Theres a little game that I involuntarily play some days. I put on my shorts, some mismatched socks, tie up my running shoes, throw in my headphones, and head out for a run. Maybe I just had some oatmeal and coffee, maybe I haven’t ingested anything for the past 12 hours, it doesn’t matter. I’m running along a nice creek, the water draws my attention away from my high heart rate and sweat, and I temporarily forget that I’m “working out”. Suddenly a small tremor sends tiny waves through my body. The tremor has originated just south of my stomach and I pray to God that it’s just a fart. On the good days that tremor results in a long series of running farts that I hope no one that passes me can hear or smell. In all actuality, I never know just how loud those farts are because I have headphones on. Unfortunately, most of these lower belly rumblings are the beginning of something much more detrimental, running poops, or runners diarrhea. I like to call this game Russian Poolette (like roulette). It doesn’t matter what I’ve eaten or how many times I’ve pooped, most times I run it becomes some sort of mad sprint or, if things have escalated too far, a sort of peg-legged wobble towards a port-a-potty/tree/rock/etc.
Maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, I must be, right? No one has to poop EVERY TIME they run and if so, why would they continue to do so? I don’t play Russian Poolette every time I run, but I’d say the feeling strikes over 50% of the time. I’ve become accustomed to it and I have no problem pooping behind a rock or tree on a trail. This odd and frequent series of events has led me to shit in some interesting places, one of those being a softball dugout in Guam. Not much of a story there, just running shits and a concealed place to poo. The very first time I flew to California to visit Malorie I practically shit my pants on a run. We were in the small beach town of Pismo Beach and Malorie decided to walk down to the pier while I got in a little cardio. The run was fantastic. The weather was perfect and the coastal breeze kept me relatively cool. I ran down sidewalks and trails and I felt incredible up until the tummy rumbles hit me 5 miles from the hotel. A combination of running and waddling got me back to the hotel, but for some reason, the ass knows when its close to a toilet and any voluntary control you think you have goes right out the door the closer you get to a toilet. The ability to hold it in gets lost and…well…I started…you know, poopin’, as soon as I opened the hotel door. Luckily Mal wasn’t back at the hotel and I scrubbed my shorts and self in the shower before she got back. Crisis averted. She didn’t know about this unfortunate event until a couple of months ago. The running poops are so tightly wound to my life now that in 2017 when a “Phantom Pooper” plagued the yards of several Colorado Springs families, my mom legitimately believed that I may have been the culprit. Thanks mom. Before I joined the military, my main concern wasn’t the amount of running, but what I’d do if/when I had to poop.
For a long time I thought maybe I was the only one who suffered from this weird anomaly. I hadn’t heard about anyone else pooping while they ran and I just accepted it. Now, nearly 10 years after I began running, I’ve learned that the running shits aren’t just a problem I face, but an occurrence for numerous runners. I’ve read articles in popular outdoor magazines pertaining to runners diarrhea and different runner’s do’s/don’ts regarding this natural phenomena. I’m here today to relay some of the things that I’ve read that explain why we feel the urge to poop when we run.
In an article titled “This Is Why Running Makes You Poop” on SELF.com, writer Amy Marturana speaks to a gastroenterologist named Lisa Ganjhu who says that the up and down motion of running stimulates the colon. She also contributes the consumption of sugary energy gels and drinks as one of the causes of the running poos stating that, “more sugar prompts your body to release more water into the GI tract, which can make the stool more loose.” Christopher P. Hogrefe, M.D., a sports medicine physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital says that, “when running, blood flow increases to the muscles to help oxygenate and keep your body cool. What most people don’t know is that it can decrease the amount of blood flow occurring to the intestines, causing abdominal cramping and potentially the urge to defecate.”
I don’t know about you, but I’m relieved, sort of. A large amount of runners have gastrointestinal issues while running and some semblance of science has been used to determine what causes those issues. In an article written by Jessica Thiefels for Shape Magazine, she lists a few tips to keep in mind to help try and avoid or lessen the effects of the running shits. She mentions things like limiting fiber, fats, protein and fructose as well as things like aspirin and ibuprofen. She also recommends trying to time your meals by eating at least two to three hours before your run so you have time to use the bathroom before departing.
Hopefully this little post helped someone out a bit. I know I wish that I understood more about the intricacies of pooping while running a few years ago. If I had developed some sort of system where I could avoid the running poops or at least mitigate it as much as possible, then I could’ve avoided shitting my pants on what was essentially my first “date” with Malorie. Maybe my mom wouldn’t have wholeheartedly believed that I was some sort of phantom shitter either. Oh well, shit happens.