Saturday, August 28, 2010

Snot Rockets are About Hydration

Nobody wants to be called a nose-picker.  Often, on a run, it's hard to slow down, scramble for a tissue, gracefully blow your nose and then gently fold up the tissue and put it in your pocket.  There is a solution - the snot rocket.


A snot rocket is the forceful expulsion of snot/phlegm/mucous from one of your nostrils while the other nostril is held shut.  We often do this with a tissue placed to our nose, but the snot rocket is naked.  The speed of the expulsion is important: to slow and the ambient air decides where it will land, while too fast and you may get out of your breathing rhythm for several paces.  Targeting is also an issue.  Since Eye-Nostril coordination is not learned from an early age, aiming and hitting a target is difficult.  Hitting a target while running is very difficult.

Always use the same side hand for the closed nostril - never use an opposite hand to close a nostril.  For example if you use your left hand forefinger to close your right nostril, you will get a palm-full of luggie when you launch (try it).  For a closed right nostril you use your right hand.

When running you should turn your head around your vertical axis to the side you want to launch to, then slightly bow your head forward into the running direction.  This will slightly constrict the airways, increase the velocity, and make sure the rocket is launched to the side and not on your shirt.

The launcher has an option of launching to the open or closed nostril side.  If launching to the same side (like the illustration), shoulder caking can occur, if launching to the alternating side, side caking can occur.  Most seasoned launchers make the move to the opposite side.  It looks a little like they are about to smell their arm pit and then whoa, a snot rocket comes out.  The under-arm launch has the bonus of being placed immediately into the flowing air stream.  The over-arm launch is covered by the front of the hand and the launch occurs in the turbulent wake.  Just like a knuckle ball, you don't know where it will go.


  • Don't watch when others seem to be taking a deep breathe, pointing to their nose and are turning away (especially to smell their armpit).  It could be a sneeze, but give them their privacy.  
  • Refrain from commenting after a launch.
  • Don't aim toward others or to the side if runners are approaching in the wake.
  • Also try not to get it on you - regardless who is doing the launching.  Nobody wants to run with somebody with snot on them.
  • If you are caked and it's not yours, don't try to give it back or scrape it off.  You need to concentrate on your running.  But make a note for the future to avoid the situation.


  • The Linguine - very viscous mucous rocket with a long tail that does not detach from the nostril (sure sign of too little hydration)
  • Icing - the left over on the rim of the nostril (may build up during winter)
  • The Borgnine - launching a rocket and farting at the same time (requires a different article) enjoyable if running alone
  • The Irish Spring - like the spray setting on the nozzle of a garden hose, often can be predicted from a consistently runny nose (this should be snorted back into the throat and spit out)

Final Words

For heavy work and sports situations where grace and beauty are not true to form, and where the event is outdoors (outdoors is very important), the snot rocket is an acceptable way of clearing objects out of your breathing passages to continue to function at a highly geared level. Try it.  It is efficient, natural and good.  Not everybody does it, but everybody should.  Happy launching!


Oh ya, I ran 5 k (3.1 mi) in 35:47.  Pace 7:09/k (11:26/mi).  Kept very near to 3:35 time on every split since it was an EZ run ... maybe I should work down from these easy runs instead of working the distance up from the tempo runs!


Neil Zee said...

One of the haserdz us b-footerz worry about on the roads...

Q said...

This was awesome. Neil, be careful that you don't slip on any road mucous lol!

Chris K said...

Where do I start making a comment about this post? Um, well, it was different I guess. Quite informative actually. Sometimes when I feel like throwing caution to the wind I use my opposite hand to close the nostril. BTW, Andrew, I know that you have gone big time (41 Followers now!), but I am referencing you on my next post.

Johann said...

All I can say is after 29 years of running I consider myself an expert at this...

The Turtle said...

Thanks for the advice. I hope to put your technique to the test soon.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I see you've done research on this topic! The etiquette tips are good- something I'm worried about in a packed winter race.

Ewa said...

Dzien dobry :)
As long as we have a dry summer here I should not have any snoot problems. I will bookmark your post for colder months though.

Lindsey said...

Dude, at a tri last year we were coming up to the end of the bike. There was 1 hill and 1 man left between me and T2. I decided I'd pass him. I huffed, and I puffed, and I said "on......your......left" at EXACTLY the same time as he blew a snot rocket. On to me.

The look on his face was priceless, he was horrified, and I could only laugh.

Ginny M said...

Nice to see that you've done your research! How is your snot rocket technique? I haven't had to put mine to the test since last winter, but this reminded me that snot rocket season will be approaching :)

James said...

Awesome post!

Unknown said...

Wow. That's more than I needed to know about snot rockets. LOL

Good job on the 5K run too.

Nicole said...

I agree, Awesome post. If I had never had to do a ston rocket this would be very informative. Unfortunatly I had to learn my trial and error how to do one. It was not pretty... I don't know how many times I was up a trail with my ankle covered in snot LOL!

Fruit Fly said...

Um... I totally almost gagged! :)

Tom said...

Great post. I am always paranoid when I have to spit during a race. I'm scared to death of hitting someone who might be passing me. I can't imagine how much worse a snot rocket mishap would be.