We all deal with it. If you've never started your period the day before or ON race day, you eventually will. Unless you're a dude.
I like to surf the internets, not for advice, but just to make sure that other people are still dealing with running on their periods (they are). I decided since I suffer from debilitating menstrual cramps, I should weigh in on the issue.
When I was reading up, I found some posts recommending Ibuprofen... and not only for cramps but for actually reducing your flow during a race, which must be done with lots and lots of the stuff. I read a post that states: "Take 600-800mg three times a day, 1-2 days immediately prior to and during the period." I'm not going to tell you why this is a bad idea because you can Google it yourself, but results will include warnings ranging from the risk of hyponatremia to kidney failure. Luckily, commenters were quick to suggest this was a bad idea.
As an injured runner, I mentioned taking Advil during my race if my foot starting hurting. But I know the risks which I can weigh against the rewards, so me deciding to take it vs. someone without that knowledge deciding to take it is very different.
FWIW, I would only take 400 mg somewhere during my race if I absolutely had to in order to finish. But that's on a non-period day.
So what now? Typically, I would take 600mg three times a day on days one and two because I have absolutely unbearable cramps otherwise, and sometimes even in spite of. But I wouldn't do that on race day, when I'm already going to be pushing my body.
A safer alternative (that may possibly lead to stomach issues) is Tylenol to deal with pain. Tylenol does not have the effects on the kidneys that NSAIDs have, but it comes with its own risks related to the liver. Tylenol works in the brain, and doesn't have those anti-inflammatory properties which make it less effective (for me) on cramps. Fun fact, under normal circumstances, they are safe to take together.
I considered taking Tramadol which also works by binding to receptors in the brain. I have taken Tramadol for period-pain before, but never surrounding running. I would be really worried about side effects. Nausea and drowsiness are on the list... none of which I experienced while taking this drug, but add in a trail half marathon and all experience goes out the window.
I know I have done long training runs on days one and two, and since I ALWAYS take Advil, I had to have taken at least some, though amounts can vary depending on how I feel.
I finally decided to plan to take no more than 400mg of Advil tomorrow morning and then take a Tylenol if I need something else. I hate not having a definitive safe alternative. It's really just going to come down to what I think is best after weighing the benefit vs. the risk.