lococo (38), Mont Alto’s Angie Fuss (45), Greencastle’s Cade McDowell (41), and Hagerstown’s Josie Smith (38) and Grace Kaiser (26).

It’s not every week that you get a chance to race on a Monday morning, but Memorial Day races allowed runners to do just that. Fayetteville’s Wing Lam Cheung made a long trip to Harrisburg worth the drive, completing the MWR Platinum Memorial Day Dash 5K in 22:44 to win the 30-39 AG. In Gettysburg, the Memorial Day Free 5K drew the attention of several area runners, including Fairfield’s Kylee Partilla (23:45) and Matthew Hobbs (24:26), as well as Fayetteville’s Daniell Portier (25:05).

A handful of area runners ventured to Martinsburg, W.Va. to take on the Amani Brewing 5K. Travis Wilson, of Chambersburg, led the charge with a 27:47, followed by Hagerstown’s Eloisa Banes (32:11) and Greencastle’s Richard Montgomery (34:35). The Baltimore 10 Miler garnered the attention of several Hagerstown runners, including Stacey Maus-Hickey (1:36:52), Grace Kaiser (1:45:11), Charlee Smith (1:52:59) and Mary Plank (1:58:27).

A number of others were active in races across the region and beyond, including Fairfield’s Beverly Black (58:07 at Little Bennett XC 10K), and Hagerstown’s Marc Griffin (22:58 at Bel Air Town Run 5K), Mike Stutts (36:29 at Luau 5K), Vincent Canlas (37:23 at Maryland 5K), Charles Moser (48:23 at Kings Dominion 5K), Ken Honeycutt (1:46:42 at Reston Sprint Triathlon), and Edward Waltz (3:48:29 at Rothrock Grit Gravel Grinder).

And finally, a shoutout to a swimmer: Waynesboro’s JB Bonner won both the 750 meter (10:33) and 1,500 meter (20:59) races at Swim Fest Luray in Luray, Va.

And now, a look ahead:

Race Against Poverty 5K: Friday, 7 p.m., in Chambersburg. Have trouble waking up in time for your races? That won’t be a problem in this evening event, which helps combat poverty. Learn more at

Old Turnpike Half Marathon: Saturday, 8 a.m., in Waterfall. Bring your headlamp for this race, which takes you through the old Sideling Hill and Rays Hill tunnels. Learn more at

Strokes, Spokes, and Strides Sprint Triathlon: Saturday, 8 a.m., in Waynesboro. This race was created in 2015 to promote community spirit and welcome all levels of athlete. Find the race on

Also: Independence Series Marathon/Half (Friday, in Birdsboro); Second State Marathon/Half (Friday, in Greentown); Youth Encouraging Healthy Lifestyles 5K (Saturday, in Hampden Township); Dumb Dutchman Half Marathon (Saturday, in Reading); Half Sauer Half Kraut Marathon/Half (Saturday, in Philadelphia); Honey Hole 5K/10K/13.1M (Saturday, in Drums); Iron Run Half Marathon (Saturday, in Gardners); Charcoal Challenge 5K (Saturday, in Gardners); Laurel Highlands Ultra (Saturday, in Ohiopyle); Ninja 5K/10K/15K/Half (Saturday, in York); Ghost Town Trail Challenge (Saturday, June 15, in Black Lick); Hamburg Half Marathon (Saturday, June 15, in Hamburg); Hempfield recCenter Youth Tri for Fun (Saturday, June 15, in Landisville); Viking 5K/10K (Saturday, June 15, in Akron); Coventry Woods Trail Running Festival (Sunday, June 16, in Pottstown); Hempfield recCenter Tri for Life (Sunday, June 16, in Landisville); Smith’s Challenge Trail Race 5M (Sunday, June 16, in Lancaster); Solstice 5K/10K (Thursday, June 20, in Shippensburg); Thirsty Thursday 5K (Thursday, June 20, in Reading).

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