Backed up breathing is an ugly truth with runners, and carrying tissues is not only a silly idea, it will slow you down, and it’s a waste of paper. So, to be more green with your “green,” and to save you valuable time during a race or on a run, I bring to you the not-so-pretty-but-totally necessary instructional guide to the perfect snot rocket.

Mucus might manifest in many manners. There is the full-fledged dam, keeping the air from getting in or out. There is the tiny tingling in your nose, like a bat hanging in your cave, holding on to the stalactites; a minor annoyance, but, by mile three, a terrible passenger.  Sometimes a snot rocket can be used simply to get in the heads of your competitors. Looking anybody in the eye with a mean face and blowing your nose into mid air is bound to give anybody pause.

The amateur or beginning runner might see running as a pretty prance.  Sorry Barbie, we all turn ugly at some point during our run. When the vanity of it fades away, and it becomes a fight between us and our bodies, a successful snot rocket becomes mandatory.

However, heed my warning young booger blowers: If done wrong, your bib, face and shirtfront could don the dawn of a crusty mess. But, if done with the proper form, one can run without fear, and without stopping. It’s not a pretty conversation, but neither is the conversation you will have when you meet that hunk or that hot lady at the water fountain at mile 2, and your face is covered or streaked with Gu/Goo; and not the good kind. So, get over your vanity, and follow these three easy steps to ensure the perfect, seamless snot rocket.

Step 1: Elbow Out, Index Finger Firm, Get out of the way:

The first objective of the snot rocket is to stay out of the way of the rocket itself. Snot, when rocketed, is an unpredictable, wild mistress. Unlike other things that follow a narrow path of gravity, snot might have long heads or tails that make it curve, change shapes from solid to liquid, swerve and shimmy in many different angles. The mess that might come from a shooting snot rocket can be avoided by simply putting your index fingertip to your nose, pressing firmly on the opposite nostril that you will be blowing. Your elbow should be parallel to your ear; this can be achieved by raising your elbow up, almost as if you are smelling your own arm pit. The most important aspect of this step is to get out of the way of the projectile by slightly turning your head away from your body. There is no mathematical equation as to how far you should turn your head, which is going to depend on how anxious of a person you are. But it should be enough to avoid a rogue rocket ruining your running socks, or crusting to your leg hair.

Step 2: Commit

The problem with most snot rockets is not usually an excess of mucus, but a lack of commitment. Like anything that runners do, the action of a snot rocket must be precise and not half-assed. A weak expulsion of air from your nose could result in a messy snot rocket, or not even a snot rocket at all, but more of a snot-paper-airplane. It is for this matter, that when you blow, you blow as hard and with as much gusto as your body will allow. Blow from your diaphragm. No, better yet, blow from your soul. You must force the snot from your nose, and, with snot being snot, it will not come out without you showing it who is boss. So, project, be strong, and commit to the motion.

Step 3: Ancillary Wipe

After you’ve successfully rocketed your snot, it is important to wipe away any splashing that may have occurred. This is easy if you’re wearing a shirt, yet harder if you’re topless or wearing only a sports bra. Regardless, find something to wipe off with: your hand, your forearm. If you have a dog, first wipe with your hand, then gently run your hand along your dog’s back. The dog will think he is getting rewarded for being a good runner, your hand will no longer have traces of “nose lactation,” and nobody is the wiser.

For the non-runners who are reading this, I hope you take from this instructional manual a lesson: Never shake hands with a runner while they are on a run. I understand that, in our etiquette-based society, it is generally second nature to, when we see somebody we know, to shake their hand. If you see a runner friend on the track, it is always safer to go with the fist bump because, between the snot wiping, sweat wiping, and wedgey pulling, runners are generally Petri dishes for germs and bodily fluids. Come to think of it, even a fist bump might be dangerous, as who knows what the runner has wiped on the back of their hands. Not to mention the explosive nature of a fist bump might dislodge germs from both of your hands, creating a toxic cloud that is sure to get you sick. My advice: go with a wave, or, if you’re afraid of germs wafting off of the runner and magnetically sticking to your hand, you can (and should) just go with the head nod and a verbal recognition. But carry on fast, and hold your breath. We runners may be both physically and spiritually stronger than you, but we are covered in germs. So be careful, steer clear, allow us the right of way when you see on the street, don’t ask us for directions and, no matter how much you want to watch our muscles glimmer in the mid-day sun, never stand down wind from our snot rockets.