My friend had a dream that I blogged about all the local places to stop and poop while running, so I am…making her dreams come true??
I don’t remember when “runner’s diarrhea” first became something I was aware of, but I think it was after I had kids.
At first I didn’t even know what it was called. When I googled “why does running make me have to poop so bad sometimes,” I disregarded all the articles about “runner’s diarrhea,” because to me, diarrhea is what happens when you have a stomach virus and can’t get off the toilet. I did not have that. I wanted to know why mid-run I’d sometimes have to make an uncomfortable beeline to the toilet.
Turns out, “runner’s diarrhea” is indeed the term given to the situation I describe (the strong urge to take a dump during a run). Maybe it’s more polite and concise than calling it “almost shitting your pants while out running.”
It was confusing nonetheless, and highly troubling. For a while, I considered not running anymore. Was there something wrong with me? IBS?! What a disgusting side effect of my favorite hobby.
Runners love to talk about their races and their splits and their PRs, but they don’t seem to like to talk about this. I suddenly remembered the viral marathon photos I’d seen on the internet of marathon runners with brown spots on their shorts and was horrified.
“Is this a THING?!”
I looked for data on the internet. Research has been inconclusive. No one is really sure what causes RD, but IMO, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to imagine what all the bouncing does to the stuff in your intestines as you run.
Does it really work that way? Who knows, but it makes sense to me. That’s all the science I can handle.
Most articles I found recommended cutting back dairy, coffee, fiber, fruits, and vegetables prior to a run.
Basically, all healthy food. Don’t eat it.
Well, I run 3 times per week. I’d have to limit myself to potatoes and white rice most of the time.
That didn’t sound like a good answer to me. Nonetheless, tried of the uncomfortable mad dash to the restroom mid-run, I tried swapping out lunchtime veggie soups and salads for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. While this certainly improved the situation, sacrificing nutrition to avoid crapping my britches did not sit well with me for long.
Soon after, I read “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. As do most runners, I found it life changing and so profoundly inspiring. Of the many admirable things he did on his quest to become a better runner, he restructured his diet and began eating salads for breakfast. Because, why not? Why not use that meal to get extra veggies, in lieu of the unhealthy garbage most people eat for breakfast? There was only one question—how many times per run must Chris have to take a dump?! Maybe that matters less in the wilderness where he runs with the Tarahumara.
I abandonded the pb&j-induced constipation strategy, and threw caution to the wind. I started eating whatever I wanted before runs, including salads for breakfast sometimes, but adapted by running in small circles around my house, so I was always close in case of “emergency.” This worked well until I got sick and tired of running the same routes, especially when my training runs got into the double (haha #2) digits.
Over time, I collected data in my head. I began to notice that it takes about 3 miles of running for the “trash compactor” syndrome to occur. I best be near a bathroom, even if it’s preventively, around 3 miles. The faster my pace, the sooner I’ll probably need a restroom.
So I plan my routes accordingly, and have a hierarchy of the best to worst places to stop, just in case I need to, in order of best to worst:
1. Public parks
Public parks are the best option. Usually there’s no one around, they are reasonably clean in my area, and they already smell bad. No guilt. Make sure they are in a safe area, however.
2. Target or fast food places other than McDonald’s (McDonald’s bathrooms are horrific), or any store where the bathrooms are located near the front doors. Culver’s are particularly decent. There’s enough foot traffic that you can get in and out without drawing attention to yourself.
3. Grocery stores. They probably also have air conditioning and a bubbler, but you’ll be waddling long distances through brightly lit aisles of produce and bakery to try and find the powder room.
4. Gas stations. Gas station toilets are disgusting, the employees seem to KNOW there’s only one reason a runner would dart into their store and beeline for the bathroom, and they’re bitter about it. Too awkward for all involved. Avoid if possible.
5. The woods. Finally, if all else fails, always carry tissue in your shorts, pocket, or shoe, in the event that there are no available restrooms, but only the privacy afforded by a few evergreens or shrubs. Trust me, getting spotted emerging suspiciously from a forest beats the alternative.
And finally, a fail-safe tip: if no restroom or woods are available in ANY of these locations, stop and walk the remainder of your route. You’ll feel better.