The runs when I run.
January 7, 2009 6:16 PM   Subscribe

When I run, I start to poo.

Whenever I run hard (not crazy, out of my league hard, but just pushing myself, you know?) I get the poo urge. I have to stop and walk a bit to keep the poo urge at bay, but eventually it just takes over. This is SO frustrating because I am working hard to get in shape, and at the gym I have to give up my treadmill to go poo, and then wait again and who needs that?
What could be causing this, and how can I prevent it? I tried not eating too much a few hours before, eating nothing a few hours before, eating a lot right before, same reaction. Poo. It's not nice poo either, but the runny kind. I've experienced this before when I was running hard to get in shape and it eventually passed, but I'd rather skip that phase this time. I tried googling and read about cramps, but never this. Help? Posted anon because this is mortifying.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Runner's Diarrhea? Not a phrase you'd necessarily think to Google if you hadn't heard of it, but there you go.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:31 PM on January 7, 2009

Needing to relieve yourself during a run is totally entirely normal. I get the feeling, almost without fail, at the 2 mile mark when I haven't gone out of my way to "get things done" before the run. (Getting up hours before a morning run, drinking coffee hours before a morning run.) My "feelings" went away once I was in a regular training schedule, just as yours seem to have, but they came back when I started really long runs (snicker) until I got used to those as well. Baring any changes in your health or diet, I'd say run through it. Try planning a route outside that passes lots of fast food joints or large chain stores with public restrooms. More than once a grocery store bathroom has saved me from slinking home in the shadows to hide my own shame.

Do you run at the same time every day, do these movements occur around that time (+/- 1hr or so) on days you're not running? You've monitored your diet, but what about gels or supplements?
posted by Science! at 6:31 PM on January 7, 2009

Weirdly enough, a sister of a friend had the same exact problem. She shat herself, runnily, whenever she went running. Doctors eventually diagnosed it as a nerve problem, but it took a long time and was like an episode of House in the odd twists and turns it took. Apparently, the same nerve that can cause neuropathy (a "dead foot") when runners' shoes don't fit can also impair bowel control. Who knows whether your problem is the same, but it's worth checking out.
posted by Morpeth at 6:33 PM on January 7, 2009

I've heard of this as "Runner's Trots". I used to get this when I first started running (in my 30s) but not quite so severe as you. For me, it was the total runny evacuation of my bowels after a run, but something I could hold in until I was done. Sometimes pretty urgent, but I never had an accident.

In my case, I grew out of it pretty quickly. Keep at it, and do what you have to do. Stop, take a break, etc. I think you'll get past it.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 6:43 PM on January 7, 2009

Not eating dairy for 24 hours before a long run seems to help me a lot.
posted by adiabat at 7:10 PM on January 7, 2009

I've had this. Not chronically, but for three days in a row last May, I had to sprint home, and only made it to the Dairy Queen at the end of the street. I traced it to not having voided right before beginning exercise. Now it's part of my warmup routine: stretch, suit up, crap, kiss the wife, and out the door.

You may need *more* fiber in your diet to be able to crap on command. But it's much better than having to void where prohibited.

And you grow out of it as you get in better shape and your daily cycle gets used to running at that time.
posted by notsnot at 7:11 PM on January 7, 2009 [8 favorites]

I have irritable bowel syndrome, and I was having urgency issues when doing a lot of walking. My doctor said what happens is that internally, I'm actually a little backed up, and the liquid leaks around it and creates the feelings of urgency. Is it possible that you have IBS? Or you could just eat more fiber. My doctor told me to take Miralax when I start having urgency, but I would not recommend you take any laxatives without consulting your doctor first.

notsnot: But it's much better than having to void where prohibited."


posted by IndigoRain at 7:38 PM on January 7, 2009

This is why you must avoid the port-o-let in the first 6 miles of a marathon - It's a total code brown due to the runners with the trots.

You've got a very common problem. Having run with probably 100 different teammates, the consensus is that you need to "do the big job" before you start your run. (Yes, we've discussed this. In detail. You'd be amazed at the personal information you'll share at mile 20.)

Many runners grow out of it. Probably in part to training their bodies to BM rub and in part due to the body getting used to running.
posted by 26.2 at 8:14 PM on January 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

26.2 pointed out exactly what I was going to suggest: take a big pre-run poop. Pooping is fun.
posted by 29 at 8:27 PM on January 7, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh, welcome to our world. 26.2 is spot on: runners discuss this in graphic detail and it's highly normal. Yeah...get your body on a hard core schedule, even when you're not running. Teach your body to poo somewhat on command so that you can get yourself to do it before a run. In the early days, before my body acclimated to running, I would even take some Pepto the night before a run and that seemed to help until my body adjusted on its own. (I also kept some Imodium and Pepto with me for the road.) Good times!
posted by December at 9:17 PM on January 7, 2009

Yeah, you just need to run on a schedule, and then you'll start pre-emptively crapping on schedule. Also, maybe you should try to eat roughly the same time everyday before your runs.
posted by creasy boy at 11:50 PM on January 7, 2009

I agree with other posters that you need to go first. Also, if you're still embarrassed by having posted this, consider that Paula Radcliffe defecated on the road in front of millions of people (becoming a slang term in the process), went on to win her race in record-breaking time and is not ashamed to show her face anywhere.
posted by tomcooke at 3:12 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Not a runner, but this happens to me while biking. I don't know that it's the form of exercise so much as the movement?
posted by desjardins at 8:41 AM on January 8, 2009

Totally Normal. Your body is taking all the juice from your intestines to hydrate your body. Drink plenty of H2O and evacuate if you can, pre-run.
posted by delladlux at 9:07 AM on January 8, 2009

This is the main reason I stopped running. I have to keep my diet *perfect* in order to run. "Perfect" for me is going to be different than "perfect" for you, but what I do is eat in such a way that I can have a BM every morning when I get up. Then, I go running afterwards. Overeating or eating poorly messes with this.

I think most of us know when we're eating right for our own bodies. Food choices and quantities that don't give us gas, don't make us uncomfortable, etc. So, I have to make those correct choices, every day, to avoid the trots. (Mile 21 in the Chicago Marathon, I had to stop and walk. There were no porta-potties in sight, so I had to walk until it went away, which I feel lucky that it did. It doesn't always.)
posted by iguanapolitico at 9:08 AM on January 8, 2009

Seconding desjardins on the "happens to cyclists, too" comment.

It rarely happens to me during a ride, but without fail, 30 or so minutes after I'm done, I'm knocking over my wife and daughter to hit the head.

I think other high-endurance activities that last for some time can show a pattern. Maybe its stress chemicals/hormones, exertion, high-powered body movements that play a role. Maybe it's hard-wired in our DNA from way-back-when to be sure to void routinely while on the hunt, lest you have to drop trou right as the prey notices you (or the saber-tooth tiger catches up to you).
posted by fijiwriter at 9:29 AM on January 8, 2009

I can get cramps like that if I drink too much water right before I go for a run.
posted by collocation at 6:22 PM on January 8, 2009

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