Being On Call Is Like Running A Marathon

… and none of that pseudo-philosophical “you have to pace yourself” bullshit.

I mean, I’ve never even run a marathon. But I’m training for one. My training plan was too ambitious though so I think I have shin splints (why does medical school not teach us about shin splints? Am I imaging them?) so combined with my grueling call of last night, I’ve had to forfeit my long run for this weekend.

Being on-call is like running a marathon (or a long run, or any run; depending on how fit I’m feeling) because:

Amazing digital portraits done by DanSun. Click image to be taken to his website. His portraits raise awareness of PTSD in first-responders and I think they are AMAZING.

1. You need the right shoes. And by “right shoes” I mean takkies.

If you don’t know what takkies are, you’re probably not South African. These, my friends, are trainers. Or sneakers. Or anything with laces, really. Except lace-up boots: those are never takkies. (Pronounced: tackeys)

I have worked in all kinds of shoes. Some god-awful shoes I bought from Woolworths that were really comfortable until I completely ruined them by tramping all over New York City (the first time, 2010). Gumboots. (I have decided that these are awesome for theatre, so I always keep them in my car. But wearing them for 24+ hours is a very uncomfortable and very smelly idea. Gumboots don’t breathe. That’s kind of the point.)

For a long time Greencross were my go-to shoes. They are pretty comfortable. But after wearing them to calls for three years straight, I needed a new pair and couldn’t find any that I liked. So I turned to my takkies. HEAVEN, I TELL YOU. Initially I wore my new Salomons because a) I love them b) everyone else loves them, but then they very narrowly missed an encounter with an empyema so I decided my older New Balance would work just find. And they do.

2. You need the right underwear

Calling might not cause chafing quite like running does; but there is nothing as awful as having a waistband digging into your hips while standing in a casualty full of screaming patients. Also, lady-bits need to breathe, so none of that synthetic crap.

ALSO, I discovered that wearing a sports bra to call is possibly its best off-label use in the history of ever. But you don’t get a picture of that.

3. Compression socks

They look awful when you’re running in them with shorts (no, ma’am, I do not play hockey at the local high school), but they hide well underneath scrubs. These ugly socks have now saved my life three times over: while running, while flying, and while calling.

4. Re-fuel wisely

Calling and running are the only times I consume caffeine (and not in coffee, because I’ve established that something in that delicious beverage triggers my migraines). You need to eat enough to prevent The Hangry (patients and running volunteers do NOT appreciate The Hangry), but not so much that you feel the need to climb under the covers and sleep off your food baby.

5. If you’re not peeing, you’re not drinking enough water

Sort of? Does this count for running? I’ve never really ran far enough to know.

6. You need to shower afterwards

The only thing that grosses people out more than being sweaty and smelly from a long run, is being sweaty and smelly from other people’s bodily fluids.


  1. A says:

    So true!! Sending solidarity from the States! ❤ (I'm on my surgery rotation, and we have a bunch of 24 hour calls… they're just plain wicked.)

    1. barefootmegz says:

      Haaaah I’m on surgery too! They are pretty evil 😀

  2. Kamita says:

    Great post on things needed for a call haha 🙂
    One thing you missed out on was …. cake! 😀

  3. Agatha Ann says:

    I love Birkenstock clogs! I would wear running shoes to work but they always get so dirty. These ones are easy to clean and open in the back so they breathe well. I hate having hot feet, ever, especially on call. That also makes compression socks difficult for me!

    1. barefootmegz says:

      Well, you DO work with amniotic fluid and things so I can imagine that running shoes are not ideal. When I did OBGYN earlier this year I also didn’t wear my running shoes that often. We don’t have Birkenstock here (not that I’ve been able to find, in anycase) but it may be something to add to my shopping list the next time I travel to your side of the world.

  4. Nancy Ackelson says:

    Ya, I can see how being on call might be very similar to running a marathon – only call lasts much L – o – n – g – e – r ! I am so glad you are finding shoes that work for you, but I vote for the gum boots, yours are awesome!!!


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